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Chekhov's Gunman

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"These two right now are just comic relief, but they play an important role later on. You'll see."

Any character who is innocuously and unimportantly introduced to the viewer, but who later proves to be important by the end of the story.

In other words, they're a human Chekhov's Gun. (Or a non-human animal, or an extraterrestrial, or a universe-crossing entity Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence, or a...)


For example, in a fantasy story, the protagonists search for a legendary hero of old, repeatedly encountering a traveling drunk in each tavern who seems to serve as pure comic relief, until it is revealed that the drunk is the legendary hero, fallen on hard times.

Or consider a poolboy in the CSI mystery of the week who just happened to be at the scene of the crime just before the murder, where other leads overshadow that one until the last five minutes, when suddenly Grissom finds that one piece of evidence that conclusively proves it was him. (Of course, if the poolboy is played by George Clooney, everyone and their mother will know it was him the minute he appeared on screen.)

Or, in an episode with Two Lines, No Waiting, a character that seemed to be a Bit Character in the B plot suddenly becomes a large player in the A plot. On most Cop Dramas, this usually means the two teams are Working the Same Case.


According to Roger Ebert, you can often figure out who the murderer is (in a badly-written murder mystery, at least) by checking the Law of Conservation of Detail: The Chekhov's Gunman is the only character who doesn't seem to have any other reason for being in the story (see The Butler Did It). Compare to Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize, which is based more on the actor playing the role than on the character in itself.

In video games, such characters are always obvious because they look conspicuously different from generic NPCs, and usually have a name.

When the Chekhov's Gunman is hidden by shadows, you've got yourself a case of Sinister Silhouettes. If a character originally conceived as minor becomes important through later Character Development, that's a Destined Bystander. See Early-Bird Cameo when a character makes a brief appearance well before being properly introduced in the same work or continuity. And Chekhov M.I.A. is when the Gunman is first mentioned as having gone missing.


If the gunman turns out to be a major villain, up to and including the Big Bad, then The Dog Was the Mastermind. Sometimes used to refer to a writer who constantly uses and/or is particularly skilled with using Chekhov's Gun or its variants (including the Gunman), although this isn't the primary usage.

See also Connected All Along.

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Other Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Bunnie Rabbot first appeared in a pin-up in the original four issue mini-series before appearing in the comic proper some issues later. She also looked markedly different. Of course, she was already a major character on the animated series on which the comic was initially based.
    • Dr. Finitevus first appears during the "Return to Angel Island" arc as just another member of the Dark Legion. About 40 or so issues later, he joins the Big-Bad Ensemble by manipulating damn near everyone in order to ensure Knuckles becomes the new Enerjak.
      • Dr. Finitevus had been around earlier than that - when Knuckles first started showing signs of being "Chaos Knuckles", he was the echidna who used the Chaos Siphon to try to drain Knuckles' power.
  • In the Blackest Night event, Tales of the Lantern Corps #3 gives Kilowogg some Character Development by showing his own training as a rookie lantern by Lantern Ermey. In Green Lantern Corps #41, we see Ermey return as a Black Lantern
  • The locust swarm that causes the Bone brothers to get separated in the first issue of Bone seem like just some natural, albeit random, occurrence. After the scene where the swarm separates the Bones the locusts disappear and don't seem to have been all that important. That is until later when we learn about who the Big Bad is. He's called The Lord of Locusts.
  • Practically anyone who has ever appeared in the Prelude but not in the graphic novel of Dreamkeepers is suspected to be one of these.
  • Empowered has Ocelotina a female hostage Emp tries (and fails) to save from ThugBoy in Volume 1 appears again in Volume 2 trying to kidnap Empowered for Les Yay-related reasons. She then becomes a recurring character as a deliberate model for the fetish crowd that Emp keeps unintentionally feeding.
  • In the Fall of Cthulhu comics by BOOM! Studios, a character with no speaking lines at all who can be spotted in a lot of backgrounds throughout the whole story turns out to be the final overmind (though not a villain per se) who orchestrated the whole story through a Gambit Roulette.
  • The Joker during Infinite Crisis. First seen torturing King and asking him why he wasn't invited to join the Society. Is told that he's considered too unpredictable, and kills King out of anger. Not seen for the next hundreds of pages or so. Guess who kills Alexander Luthor Jr.?
  • Before appearing as one of the lead villains in the Captain America Corps mini-series, Bright Star first appeared as an unnamed reporter in an issue of Ed Brubaker's Captain America run.
  • A zombie Deadpool appeared in Marvel Zombies, but only as an extra without dialogue. Later on, he plays a main role in the series. Similarly Black Bolt appeared numerous times in the series, but doesn't get an actual role until much later.
  • Scott Pilgrim volume 3 features a cameo of a mystery man who then turned out to be Gideon Gordon Graves.
  • In Spider-Man, Norman Osborn was originally introduced as a nameless member of Mr. Jameson's club, and got upgraded to nameless friend of Jameson a while later. While he got a good deal of mostly non-speaking background appearances, he was barely noticed until he was revealed to be Harry Osborn's father about 2 years after his first appearance. 2 issues later he was revealed as the Green Goblin, who had been an active villain in the series for years.
  • The first and second volumes of Ultimate Spider-Man are peppered with casual references to Tandy Bowen, one of Peter's unseen schoolmates. She finally shows up in volume 3 as one half of the superpowered duo Cloak & Dagger.
    • As a bonus gag, Ty Johnson (Cloak) is revealed to have been the teenage manager of the burger joint Peter worked at.
    • Ultimate Marvel was fond of doing this, often revealing a seemingly minor character to be the Ultimate Universe equivalent of a character from the mainstream Marvel Universe.
  • John Constantine's official first appearance is in Swamp Thing #37. But in #25, there's a background character in a crowd scene who looks suspiciously similar to Constantine.
  • The first page of Watchmen features a red-haired man holding a sign that reads "The End Is Nigh." He appears a few more times and doesn't seem very important— until Rorschach's mask comes off halfway through.
  • In issue 2 of Earth 2, Jay Garrick passes by a rambling man in a back alley. In issue 9, that man turns out to be Khalid Ben-Hassin.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW): Pinkie finds the cave troll and has him save the others from a group of giant spiders.
  • The Ravages of Time uses this trope so, so much: For example, the little kid who made a one-page appearance alongside Shan Wuling and some shady types at the end of a chapter in Volume 6 but who's quickly forgettable once the rest all take up much more prominent roles? When he appears as a grown up in Volume 33 and moves out, his identity is hinted at by his new traveling companions are identified as Xu Sheng and Pan Zhangnote , then confirmed when he identifies himself as Zhongmou, the courtesy name of Sun Quan.
  • Diabolik uses this rather often, with a minor character becoming suddenly important at the end of the story or a few issues later, but also set the record for this with Margot Hammer, first appearing in the 1963 Wham Episode "The Arrest of Diabolik" as an unimportant character and an Unwitting Pawn of Eva in the rescue of Diabolik and then returning in 2001 in "The Shadow of the Avenger" as the title character, convinced the police is letting Diabolik go and carrying on terrorist attacks to force them to arrest and execute the man who indirectly got her husband imprisoned. They then broke the record with Walter Dorian and "the greatest smuggler of all times", the first a man whose identity had been used by Diabolik in the first three stories and the latter mentioned in passing in "The Phantom Murderer", also published in 1963, and then told their story (and their importance in Diabolik's backstory) in the 2006 story "The Years Lost in Blood", with Dorian showing up in person.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye does this often:
    • A number of characters who join up with the crew are mentioned or shown in flashback a significant time before they do so. For example, Nightbeat makes a minor appearance in a flashback during season 1 before joining the cast as a major character in season 2.
    • Conversely, characters who are mentioned in the present, such as Terminus and the Heavies, often go on to appear in flashbacks that reveal them to be important to the backstory.
    • Issue 9 features a brief appearance from an incredibly minor bystander named Quark. About two dozen issues later, Quark turns out to be Brainstorm's motive for his scheme to rewrite history; he was Brainstorm's unrequited love who died in the war.
  • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Strange Josie was mentioned as one of many Baxter Building students with weird hobbies before appearing as an actual character.
  • The Incredible Hercules has several references to Maddy Cho, Amadeus' younger sister. She finally makes her first appearance in the Totally Awesome Hulk series as a major character.
  • One of Magekiller's protagonists, Marius, first appeared in a a minor role in the Dragon Age short story, "Paying the Ferryman."
  • Supergirl:
    • In Supergirl Volume 2 #4, Linda's tenant Mrs. Berkowitz observes an old picture of her missing daughter Rachel and cries. In Supergirl #13, Supergirl meets and fights super-villain Blackstarr... as well known as Rachel Berkowitz.
    • At the beginning of Supergirl's sixth volume, some aliens were seen floating in several pods in the background. Later on, Supergirl met and fought four of those aliens -who were called worldkillers-, and her leader revealed that there was a fifth worldkiller. Guess who fights Supergirl at the climax of the Red Daughter of Krypton arc, almost thirty issues later?
    • In the third issue of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, a stray cat may be seen in the background of a panel, partially hidden behind a trash can. In another issue said cat turns out to be Streaky, Supergirl's super-powered cat pet (well, Supergirl believes that he is her pet cat. Streaky knows that she is his human pet).
    • At the beginning of Bizarrogirl, Jimmy Olsen saves a child from being run over. Shortly after, a fake cop abducts him. Four issues later, Supergirl and Cat Grant have to work together to find him and several more children kidnapped by Dollmaker.
  • In White Sand:
    • Aarik is first introduced as a mysterious stranger who lends a hand to Ais in beating up a thug she's chasing. Few chapters later, he turns out to be Kenton's childhood friend and joins the character rooster.
    • Drije is mentioned in passing as a Sand Master who tried to sell his skills for money, and is later stripped of his Mastrell's sash for this. Later it turns out that he was responsible for slaughter of his fellow Sand Masters.
  • Paperinik New Adventures introduces Xadhoom this way, having her clouded in shadow as she screams a Big "NO!" after witnessing the end of the Evronian invasion of Xerba (her homeworld). She reappears two issues later as Evron's worst enemy.

    Comic Strips 
  • Eugene from FoxTrot was this. He started out as a minor character in the 1997 Camp story arc, but 3 years later, the Wus, including him, returned, but aside for one strip early on, he never appeared. That is, until it turned out that he was the one who stole Phoebe's camp journal, and left a bunch of fake clues from everyone, setting up the events of the arc.
    • It was even lampshaded in the final strip of the storyline, after everyone realized that Eugene was the innocuous secondary character who was introduced, then forgotten.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: TJ sometimes makes offhand remarks concerning a new recruit under his command. In ch. 74, Asuka and Shinji get to meet this new Private It's Gendo; he snuck into their unit using his birth name of Rokubungi Huh... well THAT was unexpected.
  • In Downfall, Zommari shows up in chapter 16, casually mentioned: "The most senior of these artificial Arrancar, a bald, dark-skinned, sinister-looking man, was kneeling on one knee, silently, at the perimeter of the force." -he goes on to be a pivotal fighter in the subsequent battle, never mentioned by name. This is especially notable, as it gives him a much needed moment of true badassery.
  • In Time Braid, Demon Sakura is this. You think she's gone after a forced merge early on, but then she's discovered in a kind of 'inactive aspects' area of Sakura's Mental World, and Sakura uses her to guard the box containing the memories she doesn't want Sasuke to see. Later, her mastery of the Sharingan is used to give Sakura the chance at her Heroic Sacrifice, and afterwards she becomes half of Sakura's new demon/kami split axis.
  • What About Witch Queen? has swarms of those, made harder to keep track of by presence of Lots And Lots Of Characters.
    • Prince Ferdinand is mentioned in passing in chapter two as being missing due to navy dragging him off for pirate hunt. Come chapter sixteen, and he saves Anna from smugglers who kidnapped her, and even becomes a POV character.
    • Patrick Schneider appears briefly in chapter six, and reappears in chapter twenty six with important information.
    • Valdemar Schwalzmaar, the man who ferries Hans to Westerguard in chapter six, appears ten chapters later and tells Michael of Hans' whereabouts.
    • Felix Drachner appears to be a Chekhov's Gunman who still waits to fire, but his hand is seen in dozens of places separated by miles.
  • In Hogyoku ex Machina, after Ichigo's time traveled, he and other characters try to avoid future crisis' by planning ahead and/or making peace with would-be enemies. This includes anime filler arcs and movie continuities, so it wasn't unusual to see Muramasa involved. At the final battle, though, he saves Ichigo's life which completely thwarts Aizen's plans. Without him there, the bad guy would have won. Yep, a former filler villain was that important.
  • In Forward, Ashley Frye bumps into a drunk man in a bar while looking for information about her sister Kaylee. This later turns out to be John Garis, an agent of the Academy who's after River, and he saves Ashley from Jubal Early.
  • In Calvin At Camp, Calvin throws a water balloon at Sally, early on in the episode "Champion Charlie Brown." She comes back later and has him arrested by the Urban Rangers for it, playing right into Lucy's hands.
  • In White Rain, the kid who gets punched in the face back in Chapter 1 shows up in Chapter 11 and helps out.
  • Calvin's dad nearly runs over a skunk in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series while on the way to a courtroom. Shortly after they arrive, it reappears and sprays him in revenge, forcing Calvin to take his place.
  • Dr. Watson and his wife have a baby girl in the finale for Children of Time. The baby turns out to be a Time Lord, having been conceived in the TARDIS, and her regenerative abilities become instrumental in putting things to rights in the last episode.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Vigil at first just seems to be a Sixth Ranger there for no reason other than giving the group of Royal Guards enough members. Then it turns out he's Horizon's brother (last seen, unnamed, in the flashback Blair and Piro show Twilight) and linked to him the same way as the Echoes.
  • Played with in Justice Society of Japan. Given how Lelouch Lamperogue and the Black Knights appear early one, one would expect that Zero would be one of the founding members of the titular team. Subverted in that he isn't. Shirley Fenette is. But double subverted in that Lelouch himself plays an important role.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance:
    • It is mentioned in a couple of conversations between Blitz the Shinx and his mentor, Hercules the Heracross, that Blitz has a younger sister. Said younger sister eventually comes to visit Blitz in Chapter 21, and ends up indirectly spurring revelations about Blitz's past.
    • In chapter 4, Stella asks Santos to deliver a letter to a friend of hers who lives in Silver Woods. As Stella starts to realize what is really going on, we see her frequently communicating with said friend via letters regarding the events of the plot. Stella's pen pal is eventually revealed to be a Mismagius named Samara, and she is working on a way to seal the Big Bad of the story away once more.
  • In Mega Man Recut, some humans Mega met during previous episodes appear, aged-up, in Future Shock.
    • Bright Man is mentioned early in the first part of "The Beginning", several parts before his actual appearance in the next episode.
  • Mega Man Reawakened has Darian Darhk, who plays a minor role at first before helping Mega in later chapters.
  • Crowns of the Kingdom has the Queen of Hearts, Jiminy Cricket, and Hypatia, all of whom are mentioned early on and return to play key roles later.
  • The Fifth Act has younger Cloud Strife, whom the elder Cloud Strife convinced while posing as the kid's uncle to stay in Nibelheim instead of joining Shinra in the early chapters. The kid comes back when he goes to Midgard with the escaped Kunsel in tow trying to find his "uncle" and give Zack and Genesis the means to find the holes in the elder Cloud's cover story.
    • Another is Vincent, who is quickly ditched by Cloud when he doesn't support Cloud's plan to kill Sephiroth. He comes back when he shoots Hojo in the head.
  • Aldev from Warriors of the World: Soldiers of Fortune turns out to have been possessed by the villain in an attempt to divide the party.
  • In Enemy to Love, Orihime doesn't have much screen time early on, but she is the one to A. destroy the Hogyoku so Aizen couldn't use it, and B. use it's power to bring Ulquiorra back to life, who kills Aizen himself.
  • In Travels of the Trifecta there is a part where Conway and Paul are traveling on Route 216 and come across a Smoochum swarm, and Conway wants to catch one but Paul thinks they're uselessly weak Pokemon and they leave the swarm alone. One Smoochum takes a moment to watch them out of curiosity. Later on, that Smoochum ends up helping Conway when he's in danger.
  • In Unnatural Disaster 1.6 we encounter a skinhead schoolmate of Taylor's called Egbert Rhine. He eventually goes on to kill Travis.
  • In the earlier chapters of Shatterheart Syaoran is accosted by a gang, with its leader heading the fight, on his way home from the library. Syaoran has to run from the fight when he sees that he's outnumbered. Syaoran meets the gang again fifty chapters later during an outing with Fai and they turn out to be Serial Killers who kidnap and torture him For the Evulz.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dark Messiah the Mayor of New York appears in an early chapter to give some words of encouragement to the protagonist, and is stated to be a Duel Monsters fan herself. She's the woman behind the man, as well as literally demonic.
  • In the very first chapter of Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox, one of the rumors surrounding the impact the Kyuushingai had on society tells of a waiter being driven to madness by the stress of dealing with the fear the Nine Terrors caused, when he accidentally spilled soup he was serving to a guest at a restaurant and panicked that he might have unwittingly offended one of the Terrors. 84 chapters later, we get to find out who the waiter is: it's Kyusuke, The Dragon of the Akatsuki group, who was previously introduced by name at the end of Chapter 36, decapitating Kyuushingai member Utakata with a sword.
  • In Eugenesis, Doubleheader is introduced as a very minor character who's only real role is to give Nightbeat minor info on the mystery at the heart of the story. A couple dozen chapters later, he's revealed to be the Decepticon mole and proceeds to suicide bomb a major demonstration, critically injuring Rodimus.
  • Fan writer Jurnees Jakes has a tendency to give one-shot and referenced characters in Kim Possible larger roles in his "All Good Things" series.
  • A Voice in the Wilderness has Commander Darva, captain of VSW Revenge. In part I, she leads a Vaadwaur border picket, and it's to her that Eleya makes the Federation's pitch for a peace conference with the Vaadwaur Supremacy. In part III, her ship is the flagship of a battle group under Overseer Harn sent to rescue Eleya from the Borg.
  • Thousand Shinji: When Shinji and Rei fight Ramiel, several soldiers finish off it. After the battle, Shinji told them that he owed them a favor. Fifteen chapters later they show up again when Shinji needs to get Asuka to safety. He finds one of them, recognizes him, and hands over Asuka to him, entrusting him to get her to her Evangelion.
  • In chapter 7 of Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, readers are introduced to Keiko Nagara, a Shinji’s classmate whose only apparent purpose is teasing Asuka. A while later she becomes an Evangelion pilot.
  • This Bites!: The weakest potential CP9 agent, Nero, turns out to be a lot more important than anyone realised: In addition to Kalifa and Kaku's Devil Fruits, there was a third one in Spandam's possession meant for Nero when he got back to Enies Lobby. But since Nero was knocked out and never made it, that Devil Fruit sat in Spandam's office until Cross reached it and stole it, and it turned out to be the exact kind needed to turn Merry human and thus save her life.
  • With This Ring: Scott and Barda Free, who are initially introduced during an investigation of a Boom Tube sighting. Barda Free and Wonder Woman become fast friends and the possibility of them coming back to action is discussed. In both the Paragon and Renegade timelines, they are recruited when the Team has to fight the Light and the mind-control League.
    • Yao Fei AKA Accomplished Perfect Physician. He was brought up by Paragon!OL to Batman as a Justice League candidate to have a Combat Medic on board and he does join the Justice League and the Great Ten off-screen. Guess who the team has to fight when the League gets mind controlled? And manages to beat the Team back into retreating?
    • Cassie Sandsmark, the future Wonder Girl and illegitimate child by Zeus. It was mentioned that until she was found out, it was thought that Zeus had changed and was faithful to Hera. She becomes one of the reasons that Hera is successfully convinced to divorce Zeus.
  • All-American Girl: Screwball and Barking Mad/Screw Loose are casually mentioned in an early chapter. At first it looks like yet another background character cameo which are common in My Little Pony fanfics. Later, however, they re-appear and are revealed to be subordinates of Faust herself, one being a Discord cultist with chaos magic and the other a supernatural being of chaos, who play a role in the plot.
  • All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird does this by dropping an early allusion to Bethany Hawke, noting that the Lady Herald reminds Varric of her. 33 chapters later, she turns up at Skyhold, ultimately replacing Solas as the third mage in the inner circle.
  • In Skyhold Academy, early in the story, things go pear-shaped at the school's big football game and the opposing school's coach makes a vague threat toward Evvy. Several months later, this has been completely forgotten, until Evvy is kidnapped right out of the school grounds.
  • Felgrand in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines originally came off as just a random O.C created to take Giovanni's role in Celadon, and when the Team Rocket Trio grabbed him at the end of chapter 20 he'd never be important again. Then he returned in Chapter 23 to collaborate the reveal of the chapter.
  • Lance M Donovan who had made appearances earlier in I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC before his significance showed up. In literal terms, we also have the Punisher who shot the Joker when he was holding Harley hostage to use as his escape. You know when he said "I'm waiting for an opportunity to present itself", it was going to be awesome.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse:
    • Zizane, who appears as an apparent one-off antagonist, reappears for the season 1 finale as a major part of Trixie's plot to deal with the Night Court.
    • During Nightmares Yet to Come:
      • Early on, one of the bad guys grumbles that thanks to Luna crashing their party, his mane's gotten burned, and he's going to have a time explaining that in the morning. Soon after, when Trixie's in Canterlot, she encounters a colt who has to sheepishly explain what's happened to his mane.
      • In one of their vague meetings, the not-cultists mention hiring two ponies to catch someone named "Star". A later chapter reveals the two are Sunset Shimmer and Lightning Dust, and the "Star" turns out to be someone who escaped them some years prior.
  • In The Sougawa Files, the party members show up far before they become relevant to the plot (Wilma shows up in Chapter 13 and her Shadow is defeated in Chapter 20, for example).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Disney Channel stars often make one-off or minor appearances in their shows and films before getting heavily featured in their own. Selena Gomez had a guest spots on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana while David Henrie made a few appearances on That's So Raven before both of them were placed as the leads in Wizards of Waverly Place. Similarly, Orlando Brown, who played Eddie in That's So Raven, previously appeared in Lizzie McGuire. Vanessa Hudgens and Monique Coleman also had recurring roles in The Suite Life before they starred in High School Musical.
  • US television has done this too. Jeffrey Donovan (Michael Westen) from Burn Notice and Frederick Weller (Marshall Mann) from In Plain Sight both had an appearance on Monk before starring in their own series.
  • In the fifth season of Angel, Wolfram and Hart's mailman is inexplicable wearing a Mexican wrestling mask at all times. A few episodes in, we learn that he was a member of a team of demon-hunting luchadores who fought an Aztec demon and a robot built by the Devil.
  • Arrowverse has a few.
    • Arrow:
      • John Diggle, Oliver's bodyguard who he sneaks away from and humiliates every chance he gets when he gets back on the island is the first person Oliver breaks the secret to, in an attempt to get him to join Oliver on his crusade. He does.
      • The girl who was on the boat with Oliver turns out to be Laurel's sister, and her death is what causes tension with the Lance family. She's also very alive, and comes back as the Canary.
      • Odd example with Felicity Smoak. She was never intended to be more than a minor one-off extra to help Oliver recover data from a computer. She quickly became an Ensemble Dark Horse and as a result, became this as a recurring major help to Oliver. She eventually joins Team Arrow as a very essential key member.
      • In the middle of the first season flashbacks, Yao Fei sends Oliver to the remains of a crashed airplane to find help. Instead, he finds a belligerent Australian who ties him up and threatens him. At the end of the episode, we find out the man's name: Slade Wilson. Not only does he train Oliver in combat and teach him to survive the island, he also becomes the Big Bad of Season 2.
    • The Flash (2014):
      • Season 2 features a Man in the Iron Mask held prisoner by Zoom. Said man turns out to be the real Jay Garrick, whom Zoom has been impersonating.
    • Legends of Tomorrow:
      • Played with regarding Damien Darhk. He was already serving as the Big Bad of Arrow when the Legends met his past incarnation in The '70s. However, Darhk's latter incarnation becomes part of the Big Bad Quartet in Season 2.
  • An early episode of Babylon 5 introduces a Love Interest for Londo Mollari who leaves him to work out her personal life. Two seasons later, she reappears and is summarily killed as part of a plot by Morden to manipulate Londo into resuming his alliance with the Shadows. It works — meaning that a character who appears in three episodes (and spends one episode as a corpse, and another as a ghost) turns out to be critical in shaping the entire second half of the story.
    • Another very literal example is Jack, Garibaldi's second in command, who is present in his minor role through much of the first season. At the end of season 1 he is revealed to be involved in a plot to assassinate the President when he shoots Garibaldi in the back to prevent him from warning anyone.
  • In later seasons of Battlestar Galactica a main plot point became that Starbuck had drawn a "mandala" religious symbol in her room which was visible in early season 2; they would then see this symbol on ruins they found, or in clouds as a "sign from God" and Starbuck would state she'd been doodling it since she was a child. However, in behind the scenes interviews, the writers admitted that the ring-shaped mandala symbol in her room in season 2 was just something the art department doodled, even they didn't think it was a "mandala", and the writers came up with the idea by rewatching old episodes and used it as a justification for major changes in the storyline...which in fact, were never planned out from the beginning. Fans eventually realized there was no over-arcing "Plan" to the series...
    • Another example from this show is the character Helo, who was meant to be a one-shot character in the pilot movie. He was well-received by fans, and there were enough inquiries about the fate of the character that they decided to keep him alive. He ultimately became an important character in the overall mythology of the series.
      • This might be evidence of a complete lack of planning, or just a willingness to change course based on feedback or spontaneous ideas that crop up later, while keeping other previously planned details intact. Word of God was generally quite open about explaining in the podcast when something was spontaneous rather than planned, even down to changing the script based on actor improvisation.
    • In the season 2 episode "Final Cut", D'anna Biers films a number of seemingly innocuous pilots in the ships barracks. One of these pilots turns out to be the person who had been threatening Saul Tigh, and attempts to kill him later in the episode.
    • In the miniseries, Aaron Doral is introduced as a tour guide on the soon-to-be-decommissioned Galactica. He gives some exposition during the opening credits and protests a little when Laura Roslin takes charge of a shuttle, but has little relevance to the plot. He's outed as a Cylon by the end of the miniseries.
    • Brother Cavil makes a brief appearance as a priest who gives counceling to Chief Tyrol before being revealed as a Cylon in the same two-part episode. Even then, he seems to be just another Cylon, but it turns out he was actually the architect behind the attacks on the Colonies.
  • Breaking Bad. Oh boy, Gustavo "Gus" Fring, Mike Ehrmantraut, Hector Salamanca, Todd Alquist, Todd's uncle Jack, Elliott & Gretchen Schwartz and those are just the really big examples.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • A one-off villain who tries to get Angel to off himself in the third season, plus its minions who live under a Christmas tree lot, seems like a relatively innocuous villain of the week, until it all comes back four seasons later as the Big Bad. The astute viewer probably should have been suspicious, though, since the baddie in question is apparently the "first evil", and you don't get to be the source of all evil without having something going for you.
    • Early in the series, there's Jonathan, a Recurring Extra who appears repeatedly around their high school. He's usually in some sort of distress and needs to get rescued. He later makes some prominent appearances in "Earshot" where Buffy prevents his suicide, and "Superstar" where he gets A Day in the Limelight. In season 6, he falls in with Warren and becomes part of the trio of villains for that season.
    • Jonathan's season 6 cohorts, Warren and Andrew, count too. Warren was seemingly a one-shot character who apparently left town during his brief second appearance. Although Warren's first appearance was in Season 5, which was supposed to be the last season and he didn't come back as a major villain until the show was revived on UPN. Andrew is the till-then unseen brother of Tucker Wells, who was the antagonist in season 3's "The Prom". Tucker would've actually been there instead of Andrew and fulfilled Warren's role, but actor Brad Kane was unavailable.
    • Doc, the old man who gave Dawn the spell to bring Joyce back to life in Season 5. Turns out he's a Glory worshipper and he is the one who opens the portal.
    • In Season 7, Amanda, the first student Buffy talked to in her job as councilor was a potential slayer.
    • Andrew answers a call (for Willow) from a guy with a girly voice called Fred in Season 7. In the next episode Willow comes back with Faith.
    • Severin is seen in one panel in the last issue of Season 8.
    • Veruca had bit parts in "Living Condition" and "Beer Bad" before making a full appearance.
    • The Buffybot appeared mirroring the real Buffy much more closely than her last appearance to decoy and weaken Glory.
  • Castle used to be in love with this trope. The killer was always the one person they didn't interrogate (especially if it was the grief-stricken relative). It's gotten better in the third season, though.
    • Parodied in one episode where Castle jokingly suggests that Alexis is the killer on the grounds that she is peripheral to the case and doesn't have an alibi.
    • In the episode "Disciple", there is a hooded man at the beginning that is run off by the marina guard. When the team goes to the hotel where they had put him up, it starts with a far shot in which the same hooded man coughs as he walks off screen. Though never outright confirmed, this is likely Jerry Tyson/3XK.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • The third season had the background character of Abbey who worked in Piper's club who was there for about five episodes. In the episode "Sight Unseen", she is revealed to be Prue's stalker.
    • In "Morality Bites", the man they use their powers on for revenge at the beginning of the episode turns out to be important later on in the episode, as he turns out to be the man who burns Phoebe at the stake.
  • Frasier Crane's first appearance on Cheers (Season 3, Episode 1: "Rebound, Part 1") was as a nameless bar patron, until Diane sprung it on Sam that her shrink happened to be at the bar, observing them the whole time! Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) eventually stayed on long after Diane (Shelley Long) left the show, and eventually got his own spin-off.
  • The season two finale of Chuck had Chekhov's Assault Squad, which was important both for a Big Damn Heroes moment and to introduce some new villains.
  • While most Cold Case doers were in the suspect list, occasionally it is a non-suspect who wasn't previously interrogated, such as Jimmy Bartram in "Justice" and Ed Marteson in "Stalker"
  • In Community episode "Cooperative Calligraphy", it turns out Troy's pet monkey, who was seen in one episode the previous season, was the thief stealing Annie's pens.
  • Criminal Minds loves this trope so much they pulled it twice. In the same episode. The villain in "Mayhem" is actually two villains: the young teenage citizen who calls 911 to help Hotch, and the paramedic who comes to save them, violating the FBI's direct orders not to interfere.
    • Not to mention the second episode of the first season. the very innocent looking chemistry girl who explains the chemicals that could be used in arson is the one who actually stole the chemicals to commit the crimes.
    • George Foyet appears to be an innocent victim of the Reaper. Later it is revealed that he is the Reaper and becomes one of the series' most memorable villains due to him killing Hotch's ex-wife, Haley.
  • This is the easy way to spot the murderer in CSI. In the first 10 minutes or so there will be a completely unimportant background character, often who has one unimportant line. They add nothing to the plot, and would not be missed. They're usually the one who did it.
    • The Miniature Killer, anyone? She appeared for about three seconds at the end of an episode, cleaning the floor in the lab, and later went on to be revealed as the killer.
  • Eagle-eyed viewers of the classic Degrassi Junior High will spot numerous "extras" milling around the school that would later go on to play a major role in the series. One of whom was Spike, who wasn't even named for some time despite evolving into the crux of the drama at the end of the first season and turning into one of the franchise's longest running characters. You can see her at the school dance in the second episode as a throwaway character... making out with the guy who would later be the father of her child.
  • In the first season of Dexter, Rudy is introduced in a justified manner but then given strange amounts of attention, developing his character until it is revealed that he is the Big Bad known as the Ice Truck Killer and, ultimately, also Dexter's brother, Brian.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways": The Anne-Droid is first seen as the host of the killer The Weakest Link Rose winds up on. When the Daleks invade the Gamestation, the droid returns and inflicts the Daleks' only casualties before the arrival of Bad Wolf.
    • In "Doomsday", of the members of the Cult of Skaro, Dalek Caan doesn't do very much. In "Evolution of the Daleks", events make him the last member of the Cult, and when he next appears, he has a pretty major role to play.
    • "Smith and Jones": Florence Finnegan, the first patient Martha and her fellow students are shown visiting. After the hospital is taken to the Moon, she's seen asking various people for help while aliens are causing chaos, making the audience think she's just a confused and clumsy old lady. Then it's revealed that she's actually the blood-sucking villain the aliens are looking for.
    • "The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords": Lucy Saxon, quite literally. For almost two full episodes, she's nothing more than one of Harold Saxon's assets. Then she picks up the gun.
    • "The Woman Who Fell to Earth": When Graham and Grace are on the train, there's one other passenger in their car. After the train is attacked by an alien entity which is then driven off by the Doctor, the man, named Karl, quickly leaves, shaken and insisting he has to get to work. It turns out he is the reason the alien device, called a data coil, attacked the train, as he has randomly been chosen as the target of a ritual hunt being carried out by the episode's villain, who is using the coil to cheat and gather information on the human he has to capture.
  • "Doctor Saunders" in Dollhouse. Not only do we find out that she's a doll, but when she reappears in "Getting Closer", she closes the episode by shooting Bennett Halverson (Summer Glau). So she's literally a gunman.
  • Jane, the Mad Scientist from the Emerald City episode "Science and Magic", who leaves after selling Jack to Lady Ev. "Beautiful Wickedness", reveals that she was a colleague of Karen Chapman and is from our world.
  • Eureka has a minor example in the episode "Minor Nobel". Two elderly scientists shown trying to explain nuclear fission to Zoe later turn out to be members of the protagonist's team, without whom he cannot save the world from an accidentally activated particle cannon.
  • In the first episode of Firefly we see advertisements for the Blue Sun Corporation. A little bit later on, we see the characters using various products from them. It turns out that Blue Sun is one of the Big Bads that are peppered throughout the show, and their agents are a serious threat to our favorite crew.
    • Blue Sun was one of the results of Executive Meddling. Fox wanted a Big Bad, Fox got a big bad. They put the Blue Sun logo on the cargo containers in the pilot post-production.
  • Weeks before Dominic Monaghan was confirmed to be joining the cast of Flash Forward, his character Dr. Simon Campos makes an appearance in this installment of ABC's "ABC House" ad campaign, complete with an Actor Allusion to Lost.
  • In Fleabag, the bank manager who appears to be a One-Scene Wonder in the first episode returns in episode four and becomes important in the series' conclusion.
  • In Friends, "The Girl From the Xerox Place" is mentioned in multiple episodes starting in the second season. Later, Ross sleeps with the girl, ending his and Rachel's relationship.
  • The Observer in Fringe appears as a bald Man In Black in the background of every episode that nobody seems to notice. In Episode 4 we learn more about him, and that he's somehow connected to the odd incidents that the main characters are investigating, later proving key to the Myth Arc.
    • Another example is William Bell, who is mentioned several times as a minor bit of Walter's backstory before he actually appears and we learn more about his ties to the cast.
    • In season one, an Anomaly of the Week is a mute, telepathic boy with a Mysterious Past. He's seen being watched by an Observer and than never gets brought up again. Until the final season, where it's revealed that he's September's son Michael, and thus pivotal to the protagonists battle against the Observer invasion.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Done masterfully in the episode "The Door". We learn how Hodor became who he is now, and why his existence is so important: his purpose in life was to save Bran by holding the door and trapping the wights inside long enough to enable his escape.
    • The Night's Watch recruiter Yoren begins as a seemingly minor character who brings word of Tyrion's abduction to Ned, but several episodes later he is present for Ned's confession (presumably to escort Ned to the Wall afterward), allowing him to rescue Arya.
    • Stannis is Ned's candidate for king despite never appearing in Season 1, but he becomes a major contender in Season 2.
    • Beric Dondarrion is sent out to arrest Gregor Clegane in "A Golden Crown" and reappears as the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners in "And Now His Watch is Ended".
    • The Tullys, Arryns, Greyjoys, Tyrells, Martells are all mentioned before they gain much plot importance.
    • The traveler who crosses Brienne and Jaime's path in "Dark Wings, Dark Words" really did recognize him and sells them out to Locke.
    • Lyanna Mormont is first mentioned by Stannis in Season 5 after she wrote him a letter that rejects her house taking up arms for him before becoming an integral part of the Stark restoration in Season 6.
    • House Manderly is often mentioned as one of the big Houses in the North (Bolton, Karstark, Umber and Manderly), but they're suspiciously absent from the Battle of the Bastards. Wyman proceeds to show up and commit his men to Jon Snow's cause after it, also kickstarting his crowning.
    • Cley Cerwyn was mentioned in season 5 as the current Lord of the Cerwyns (who are Stark-loyal but forced to serve the Boltons under threat of flaying). In season 6 he shows up to support the Starks.
    • Salladhor reappears in the Season 3 premiere to rescue Davos and bring him back to Stannis.
  • iCarly: Jeremy aka "Germy", a student who always coughs and sneezes is the prime example in Season 1. In "iNevel", after Nevel gave iCarly a dishonest review, the trio employs Jeremy to force Nevel to tell the truth, knowing his hatred of germs. In "iWill Date Freddie", he also appears early in the episode, and later gets recommended by Freddie "who knows tech stuff" as his replacement when he left iCarly.
  • In Kamen Rider Kabuto, for a good half-dozen episodes, a "tricked-out" rider, bearing a strong resemblance to Kabuto appears and even assists in fights (by out-doing the other riders' own Clock Up). We find out a bit later that this mystery rider is, in fact, Kabuto after his Mid-Season Upgrade.
  • In the Leverage episode "Girls' Night Out", the guy in background being a terrible waiter turns out to be the guy that planted the bomb.
  • Lost loves casually mentioning random names who become important characters years later. Probably the most notable is Jacob, first mentioned in an offhand line of dialogue and who becomes mentioned dozens of times over the years as the Others' godlike figure. After numerous possible sightings, he finally appears in full for the first time in the season 5 finale. Radzinsky, Kelvin's former hatch partner who shot himself, became an important character three seasons later.
    • Ethan Rom, who had a brief appearance in a season one episode before the next episode revealed him as one of the Others. He then makes several other appearances throughout the series.
    • Ilana. She's introduced as merely a bounty hunter apprehending Sayid who crashes onto the Island. Turns out she knew where they were really headed, she works for Jacob.
    • Richard Alpert first appeared as little more than a background character. Then, we see him at several different times with decades between each appearance, yet he doesn't have so much as a single gray hair or wrinkle to show for it. And you begin to realize that something's up with this guy...
  • Merlin includes a straightforward Chekhov's Gun with Excalibur, which is burnished by dragon's fire during the episode and thrown into a forest lake at its conclusion. The next season introduces a Mysterious Waif called Freya, who dies during the course of the episode and is taken by Merlin to the same lake where he sets her body adrift in a small boat upon the water. The episode in question is called "The Lady of the Lake." You connect the dots.
  • Million Yen Women: Yuki's dying husband is casually introduced as part of one of the women's backstory, but turns out to be a very powerful person later on, leading to a whole new perspective on the woman's part in the plot.
  • Very common in Monk. The office episode has to be a particularly egregious example: the guy didn't even talk before Monk suddenly singled him out as the killer. The baseball episode is a pretty extreme example as well, considering that the killer turns out to be someone Monk had seen appearing in an advertisement for a few seconds, not speaking, earlier in the case.
    • "Mr. Monk Goes to the Bank" pulled this with the "gunman" being beneficial to the heroes. Monk and the detectives are investigating a bank robbery when Randy questions a living statue who was working outside the bank. Randy then is inspired to become a living statue himself and practices the trade throughout the episode, thus implying that the statue's role in the story is over. Later, the heroes are locked in the vault by the perpetrators. They later open a box which turns out to contain the controls for the electronic message board on the front of the bank. They use it to request help. Guess who relays the message to the police.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, when blancmanges from the Andromeda Galaxy attempt to win Wimbledon. Two characters are introduced as "not the kind of people to be the centre of one of the most astounding incidents in the history of mankind... So let's forget about them and follow instead the destiny of this man." The couple then prove to be key to the resolution of the plot, and complain to the camera at the end of the sketch: "We tried to tell you at the beginning of the film but you just panned off us."
  • NUMB3RS: Dwayne Carter. After his first episode, it seems like he's going to be a one-off character. He comes back in the season finale as part of a major reveal.
  • NCIS is a bit of a repeat offender on this one. If someone gets a line but doesn't seem to be contributing to the main plot otherwise, they did it.
    • Subverted in one episode, where the villain of the romantic subplot had not done it, even though he was suspected by a majority of the cast.
    • This can also be used in reverse... if there ARE no outstanding single line characters, the villain MUST be one of the major characters for the week. This is easily seen in a first season episode where the villain turned out to be David Keith, the sympathetic father and husband of the kidnapping victims and the very target of the plot!
  • The O.C. did the same thing with Taylor Townsend, who didn't become important until the third season but was clearly present in a number of earlier school scenes.
  • In Once Upon a Time, there was an unnamed man introduced in the first episode of the second season. It isn't until episode 6 that we find out his connection with Emma and Henry. And we don't find out that he is Baelfire, Rumpelstiltskin's son until episode 14.
    • Season 4's first Story Arc (based on Frozen and incorporating elements of The Snow Queen) introduced a minor character named Lily during a flashback to Emma's teenage years. Lily and Emma were childhood friends, but the friendship fell apart when Emma found out that Lily had lied to her about being an orphan. The second Story Arc reveals that Lily is the long-lost daughter of Maleficent and a central figure in this storyline.
    • The Black Fairy is mentioned a few times and as early as the second episode. She finally appears in the sixth season and turns out to be Rumplestiltskin's mother.
  • In the first half of Power Rangers Turbo, there was "A Drive to Win", which featured a soccer match. It unusually focused on a player named Carlos and a cheerleader named Ashley. A few episodes later, in "Passing the Torch", we are introduced to Cassie and T.J. who were riding a bus to Angel Grove, and later on we meet Carlos and Ashley again, and at the end of the two-parter, all four replaced the veteran rangers. It was revealed in an unproduced script called "Rangers in Concert" that Tommy, Kat, Tanya, and Adam did see the Millennium Message, thus knowing who their replacements are.
    • Similarly back in Season 2, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha were introduced long before they ended up becoming the new Red, Black, and Yellow Rangers.
  • Pulsaciones: At first, Carlos Meyer is just introduced as the son of the owner of the clinic that almost hired Álex in the first episode. He turns out to be the mastermind behind the disappearances Rodrigo was investigating, and The Man Behind the Man, since he's the one who pays the killer to kidnap those people.
  • Schitt's Creek: In Season 5, episode 6 a man is seen browsing in the Rose Apothecary. It's not unusual, as the show has extras shopping in the store all the time. This extra lingers just a little bit longer than normal, though there is nothing to indicate he's anything more than an extra. Then, in Season 5, episode 10, David discovers his old boss has gone into business with a man named Antonio, who dresses and looks like a knockoff David and their store is a knockoff of Rose Apothecary. David insists that he's seen Antonio in his store, which he denies, but Antonio is the lingering extra from Episode 6.
  • Sherlock: Molly Hooper introduces her new boyfriend, Jim, early in "The Great Game". In the last scene, he is revealed to be Moriarty.
    "Did I really make such a fleeting impression? But then, I suppose...that was rather the point."
    • In The Reichenbach Fall, John finds Mrs. Hudson with a repairman after getting a report that she has been hurt. Later on, we find that the repairman is the hitman sent by Moriarty to kill Mrs. Hudson if Sherlock does not commit suicide.
  • Smallville: While she doesn't physically come back into the story, a former nanny of Lex's who appeared (and died) in a single episode of the first season is revealed to be the mother of Tess Mercer in the tenth.
  • In the season 6 opener of Sons of Anarchy, the episode starts with an unknown young boy getting ready for school, and making sporadic appearances throughout the episode. He's a very literal example. At the end of the episode he's shown to have committed self-harm, despises his classmates, and commits a shooting spree at his school with a gun he stole from his mom's boyfriend, a member of Nero's crew.
  • The Sopranos:
    • Deliberately subverted with Valery the Russian. After his one big appearance, he seemingly escapes from Paulie and Christopher despite being wounded. The viewer is left expecting him to return in some way eventually and bring hell down on the protagonists. He never does. He becomes just one of those unsolved mysteries of life, his fate forever unknown.
    • Subverted by the "Man in Members Only Jacket" in the last episode.
      • Maybe not, considering how many people think he actually shot Tony.
      • Apparently, Steve Perry only let the show use "Don't Stop Believing" if no one died so in a way, Word of God says Tony survived.
    • Played straight by Tony's cousin, Tony Blundetto, whose actions in the fifth season are arguably the main catalyst for the New York-New Jersey War in the last season.
  • In Space Sheriff Gavan, during one episode Gavan manages to get to the victim of the day before the monster of the week kills him and gets him to safety. He'll live, but only if he gets medical treatment at Gavan's home planet. So he's shipped off to Planet Bird and never spoken of again, until he shows up during the final battle in a Big Damn Heroes moment as Sharivan the newest Sheriff. Turns out Da Chief of the Space Sheriffs approved of his toughness and had him inducted into the Sheriff (actually it was because they found out while treating him that was really the Chosen One for a supposed lost race of people). He would go on to be the hero in the next series Space Sheriff Sharivan.
  • The same thing happened to some random Mook of Apophis' in the Stargate SG-1 pilot. He didn't even get any lines until he saves all of the main characters near the end. Teal'c went on to join SG-1, and become one of only two characters to remain a main character for all ten seasons.
    • This was intended with the introduction of Cameron Mitchell at the end of season seven, during the battle over Antarctica, rather than at the beginning of season nine, when he joined the team. This didn't pan out, though, and he instead was simply retconned into existence without ever having been mentioned before, which was somewhat jarring for some fans.
  • Meanwhile on Stargate Atlantis, the Ancient that becomes known to SG-1 as Merlin slips in a cameo appearance nearly three years before he's even alluded to on SG-1.
    • In the Atlantis pilot "Rising", O'Neill's pilot initially seems like a throwaway character... until he waltzes into the Antarctic outpost and it turns out that he possesses the Ancient gene, and is immediately recruited into the Atlantis Expedition. Turns out the pilot, Major Sheppard, is The Hero of the new series.
  • Supernatural viewers may remember Adam Milligan, a boy that Sam and Dean meet who is teased at in Season 4 promos to possibly be their half-brother. Turns out, even though he '''was''' their brother he was Dead All Along and the boy the Winchesters meet is a Ghoul trying to kill them. Very few people expected to hear from him again... until a Season 5 episode reveals that even though Dean is the Archangel Michael's preferred vessel, he is not his only vessel. Being a vessel is In the Blood... and Dean just happened to inherit the trait from his father. Since Dean won't consent to possession (and he apparently has to, to be used by Angels), guess who is suddenly brought Back from the Dead? HINT: It's not John.
    • It's also implied that the only reason that this worked at all was because the time period was so short.
    • Crowley is referenced in passing by another crossroads demon in Season 3's "Bedtime Story" when she mentions her (male) boss to Sam. Season 5 revealed that Crowley had been the one Bela gave the Colt to in the third season. He gets mixed up in an Enemy Mine in Seasons 5-7 before becoming the Big Bad of Season 8.
    • Another Gunman for Supernatural would be the Trickster. He appeared in the second and third seasons as an antagonist with god-like powers and a veiled interest in the Winchester brothers, before the fifth season revealed that he is actually the Archangel Gabriel, who fell from Heaven when he couldn't stand his family's fighting anymore.
  • Early episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles often showed someone watching the Connors, although usually all we could see was an arm with a barcode tattoo. Derek Reese (and, yes, he is related to Kyle) eventually became one of the series leads.
  • The Thick of It:
    • Steve Fleming mostly wars against Malcolm at the end of Series 3, but Nicola's negative attitude towards him ends badly for her in Series 4. Fleming makes the front page of the Guardian in episode 4 with claims that Nicola is unelectable, which causes Malcolm to realise that the time is right for her political demise. By the end of the episode, he's succeeded in forcing her to resign.
    • Tara Strachan, the economist Adam and Fergus talk to in episode 3 of Series 4. There's a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-it shots of her with a concerned look on her face as she takes a phone call and looks into the office in which the group are reacting to the news of disgruntled and mentally ill nurse Mr. Tickel's suicide. She quickly ends the call when they come out, which doesn't come up again until the huge enquiry into leaking that covers the events surrounding Tickel's death and engulfs the entire cast. It turns out she was reporting the inappropriate response (including elation from Phil), which bites the group hard when they're called on it.
    • Mary Drake, the cabinet minister who appears briefly at Stewart's "thought camp" in that same episode without much hint of personality. She returns in the series finale as a ball-buster who takes over DOSAC, fires Stewart Pearson and promises bigger changes to come.
  • Lots of characters in The Wire, most notably Clay Davis.

  • mothy
    • The Evillious Chronicles song "Daughter of Evil" (sung by Kagamine Rin) gives us this example: Early on, the song mentions that the princess has a "servant with a like face". In the sequel, "Servant of Evil" sung Kagamine Len, it turns out that the servant in question, the princess's twin brother, changed clothes with her so he could die in his sister's place.
    • Fans waited years for the song representing Wrath to come out, which was commonly (and wrongly) believed to be "The Last Revolver". Come 2014, and "The Last Revolver" turns out to be the backstory for the Wrath song, "The Muzzle of Nemesis". The Wrath sinner was staring everyone in the face for four years and no one knew it. Bonus points for being an actual gunman.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers released "Dani California" in 2006. The title character was soon revealed to be the same "Dani the girl" from the chorus of "By the Way" (2002) and also the "teenage bride with a baby inside" from "Californication" (1999).


    Pro Wrestling 
  • Also happens in Professional Wrestling as companies will use local talent or developmental wrestlers as crowd plants for heels to attack or other roles as police officers or security. Also happens if wrestlers have matches on the B-Shows before having a proper debut on A Shows.
  • Molly Holly actually made two appearances on episodes of WWF Heat back in 1998 under the name Starla Saxton. This was before she joined WCW and later WWE permanently.
  • Candice Michelle was introduced as a backstage make-up artist late in 2004 and appeared in random backstage segments for a while before becoming a prominent character on TV.
  • Another one that shows how well WWE creative team can plan stories in advance is the character of Tori (not Wilson). She was introduced as an obsessed Wrestling/Sable fan at the 1999 Royal Rumble helping Sable win a match and eventually feuding with her going into WrestleMania XV. Watching old Sable matches will show Tori sitting in the front row of the audience regularly for at least two months before she actually debuted on TV.
  • In 2003 the La Résistance stable was your typical Foreign Wrestling Heel team and one episode had them make their way to the ring and insult a man who appeared to be a US pilot. Later on in the match, the pilot jumped out of the crowd and entered the ring to help La Résistance win their match. Next week he was added to their stable as Rob Conway.
  • The NXT rookies from season 1 could count given that when the season was over, they rampaged WWE and formed The Nexus. Then Daniel Bryan was released almost immediately, but brought back as an enemy of The Nexus.
  • Charlotte made her very first WWE appearance in a January 2006 episode of WWE Raw watching her father fight Edge for the WWE Title in a Ladder Match, and again in 2008 during Ric's "retirement", years before officially joining the WWE in 2012. Chronologically, her very first appearance in the wrestling world was during a 1999 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, which infamously aired the same time Mick Foley won his very first WWE Title.
  • Zack Ryder was an audience on WrestleMania X and was one of the kids Razor Ramon posed with after winning the Intercontinental Title.
  • Sasha Banks was in attendance on Eddie Guerrero's tribute show.
  • Even the McMahons followed this trope. From Vince's announcing days before the Montreal Screwjob outed him as the WWF/WWE's owner, to Shane's refereeing and appearances as a backstage official, to Stephanie appearing as a random passer-by in a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin segment months before debuting as Vince's daughter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Role-Playing Games, most RPGA tournament events followed this trope in that if someone was introduced passively, but by name, then that person would return by the end of the event either with the Superweapon or as the Big Bad. One player was heard saying at Gen Con: "Of course I knew he was the bad guy. He was the first NPC we met who was an ass to us."
  • Amara Li was named as a random museum donor in Pathfinder Society's 2nd season. In the 3rd season, she is the leader of a major faction.
  • One series of Paranoia missions, involving Computer-mandated "improvements" to the Food Vats, also made passing mention of a NPC with the Matter Eater mutation. Later, the PCs revisit his sector - now plunged into famine - and run into him again. Turns out a lot of citizens discovered that they had that mutation. They also discovered that real meat tastes much better than vat product...
  • In Battle for Zendikar, they mention that only two of the Eldrazi Titans are on the plane that and no one knows where Emrakul went. Come the next block, Shadows over Innistrad and there some "mysterious" force behind the scenes, twisting the plane to their whim. The only surprising thing about The Reveal that Emrakul was said force was that they expected us to be surprised.

  • From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe: The tall, impressive looking woman standing just behind and to the right of crimelord Baron Samedi in the early story that introduced Samedi as a Diabolical Mastermind? Yeah, it turns out that she's more than just Samedi's Dragon. It turns out she's Battle, the mother of Stone, the former Global Guardian.
  • Survival of the Fittest: Evolution has Khalid Shamoun, a "winner" of a previous experiment run, who first appeared in the prologue, being shot by the scientists after mouthing off to show that they won't allow rebellion. Later he's put on the island as a player for the second time partway through. Another example, this time from the main site, would be Yelizaveta "Bounce" Volkova, who first appeared as a character in the in-universe chat and later made a appearance in the main game.

  • In Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, the one who called the ghosts into the house and is keeping them tied there turns out to be the maid, an overeager girl who for most of the play has just been your typical simple servant played for laughs.
  • Early on in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Chief of Police Andre warns Lawrence, a master conman, that there is an infamous con artist even more skilled than him in town, known as the Jackal. This is promptly forgotten about for most of the show until "The Reckoning," at the climax of the story: after Christine Colgate, Lawrence and Freddy's con target whom both men had fallen in love with, leaves the scene, having supposedly been swindled out of $50,000 by Freddy, Lawrence and Freddy find that they are the ones swindled out of $50,000, with the lone suitcase they have remaining to them merely containing Freddy's clothes and a note from Christine that says "Goodbye, boys; it was fun! Love, The Jackal."
  • In Hamlet, Laertes is introduced briefly as a character in the first act, before departing for most of the play's storyline. He returns in the fourth act and plays a major role at the end of the play.
    • There is also Fortinbras, who is briefly mentioned but not seen early in the play, then makes his first appearance at the end of the play to assume control over Denmark in a Dark Horse Victory now that all its royal family is dead.
  • A minor example in Hamilton: after The Story of Tonight - Reprise, Hamilton and Laurens serve in the Continental Army, but Lafayette and Mulligan are put on their respective buses back to France and New York. They eventually both return as Chekov's Gunmen: Lafayette in Guns and Ships with the titular guns and ships - a gift from France that he had returned to France to get - and Mulligan in Yorktown, when it's revealed that he was using his apprenticeship to act as a spy for the Continental Army. Neither is exactly subtle about their nature as a Gunman, as their returns are both heralded by the chorus shouting their names.
    • Additionally, James Madison is briefly mentioned in Non-Stop as one of the co-authors of the Federalist Papers, alongside John Jay and Hamilton. He returns as one of Act 2's Big Bads alongside Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
    • Most of the characters are, in a sense. All the main characters, except for King George III, are present in Alexander Hamilton, serving as the song's omniscient narrators as well as introducing who they are in relation to Hamilton. While Burr, Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan are re-introduced in the very next song in Aaron Burr, Sir, Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy take another 4 songs to appear in The Schuyler Sisters (and take another 4 songs to actually become relevant to the plot in A Winter's Ball), George Washington takes 7, in Right Hand Man, and Madison, Jefferson, Maria Reynolds, and Phillip Hamilton don't appear until the next act (Jefferson and Madison in What'd I Miss, Phillip in Take A Break, although he is portrayed by a different actor until The Reynold's Pamphlet, and Maria in Say No To This). Burr is quite literally Chekov's Gunman, as he introduces himself as "the damned fool who shot him [Hamilton]". This doesn't actually happen until the end of the play (naturally, since you don't expect the main character to die halfway into a show about his own life).
  • In Pippin, the torch-wielding player who will play a part in the grand finale makes a false entrance at the beginning of the play, when the Leading Player promises to present "a climax never before seen on a public stage."
  • Played with a bit in Tom Stoppard's mystery parody The Real Inspector Hound, where both the murderer and the victim are Chekhov's Gunmen.
  • In Rehearsal For Murder, the killer is the man in the back of the auditorium. Also true in the TV movie it's based on.
  • Inverted in the play Rumors when the two biggest players in the show never actually appear on-stage, with one of them only showing up with one line from off-stage at the end.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the crazy old Beggar Woman is primarily a side character whose interactions with the main cast are primarily for comic relief. She's actually Sweeney's thought-to-be-dead wife, Lucy Barker, who spent fifteen years Going Among Mad People after surviving her attempt to kill herself with poison after what happened to her at Judge Turpin's masked ball.
  • Dr. Lyman Hall in 1776 starts as a new delegate whose need to be introduced to his fellow Congressmen is a convenient way to introduce them to the audience as well. He foreshadows his role when he says that while Georgia is against independence, he himself is for it. After witnessing Adams' Eleven O'Clock Number, Hall changes his vote to yea.
    • Judge James Wilson serves no significant part of the narrative other than comic relief, constantly forgetting Pennsylvania cannot second its own motions. Until he has to cast the deciding vote for declaring independence. He votes yea.
  • In the Mrs Hawking play series: Yulia Sherba in Base Instruments. She is introduced as if she is only there to fall for Justin's charm, but it's actually to seed her for her relevance to the mystery.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Series-wide:
      • Honestly, there's always at least one witness that turns out like this, if not the killer himself. If the game is trying to keep you from paying attention to them, they probably did it.
      • Misty Fey, who was only mentioned in passing at the beginning of the first game, then shows up as both major character and victim in the last case of the Phoenix Arc.
      • The completely nondescript chief prosecutor who gave von Karma his first penalty in the first game turns into a major character in Investigations 2.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney:
      • Valant Gramarye makes a couple of two-second appearances in Case 3 before being introduced. He's the magician responsible for the "vanishing Lamiroir" trick, which played an important role in the murder. He also was a witness in Phoenix's last trial, and he's strongly implied to have killed Magnifi, his master... but he didn't.
      • The victim in the first case is described just as "a mysterious world traveler". It might seem at first that he's yet another throwaway victim who won't be brought up again. He is in fact Zak Gramarye, Trucy's father, and a vital character to the plot.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, Lang's assistant Shih-na, who barely says a word throughout the entirety of the case she first appears in, is Calisto Yew, murderer and The Dragon to the head of the smuggling ring.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2:
      • Played with in the case of Sirhan Dogen. The first time he's introduced, Edgeworth is sure he's the killer, but he's not. Then you find out while he didn't commit the murder, he was pretty much the indirect cause of it. But just when you think you've seen the last of him... he turns out to be vital to the plot of the last case.
      • Simon Keyes is introduced in Case 2 as that case's wrongly accused person you have to prove innocent. In the final case, he is the killer. Also, he's the Big Bad of the whole game. Even though he is only guilty of actually killing one person, he orchestrated nearly every other death in the game with his Magnificent Bastardry.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice we have Queen Amara, who was disguised as Rayfa's maid Nayna the entire game while everyone thought she had been killed 23 years ago.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has three gunmen, Genocider Syo is brought up at the start of the game as the possible mastermind behind the cast's current predicament, and later on turns out to be Fukawa's Split Personality. Alter Ego is revealed during Chihiro's third free-time conversation to be an AI he created, and after his death it's revealed that he uploaded a copy onto a laptop they found earlier. Junko Enoshima is a seemly minor character who gets killed in Chapter 1 without making much of an impact on the plot? Turns out she is actually the mysterious sixteenth student in disguise. So what happened to the real Junko? She's the mastermind.
  • In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh shows up very briefly mucking about in the Prologue. Kuzuki also shows up briefly in the first day of the Fate route, and wouldn't go on to become important until halfway through the UBW route.
    • Similarly, the Avenger class is mentioned in passing as being something of a mistake that happens in the Grail War occasionally as well as the existence of Angra Manyu. These details aren't fully followed up upon until the sequel Fate/hollow ataraxia.
    • In Fate/Grand Order, two characters introduced before your first mission suddenly become extremely important at the end game. One is the doctor you meet goofing off in your room, who ends up as the only ranked staff member at Chaldea after the bombing and becomes your Mission Control. He's a Servant who won the Grail War that led to the creation of Chaldea and is key to the Big Bad's existence. The other is the Ridiculously Cute Critter that follows Mash around. It's one of the Seven Beasts of Calamity.
      • Before the bombing, the Director says that the mission to Singularity F will be carried out by Chaldea's seven best agents. After the bombing, they are presumed dead and never heard from again. They become the major antagonists of Part 2, working for the Alien God. For a double example, one of them is a True Ancestor.
  • Pennington in Fleuret Blanc. He only appears briefly in the intro scene and during an optional event many players may not see due to its rarity and stringent precondition. Turns out he's not only Junior's father but a Professional Killer who eliminates FOIL's departing members. Interestingly, it's entirely possible to complete the story without realizing his importance, as The Reveal only happens if you complete his sidequest.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, you're seemingly introduced to every dateable character on the first day of the game. The protagonist will find an ID card on most routes for a student she doesn't recognise. She can bring it either to her maths teacher (who will remark that the student in question has been missing for a while) or the school doctor (who is very glad that she brought it to him specifically). No further details are given on this mystery student, and it appears that he's just foreshadowing for the true nature of the doctor... until Anghel's route, when you learn that the card actually belongs to him, and he ditched it because it has his real name on it.
  • In Little Busters!, Mio is the last girl to be formally introduced, but she makes a cameo only a couple of days in when Rin sees a girl while searching for members. After Rin 1 is finished Rin will recognise her, but the first time around only her voice makes it clear who she is (though the fact that she's voiced at all makes it obvious she's someone important, anyway).
  • In Shining Song Starnova, Mr. Producer notices a suspicious man lurking near the stage during a promotional handshake event for Mika’s upcoming TV series, and chases him off. This man later turns out to be Mika’s stalker and the Big Bad of her route.

    Web Animation 
  • Two of them in Broken Saints. The first is the hobo Raimi meets near the alleyway, who seems to be nothing but another one of his hallucinations. The second is the supposedly dead Lear Dunham, one of the co-founders of BIOCOM. In the end, they turn out to be the same person. The freakin Big Bad.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Centurion, who's been appearing on and off in the background and quick gags of several episodes, has been Primarch Rogal Dorn all along.

    Web Comics 
  • Looking for Group does this with a bunny. Turns out this character was an archmage and The Chessmaster running most of the main plot.
  • Mike from Bob and George made a brief appearance at the very end of Mynd's introductionary storyline. In a later animated strip, he and Chadling make an appearance as potential characters Proto Man could be teaming up (who turned out to be Roll). Both characters are properly introduced in the second storyline featuring Mynd.
  • The very first strip of Ozy and Millie features background characters who would become important later.
  • Jones from Gunnerkrigg Court. Her first mention in the comic was so subtle that no one noticed it at the time. Then she was introduced standing next to the Headmaster at the parlay, watching the proceedings silently. As it turns out, she's responsible for training the future Medium, and she's a valuable source of information.
  • In Tales of the Questor, there is a small story where Linneaus, a Raccoonan pastor learns that the Alligator people in the swamp were looking for information about God and he volunteers to go to them as a missionary. While that story seems like a postscript story to the strip's first major continuity, there is a later story where a wizard tells of a boy with a powerful talent for magic who goes half-crazed in horror of his power and the people who tried to exploit him and he was last seen running into the swamp, never to be seen again. These stories may be unrelated, but given the religious allegory nature of the strip, it would seem that the boy is inadvertently heading for the one Raccoonan who can help him.
  • Girl Genius: Krosp the emperor of all cats is in the last panel of This page among Dr. Demitri's teddybears.
    • Dr. Demitri himself proves to be far more important than he seems. Aside from the novel confirming he is Krosp's creator, Agatha and Krosp eventually discover that the real secret he managed to keep from the Baron creating an army of Intelligent Bear-Soldiers for Krosp to command. He also turns out to be Martellus's mentor.
    • Moloch von Zinzer at first appears to be just a throwaway enemy. In just a few short pages, he comes back to play a larger role. The clank in the time window doesn't actually come into being until years (our time and comic time) later. Von Zinzer's true importance is hinted at when Dupree gives her phenomenon report to Klaus.
    • Merlot is of minor importance, when we first meet him, and then one last time years later.
    • The Geisters... they first appear in the above-mentioned phenomenon report from Dupree.
    • Otilia, the Muse of Protection, appears in another body, then in a flashback cameo, then we see her somewhat worse for wear.
    • Franz, a huge lizardlike monster who lives in the sewers of Mechanicsburg was introduced trying to have a nap in june 2008. In december 2011, he awoke, and came to the defense of the Heterodynes.
  • During the Sister arc of El Goonish Shive, Tedd and Elliot found the diary of the wizard who created the diamond that had "created" Ellen. Guess who the antagonist of the arc Sister II is, six years later.
  • In an early Order of the Stick strip, Sabine mentions that she is a servant of "the archfiends" sent to aid (and get sex from) Nale. Later on, we see a brief flashback of her in the Lower Planes, where she receives orders from three rather ominous looking cloaked figures. These three figures were eventually reintroduced as characters in their own right, the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission, and look to be shaping up as very important villains...
    • In the second arc, V kills off a young black dragon that had been guarding the MacGuffin the Order had been searching for to repair Roy's sword. Many strips later, its mother shows up gunning for V and pushes him/her towards making a Deal with the Devil.
    • Even more interesting, it was the same Sabine, shapeshifted as a blacksmith, the one who sent the party to search the aforementioned MacGuffin, which then develops in the plotline that gives to the archfiends the opportunity to make that deal with V, making this an extreme case of the trope.
    • And now we have Elan and Nale's father Tarquin, who only appeared in a single panel of a cutaway gag in one of the early strips.
    • For his early appearances in the story, Blackwing is the subject of jokes about how DND players neglect their familiars when playing as arcane casters. Then he plays a crucial role in O-Chul and Vaarsuvius' plan to destroy Xykon's phylactery, and gets a promotion to major character.
    • Hel, the dwarven goddess of the dead, was shown in a couple throwaway gags arguing with Thor over whether dead dwarves counted as having died in battle. But then it was revealed that after being turned into a vampire, the dark spirit that now controls Durkon is a servant of Hel.
  • In 8-Bit Theater, the little kid who is orphanized by the Light Warriors is introduced and makes some minor appearances, until it's revealed that it's Sarda's past self.
  • Incidental characters in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! usually wind up with something more significant to do later on. Rocko Sasquatch is probably the best example, being introduced as just a quick joke—the huge scary guy Bob has to share a jail cell with for a couple of strips—and then returning two years later as a major character.
  • In Homestuck, from very near the debut of the first troll it was revealed that there were twelve of them, and in some panels of the kids' Pesterchum chumlists you can see their trolltags. All were introduced later; some stayed minor characters, others... didn't.
    • Then there's the alternate John who Terezi tricked into flying to his death. His death led to the Dave in his timeline going back and becoming Davesprite, but after that he was completely forgotten until dead Vriska meets him with a dream bubble, and thinking he's "her" John, takes him on a tour/date.
    • Oh look, it's a little guy walking across the desert. Oh, he's found something with a spirograph on it, hey, is that John? Oh, this Wayward Vagabond guy was the one talking!
    • John is described early on as having a deep-seated hatred for Betty Crocker. It's mostly played for laughs, until the Doc Scratch intermission of Act 5 Act 2, where it's revealed that Betty Crocker wasn't human, and is the Troll Empress, working for Lord English.
      • The Empress herself is also a Chekhov's Gunman, having been referred to in Feferi's introduction.
    • In Act 6, we meet Jane Crocker, Nanna's teenage alternate. Her appearance was first previewed back in Act 4, two thousand pages and about a year and a half prior.
    • In Jake's letter to John, all the way back at the Act 4 epilogue, he mentions that somebody had to twist his arm to get him working on John's birthday present. Fast forward to Act 6, and Jake talks to Calliope, who mentions giving him some more arm twisting.
  • In one of the first story arcs of Demon Eater, we see a white giant. Later on, she's revealed to be a member of one of the strongest Demon Societies in the story.
  • In Prophecy of the Circle this happens to a couple of tekk characters, mostly because the first chapter is told from the perspective of the tikedi, who are their enemies and can't communicate with them.
    • Renn'tekk, who first appears as a random, nameless tekk wrecking havoc in a tikedi village, but becomes an important character after the first perspective-flipped chapter.
    • Shan'rekk too doesn't get a proper introduction when he first appears, although in his case it's plainly visible that he's important, or at least a very unique tekk.
  • In a PvP murder mystery arc, Francis is briefly shown, then fades as suspicion shifts to "Tom Bolero." Francis turns out to be the murderer.
  • In Spacetrawler, the apex speaker (and apparent Big Bad) Kuu-Drahc is accompanied by an unnamed personal assistant when he heads a meeting of the GOB. Later, the protagonists learn that Kuu-Drahc is not the big bad, but takes orders from a Man Behind the Man named Qwahntoo. Then they find out that Kuu-Drahc's "personal assistant" from earlier was actually Qwahntoo.
  • The Other Grey Meat has a character named Chekov, who happens to be one of the few survivors of a failed raid on the Big Bad.
  • In Narbonic there's a young, cute blonde woman wearing round glasses. We see her a couple times in a bar where Dave is doing something bizarre. She plays the 'straight man' character in the scenes. We don't know anything about her. Until the final arc of the webcomic, when her identity is absolutely critical.
  • Octopus Pie is practically made by this trope. Hardly a single character gets introduced without getting back to the comic later.
  • Split Screen: The bartender Jan meets at the beginning of the comic turns out to be Jeremy's old girlfriend, whom she didn't recognize after not seeing her for a decade (Natalie didn't bring it up because she thought Jan didn't like her that much). Natalie manages to bring Jan up to speed on what happened the night she (Jan) left town and what was really going on between her and Jeremy (Answer: Nothing.)
  • Inverloch:
    • In the first chapter, Shiara calls out to someone named Eron, thinking that he's followed her. He appears in Volume 4, revealed as Kayn'dar's brother and the one who thought of sending Acheron on the quest, finding him expendable.
    • Eron goes on to gripe about an "unsightly half-elf" living in the city. We don't find out until the very end that it's Varden's sister Marynn.
  • Back in 2011, a character named Pete the Primid appeared in L's Empire who was a member of L.E.E.T. that was fired after only a single panel. 4 years and 890 pages later he turns out to be the Smash Threader.
  • Cutter of Unsounded. He at first just seems to be a weird, minor bit character tagging along with the Red Berry Boys, but at the climax of the first arc, he reveals himself as the mastermind behind the whole First Silver operation.
  • Lisa's co-worker Valerie in Sunstone was shown early on in the story to be in a relationship with another woman, proving Lisa wrong about her initial impression that she was judgemental about Lisa's own growing relationship with Ally. In Chapter Five, it is Valerie that Lisa talks to as she's preparing to confess her feelings about Ally to her, and they end up talking about their respective significant others. Valerie ends up being the one who Lisa actually tells that she loves Ally, something she could never tell Anne, Cassie or anyone else.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: While trying to contact Onni via the mage-exclusive dreamspace, Lalli notices another mage running around in the zone between safe areas, tries to call him, but get dragged under the water by rogue spirits before he gets a response. That other mage reappears later in the real world, as the expedition's Little Stowaway.
  • Girly has a running gag where characters have sex is replaced with them frolicking in a field of flowers surrounded by cute animals. Winter and Otra end up defeating the Big Bad by having sex onscreen, resulting in all the animals Zerg Rushing them.

    Web Original 
  • The Rapture Logs: Cockroach Jesus, introduced in the introductory post in OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING was originally just a throwaway character meant to be a little warmup to all the craziness. Turns out he is the Big Bad, the emissary to The Rapture, and destroyer of universes.
  • Many, many people in Whateley Universe works. Given that the stories center around the 600 or so students at the Whateley Academy and their connections (plus the fact that the number of novels, novel chapters, short stories, novelettes, and vignettes now numbers over a hundred) it is sort of inevitable that characters seen in passing can become major players in later stories. Examples: Beltane (Kendall Forbes) gives the protagonists the campus tour on day one... and much later gets her own leading role in "For Whom the Belle Tolls", as well as other appearances. The Headmistress gives a speech on the first day of classes... and then turns out to also be the greatest superheroine around (in her spare time).
    • One of the hot blondes that Phase sees in the cafeteria on her first day at Whateley Academy - the one who really stares angrily at her — turns out to be an old enemy. Who then in later stories turns out to be the blackmailer. And then in a later story actually gets people to try to kill Team Kimba. And then in a later story takes over the Alpha clique and runs the student body, so she can really go after the heroes.
    • At first, Cavalier and Skybolt only get mentioned to show how dangerous The Don really is, and why The Don runs the campus. They're central to the Fey and Generator story "Christmas Elves". And then what they do next drives a lot of the plots for Winter Term.
    • One of the throwaway jokes early in the universe is about some girl at school who has the spirit of the squirrel and is a campus joke. She has now become a protagonist with her own stories, and in her combat final, she managed to beat one of the most dangerous bullies at Whateley in a simultaneous Moment of Awesome and Funny Moment.
  • The Descendants does this a lot: Elizabeth von Stoker is introduced in Volume 1 as a Girl of the Week and becomes recurring villainess Freaque in volume 2. Callie Kreiger is first seen as an almost faceless part of a Girl Posse in Volume 2, becomes an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in Volume 3 and finally helps save the city in Volume 4. Finally, Jay Willis starts as a random Gang Banger in Issue three and becomes the Descendants version of The Juggernaut in Issue 48!
  • The Questport Chronicles: So, that mage who shows up in the first quest of the third year? Yeah, turns out that he was responsible for the destruction of Questport.
  • In Worm, Oliver is a minor character with a seemingly useless power who has probably less than ten lines in the entire story. His power ends up being instrumental in defeating the last Big Bad.
  • The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles:
    • In the first chapter, Tebow pauses to sign an autograph for a young fan in Toronto. Chapters later, that same kid (now a young teen) shows up again, this time as a player for the Atlantic Schooners.
    • In the wilderness of Quebec, the Toronto Argonauts start getting supply drops from bizarre, futuristic aircraft. This is their first contact with their fans from Greenland City, who they don't meet properly until the final chapter.

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall:
    • Iron Liz makes her first appearance in the crossover with The Spoony Experiment "Warrior #2 and #3", saying "Wait. Who am I?" She made her first official appearance in the Atop the Fourth Wall review of Chain Gang War #1.
    • During a Christmas review, Linkara refuses to do Yet Another Christmas Carol, even though the spirits keep arriving. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come gets a reaction from him... "Is that a robot hand?" It's the first appearance of Mechakara within the reviews.
  • div This five minute skit uses it twice! (Pay attention to the chaos that effects 2 characters...)
  • During The Irate Gamer's review of Super Mario Bros. 2, he makes a joke about the game only having one player by having another Irate Gamer briefly appear, asking if he could play. Towards the end of his review, he comes back, revealing that he's an Evil Twin.
  • Two in There Will Be Brawl.
    • Game and Watch had been seen around the city doing various tasks. He actually is an Eldritch Abomination, and is the "End of Days" meant to bring about the end of the world.
    • Ness and Lucas were seen playing in an alley, and served to remind Luigi of his motivation for fighting. Then it gets turned on his head when he discovers they are the murderers. And that feeling of hope Luigi got from seeing them was artificially planted by their telepathy to keep Luigi fighting — which they found entertaining.
  • Eric Rosethorn from The Quest For Geekdom makes a brief appearance as a one shot character. Later he becomes the big bad.
  • Early in Project Million, Diamanda pops the balling of a little boy at Disneyland, then steals his lollipop. He later shows up to club her over the head and save Robert. Though he's really only after his lolly.
  • Noob:
    • The series introduced top player Fantöm in the ad that made early Audience Surrogate Gaea buy the game in which the series is set. She eventually runs into him in-game and his team ends up being the series Deuteragonist.
    • The younger brother Spararap mentions having in an early episode becomes essential in Season 1 finale and is the healer of Fantöm's team.
    • Minor character Castörga was briefly introduced in Season 3 finale and appeared in various later portions of the story in a biiger a bigger role.
  • This happens a lot in Slender Man stories. Notable examples include Brian, who makes about eight appearances, maximum, who turns out to be the Hooded Man/totheark and Kevin, who was mentioned exactly once as the translator for Noah's uncle's German, who is eventually revealed to be the Observer, essentially the series's primary selling point outside of Visual Effects of Awesome.
  • Kynan from Critical Role was introduced in Episode 23 as an In-Universe Fan Boy of Vox Machina whose dreams of joining the group were crushed by Vax. He returns in Episode 67 as one of Dr. Ripley's henchmen.


Example of: