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Conflicting Loyalty
aka: Conflicting Loyalties

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"So many vows... they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It's too much. No matter what you do, you're forsaking one vow or the other."
Jaime Lannister, A Clash of Kings

Many people have more than one thing they consider worthy of Undying Loyalty: religion, country, family and friends, promises, perhaps a cause or whatever the author imagines. If a character is lucky, these differing claims can actually reinforce one another. But what happens if they conflict? Then we have Conflicting Loyalty.

Whichever the character chooses, he may regard it as Dirty Business. Many characters try (and may or may not succeed) to Take a Third Option. If the character can use a technicality, loophole, metaphorical truth, or harmless lie to resolve the dilemma in a way that benefits (or at least avoids harm to) both sides, expect this to usually be a moral act from a moral character, regardless of whether or not it succeeds.

Related to Sadistic Choice. Compare Rebellious Rebel, Anti-Mutiny. Sometimes invokes Honor Before Reason. Super-Trope to Even Mooks Have Loved Ones and To Be Lawful or Good. May be caused by Double Consciousness.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Adventures of the Little Koala, Roobear ends up stuck in an example of this near the beginning of "Who Will Be the Flower Queen?". With Weather predicting an outstanding eucalyptus blossom display for the year's eucalyptus blossom festival, the village decides to hold an election for the queen of the festival. But as both Laura and Betty plan to enter the competition, Roobear is caught between promising to vote for his sister and wanting to vote for his would-be girlfriend. Luckily for Roobear, it becomes a moot point when the rules of the contest are changed to award the crown to whoever produces the most beautiful eucalyptus blossoms - which ends up being a joint award to literally every girl who enters the contest.
  • In Attack on Titan, Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie are torn between affection for comrades and loyalty to superiors. It causes numerous major mistakes to be made, and more than one case of a Villainous BSoD. Reiner has it the worst, unable to reconcile his conflicting loyalties leads to Sanity Slippage and identity issues.
  • Le Chevalier d'Eon has this as a major theme. Events really start unravelling around the topic of loyalty to an individual versus loyalty to a cause, or when loyalty to "king and country" ends up as two conflicting loyalties. The first event to really drive this home is when Durand - an unconditionally loyal secret agent - is ordered by his king to kill his friends to protect a state secret. This screws him up enough to nearly get him killed. In the end, he insists on protecting his friends while still trying to have it both ways. A villain later tries to persuade Durand to join him by calling him out on it, asking why Durand would serve a king who would give him such an order. Even then, Durand doesn't give in.
  • In Code Geass, Suzaku Kururugi is Japanese by birth, and only wants to protect his country - and is working in the military of The Empire that invaded it. And then there are his loyalties to the people he cares about, many of whom are at various points on opposite sides of the conflict. And then there's his personal ideology...
    • Not to mention Lelouch, who himself has this conflict starting when he finds out he's the pilot of the Lancelot.
  • In A Cruel God Reigns, Ian goes through a period of conflict where he has to decide whose honor he wants to save- the good memory of his father or his step-brother Jeremy's innocence in his reasoning for Vehicular Sabotage.
  • In Don't Become an Otaku, Shinozaki-san!, Akina thinks this trope is in effect between her loyalty to her old middle school Girl Posse and her new high school otaku friends. Multiple incidents prove that this is really just in Akina's head.
  • Gunslinger Girl can get into this sometimes with the handlers trying to balance making the girls effective weapons while still letting them retain some semblance of happiness.
  • In the anime/manga of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Bahman was conflicted after receiving a letter from commander-in-chief Vahriz about the possibility that Arslan isn't of royal blood and finding out that Silvermask is the former Prince Hermes. He was torn between wanting to support Prince Hermes or continue to stand by Arslan.
  • This forms the bulk of Maki's suffering in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, as she finds herself torn between supporting her best friend Kashiwagi and extreme jealousy over the fact that Kashiwagai unknowingly stole her longtime crush Tsubasa.
  • Tsurara in Kurosagi has a tough time deciding if she should put more stock in her love of and belief in the law, or her growing love for her swindling landlord.
  • Athrun has this big time in Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny. On the one hand, Durandal sweet-talked him into rejoining ZAFT to protect his former nation PLANTs from EA attack. He also has loyalty to the crew of the Minerva as fellow soldiers who have tried to save a world that hates them. On the other hand, his adopted nation Orb was effectively blackmailed into joining the EA, and his best friend and his ex-fiancees were forced to flee with the Archangel. This all comes to a head when Orb is ordered to send a fleet out to fight ZAFT, and Athrun's ship the Minerva is sent out to fight it, and the Archangel ends up intervening against both ZAFT and the EA to protect the Orb fleet. Cue ten episodes of Athrun wrestling with his loyalties until he finally jumps ship (again) and joins Orb.
    • He never even really gets to totally make the choice. After learning of this Durandal decides he doesn't need someone that isn't completely loyal to him and sends soldiers after Athrun branding him a traitor to Zaft before he really did anything and forcing him to flee back to Orb.
  • The autobiographical protagonist of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is torn between wanting to make her parents proud versus allowing herself to be proud.
  • Naruto: Itachi Uchiha was forced to choose between his loyalty to his family and clan, or to his village. He chose his village without too much thought and wiped out his rebellious family. But his true conflicting loyalty is between choosing the village or his brother Sasuke, whom he loves more than the village but is also willing to strip of free will so he can protect the village for the rest of his life.
  • Vice Admiral Garp of One Piece has a pretty severe case of this throughout the Whitebeard arc. He's torn between his loyalty to the World Government and Navy as a Vice Admiral and as a friend/comrade of Fleet Admiral Sengoku, his feelings towards his grandsons Ace and Luffy who are both notorious pirates along with Ace facing execution, and his own promise to Gold Roger to take care of his son Ace. It's so bad that he all but throws the fight against Luffy when he tries to stop him from saving Ace. Ultimately, he fails to uphold any of these promises due to this conflict. Sengoku realized he threw the fight, Ace is killed by Akainu anyway, and Luffy suffers total mental collapse. Curly Dadan angrily calls him out on this, enraged he would dare show his face in the village again.
  • Pokémon Adventures: Black starts to show issues between his own personal agendas and the fact that he's apparently The Chosen One. He had been training his whole life to win the League but the Team Plasma shenanigans are getting in the way. It gets to the point where Reshiram refuses to come out for him just yet and his Munna leaves him because it can no longer feed on his dreams.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • For the Cerulean Gym battle, Pikachu refuses to participate, since he doesn't want to go up against Misty, a friend.
    • May has trouble choosing who she wants to win during the Petalburg gym match: Ash, or her father Norman. Max, in contrast, is ready to root for his father, and admonishes May for her indecisiveness.
  • The duty-bound Souseiseki in Rozen Maiden is conflicted between her love for her sisters and her obligation to follow her Father's wishes, which is to fight in the Alice Game and kill off said sisters until one doll remains standing. She is also this towards her mediums, whom she addresses as "Master" and is determined to help them be happy even if it keeps her trapped with no free will.
  • A major part of the second-season arc of The Story of Saiunkoku centers around Ran Shuuei being caught in a conflict of loyalty — between his loyalty to his Emperor (who has shown him absolute trust) and his Big Screwed Up Clan, the Rans, who dislike the emperor and only care about their own people and lands. Getting it resolved takes a lot of work (and, ultimately, intentionally getting himself disowned so that he can freely swear his unconditional loyalty to Ryuuki).
  • Transformers: Energon gives an interesting variant with Demolishor, whose loyalties are both to Megatron. In this case, the conflict comes down to whether he obeys the last command Megatron gave at the end of Armada, or whether he disregards that to go along with the dramatically different orders Megatron starts giving after being resurrected.
  • In Wild Rock, Yuni and Selim are from feuding clans and both future chieftans, and choose to place duty before their feelings. Their sons later end up falling in love, but Emba chooses Yuuen over loyalty to his clan, which ultimately reunites them.
  • Winter Cicada is about Star-Crossed Lovers during the great Boshin civil war in Japan (1864 to 1869). Akizuki is on the isolationist side (expel foreigners and keep the Shogunate system) and Kusaka is on the imperialist side (open the borders and embrace modern culture). Somewhat subverted in that both main characters want to keep the borders open, but nonetheless they end up going along with their clans.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Astro City story, while Charles Williams was working undercover for E.A.G.L.E., he has to decide between reporting a major operation to his superiors or going after the man who killed his parents.
  • Deadpool had this in the post recent chapters of his solo series. He has loyalty and friendship with Captain America & SHIELD agent, Emily Preston. But he sides with the former. Cap, who has been Cosmic Cubed into a Hydra agent, sent Deadpool on a mission to assassinate Phil Coulson and prevent him from warning everyone about what's happening with him and Hydra. Coulson was a very close friend of Preston's and Wade felt guilty after completing the task. He asks Cap how he will ever explain things to Preston.
    • Later, Wade meets up with Preston to check on the family when a dark dome appears over Manhattan. She tells Deadpool to get in the car so they can find Coulson. Wade is completely torn. Preston wonders why Wade needed to see Coulson the other night, and Wade lies about the reason, and tells Preston he never found Coulson. When they get to his hide-out -which Wade burned down after killing Phil, he says it didn't look that way the other night he was there. He continues to play dumb while there, but Preston finds out the truth when she watches a surveillance video.
  • In the (now non-canon) DuckTales and Darkwing Duck crossover "Dangerous Currency", Scrooge comes to St. Canard, and he and Darkwing really do not get along. The fact that his "two best friends hate each other" is stressful for Launchpad, who worries that they'll never get it sorted out and he'll be forced to pick one or the other. This is even represented on one of the covers, with Scrooge and Darkwing pulling on opposite sides of Launchpad's pilot's helmet. Fortunately, the two ultimately become Vitriolic Best Buds and the situation is resolved.
  • For Carol Danvers in Operation: Galactic Storm. Cross the portal and retrieve the Nega-Bomb, and prevent the annihilation of the Kree, or fix the things going wrong with the sun because of the portals and prevent the annihilation of the human race? As a human herself, Carol Danvers did not doubt... and indirectly allowed the genocide of the Kree.
  • The pivotal plot point of Scion: Ethan has to choose between loyalty to his family and kingdom in the war against the Raven Kingdom and loyalty to Ashleigh and her movement to liberate the Lesser Races.
  • Spider-Man: Life Story: Captain America voices this to Spider-Man when he meets him. He's a soldier and veteran of World War II and he's been asked to fight in the Vietnam War, whose causes he has doubts about, and yet at the same time real American troops are risking their lives for it. Cap tells Spidey that he plans to head to Vietnam and see with his own eyes and ears what's up. He has revealed to have become an independent agent defending civilians against war criminals from both sides, making him a "traitor" in the eyes of American troops.
    Captain America: I don't know if this war is right — but I do know that people are dying, and our country's name and ideology are tied to it.
  • Examples from Superman comics:
    • Jimmy Olsen suffers from this in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #8: "The Betrayal of Superman" when he agrees to take on a missing persons case for a sick friend, only to find that the "missing person" is Supes' other persona — does he keep his pal's Secret Identity secure or keep his promise to his other friend? Fortunately, he manages to Take a Third Option by working with Superman.
    • During the New Krypton story arc, Supergirl was torn between loyalty to her cousin and her adopted planet and loyalty to her mother Allura -who hated and blamed humanity for her husband's death- and her Kryptonian kin. She tries to protect everyone, but eventually both sides go to war.
    • In The Untold Story of Argo City, Kara feels divided between her birth parents who loved her and raised her until she was fifteen, when they were forcefully separated from her... and between her adoptive parents who took her in when nobody else did and raised her since she was sixteen.
  • Ultimate Wolverine: There is a standing order to turn all mutants over to the authorities. Jimmy made all the way to his parents' house to see them from afar, but he knows that if took one step further and actually made his presence known to them, they would have to do that. They wouldn't, he's their son, but the old James Hudson is a cop. Also, what if there is surveillance at their house, and the authorities discovered that they met him and did not call anyone? Trying to keep them out of trouble, he left.
  • Wolverine is both a member of the X-Men and the Avengers. He's stated that he sees the Avengers as work and the X-Men as his family. However, in Avengers vs. X-Men, he sides more with the Avengers than the X-Men.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Diana's oaths as an Amazon and as their champion conflict at a few points, which she's actually okay with since if things work out just right it will allow her to marry Steve Trevor using a loophole created by them. This will mean that she's no longer an Amazon of Paradise Island but can continue to act as their champion in the wider world where if she agreed to marry him without the situation fitting the loophole she'd be a banished oath breaker.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Diana's loyalty to her family and people and her loyalty to her oath to protect innocents the world over come into conflict during The Contest. In the end despite losing and no longer being the champion, she chooses to leave to uphold her oath to protect people anyway against her mother's orders.

    Fan Works 
  • In All Mixed Up!, when Carlos sees Otto and Oscar up against Mariana Mag, he becomes torn on whose side to take — the side of the agents he barely knows, or the side of the woman who was his Only Friend and vice versa for so long. He doesn't get to make his decision until Mariana uses a stun gun on Otto to wound him and leave him unable to fight back, at which point he gets in between them and tries to stop the ex-agent from anagramming him.
  • In Ambience: A Fleet Symphony, several of the ship girls, most notably Shiranui and Zuikaku, struggle to prioritise between the well-being of their sisters and the needs of the fleet as a whole.
  • Androgyninja's A Dose of Venom: Inoichi is the head of the Yamanaka clan, as well as a high-ranking member of Konohagakure's T&Inote  Unit. Most of the clan despises Sakura after she defeated Ino during their preliminary match in the Chuunin Exams, especially since she broke free of their signature technique in the process. But Ino herself doesn't hold it against Sakura and has been rekindling her friendship with her, which causes Inoichi to be torn between his daughter's wishes and the clan's concerns, on top of how Sakura is being targeted by other powerful people who disagree with how she's challenging the status quo.
  • Anyone: Kurogiri joined the titular organization while believing his former employer, All For One, to be dead. Then All For One breaks out of jail and exploits Kurogiri's position for his own ends, leaving him torn between the two.
  • Bakery "Enemies": Adrien eventually admits to Marinette that he figured out his father was Hawkmoth about one week before the latter's downfall. She understands why he didn't tell her as soon as he found out.
  • In Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium, thanks to her behavior in Valammar, Varric realizes he feels torn between his loyalty to his longtime girlfriend and the Hawke family. When he compares the way the two sides have treated him over the years, he realizes it's practically a Foregone Conclusion as to who deserves his loyalty more.
  • Chasing Dragons: Barristan is very disturbed by how the Targaryen court-in-exile has descended into enforcing slavery for its Volantene allies, seeing it as ungodly and a violation of his vow to protect the innocent... but at the same time he can't bring himself to break his other vow to obey his king without question.
  • Child of the Storm: in Ghosts of the Past, Harry is repeatedly caught between trusting and being honest with Ron and Hermione, and obligations to keep secrets from them - in some cases, intensely personal secrets. These include hiding the fact that the Winter Soldier a.k.a. Bucky Barnes is alive, since he gave Arthur Weasley a Mercy Kill in HYDRA's assault on the Ministry and that Hermione is actually adopted, and the biological daughter of Wanda Maximoff and John Constantine. The former is secret for security reasons, the latter he figures out and keeps mum on at Wanda's request (since Wanda is his godmother).This, combined with his tendencies to keep them on the sidelines for their own protection, and Locked Out of the Loop because he's not particularly eager to talk to anyone about whatever he's been through unless they were there, causes increasing friction, and both sides are profoundly unhappy about it.
  • Daughter of Fire and Steel: When General Zod's crew find signs of Kal-El, Kara wonders whether she will have to choose between her family and her commander and mentor once again.
    "Should Kal-El resist then we'll cross that road when we come to it but the Codex is our first priority," said Zod. Kara didn't know to be grateful for this discovery or angry. Once again it seemed like she was going to be in a position where she would be forced to choose between her family and Zod.
  • Dominoes:
    • Practically all of Shinichi's relationships are marred by the fact that his Control Freak father, Yuusaku, has positioned himself so that every friend and authority figure Shinichi knows also works for Yuusaku. Including Shinichi's girlfriend Ran, who honestly believes that it's best they micromanage and control his life in order to "protect" him.
    • Hattori is torn between his desire to befriend Shinichi and his position as one of the Irregulars, especially as it becomes clearer and clearer that his boss Yuusaku has been exploiting his position to exert control over his son. Following the climax of Part 1, Hattori quits the Irregulars so he can search for the missing Shinichi without having that conflict of interest hanging over his head anymore.
    • While Agasa considers Yuusaku to be a dear friend, he doesn't agree with how he's been treating Shinichi, having secretly built an armory's worth of tools and gadgets to aid Shinichi in his investigations, which he provides him with once it becomes clear that Shinichi needs all the help he can get to deal with a crisis.
  • In Act II of The Equestria Chronicles, Princess Luna is placed in an unfortunate situation when she realizes that her sister, to whom she has sworn personal loyalty, is rebuilding Equestria as a an authoritarian state and destroying all the freedoms for which they originally fought.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls:
    • When Celestia and Luna end up being tried as traitors, Soul Society is sent into an uproar as Soul Reapers from the lowest rank to even the other Captains have to decide whether to stand by the law of Central 46 or with the condemned Captains, both of which having records of being among the greatest members of their organization. Celestia's entire 13th Division pretty much gathers together in preparation to fight the 11th Division, and Luna's 2nd Division is noted to be split right down the middle in their loyalty.
    • Zecora experiences this during the trial. Her Zanpakuto is said to be impossible to fool, so despite knowing that Celestia and Luna would never betray Soul Society, she still casts the deciding vote against them. Though considering she was really Chrysalis at the time, this was subverted since she was just playing a role and fully in on Starlight Glimmer's scheme.
    • When evidence mounts that the "treason" has been a bunch of hogwash and nothing more than manipulation, both Blueblood and Troubleshoes falter, but their loyalty to Platinum (the only Captain who was completely in on Starlight's scheme) and Soul Society's laws respectively and lack of hard evidence lead them to siding with Hurricane (who himself honestly couldn't have cared if Celestia and Luna really were traitors and saw this as an opportunity to get Soul Society back on the offensive in the spirit war) against Sweet Cider, Cheese Sandwich, Daring Do, and Amore.
  • In Glee Reprise, Monica wants to maintain her friendship with Beth, but also wants to succeed as a member of Vocal Adrenaline.
  • In Here There Be Monsters, Mary Marvel is torn between her lover Freddy Freeman and her foster mother. On the one hand, she wants to get married to Freddy whether her mother approves of it or not. On the other hand, she loves her mother and does not want to go behind her back. Due to her mother's disapproval, though, Mary and Freddy can be forced to elope.
  • Legionnaire poses this problem for Justicars like Prophet, who are willing to put their religion's principles over the orthodox.
  • Necessary to Win:
    • Shinzaburou, a servant of the Isuzu household, finds himself dealing with this problem, after his mistress and employer disowns her daughter for doing tankery. He opposes this decision, but finds himself unable to actively oppose his mistress, so he decides to serve as an intermediary, to help Hana reconcile with her mother.
    • Kikuyo, a maid for the Nishizumi family who is also a Parental Substitute for her mistress' daughter, Miho, also has this problem when her mistress tells her to inform Miho that she will be disowned if she loses to Saunders in the semifinals. She's personally loyal to her mistress, who was also her former tankery instructor, but also has no wish to see Miho be disowned, and so finds herself wondering what she can do to help.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, as the story advances, Iris begins to worry about having to choose between her adoptive family of Dragon Pokémon, and hew newfound traveling companions.
  • This is defied in Princess Trixie Sparkle. The shadow alicorn is Luna's childhood friend and is like a brother to her. He thinks Luna will choose him over her sister, but Luna makes it clear where she stands:
    Luna: You will not harm my sister!
    Shadow: It's her or me, Luna!
    Luna: I've already made my choice. I couldn't have been more clear: Celestia. I will always choose Celestia.
  • In The Raven's Plan, Ned Stark is faced with the choice of swearing fealty to Jon (and thus betraying his oldest friend) or staying loyal to Robert (and thus turning on the nephew he raised as his own son). He ultimately chooses Jon.
    • After learning that Jon is a Targaryen, Barristan is torn between staying in Westeros and swearing fealty to him, or going to Essos in order to uphold his original oath to Daenerys. He ultimately decides on Jon, due to feeling a need to protect his old friend's son.
  • In River of Stars, Sha Gojyo desperately wants to stay part of Stargate Command, as remembering he was an Air Force captain helped him to withstand two years stranded on a Death World, but on the other hand he cannot bear the idea of leaving the friends he made after becoming a bodyguard to Sanzo. When General Hammond realizes how much it's eating the guy inside, he quickly solves the dilemma by naming the captain a Terran liaison to Shangri-La — and Sha Gojyo is so relieved he almost bursts into tears.
  • The Road To Light: Vanitas is torn between his loyalty to his master and his newfound friendship with Aqua. He chooses Aqua.
  • The Silver Raven: Lilith is often torn between her loyalty and devotion to the Emperor's Coven and her love for her son, Nero, and desire for him to be happy. She would like for Nero to join a coven so that he won't be branded a wild witch, but at the same time, she doesn't want to risk alienating him from her by forcing him, which gives her a lot of grief. It gets worse when Belos himself gives Lilith an ultimatum for her to get Nero to join the Emperor's Coven before the Day of Unity or else he'll be petrified.
  • As the Games begin in the Hunger Games fanfic Some Semblance of Meaning, Obsidian is torn between his ties to his fellow Careers and the inexplicable friendship he feels toward Vale and Kit. He ends up leaving the Career pack after he realizes the extent of their ruthlessness and eventually allies with Vale.
  • Son of the Sannin:
    • Haku is torn between his pledged loyalty to Zabuza, and the fact he's grown accustomed to living in Konoha, even finding himself a girlfriend in Tenten. However, this is solved when at the end of the Kirigakure War arc, Zabuza officially gives him permission to leave him, and Mei Terumi, who has just been instilled as Mizukage, names him her official ambassador in Konoha. In Chapter 69, when asked by Hotaru what he would do if both villages went to war with each other again, he replies that he would pick neither side, and his work is to ensure that never comes to pass.
    • Played for Laughs with Karin at the beginning of the Kirigakure civil war arc where she isn't sure if she should cheer for Sasuke or Neji during a sparring match since the former is her teammate but the latter is her boyfriend.
  • Son of the Seven Kingdoms: Farengar Secret-Fire is one of Prince William's Blades, sent to spy on Daenerys. However, over time, he comes to admire her as a ruler as much as his Black Prince, and he eventually admits when outing himself that if it ever comes down to it, he wouldn't be able to pick a side between the two of them and would have to stay neutral.
    • Like in canon, Theon experiences this conflict between his Iron Born family and his mainlander friends. Unlike in canon, however, he chooses his friends.
  • In Stars Above, this trope and It's Not You, It's My Enemies cause Homura to coldly reject Kagami for a while.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Bad Guys (2022): After getting a taste of what being good feels like, gang leader Mr. Wolf gradually finds himself conflicted on whether to stay evil with his Criminal Found Family or abandon his villainy and become a model citizen, leaving his friends behind in the process. This comes to a head at the charity gala where Wolf either has to go through with stealing the Golden Dolphin trophy as planned or let it go and get the pardon they were promised. Wolf chooses not to go through the heist, triggering a nasty falling out with his friends after the gang is framed and arrested for a crime they didn't commit. They eventually reconcile when the rest of the gang realizes Wolf was right about them becoming more than just scary villains.
  • Coco: Miguel's conflict arises from his idolization of Ernesto de la Cruz and his passion for music despite his family's ban on both (since Miguel's great-great-grandfather abandoned the family to become a musician), as well as having to choose between staying true to the people he loves or pursuing his dreams despite the painful part such dreams played in their history.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Sebastian is conflicted with obeying King Triton's orders to keep his daughter Ariel away from the surface and out of trouble, and helping Ariel realize her dreams and be with Eric. He ultimately chooses the latter, especially after seeing just how far Triton was willing to go to keep Ariel from the human world.
  • In Turning Red, as the movie goes on, Mei becomes conflicted between remaining Ming's dutiful daughter or loosening up and being true to herself with her friends. It eventually culminates in Mei being forced to choose between having her red panda spirit extracted per her family's wishes or going to the 4*Town concert to reconcile with her friends.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Advance to the Rear: Beauregard Davis is a loyal Union soldier but shows some discomfort at the beginning when he finds out that a confederate unit from his home state will be taking part in the battle. Ford solves this by agreeing to place him in a part of the Union lines were he won't be facing them.
  • Captain America: Civil War: While all the Avengers have this to one degree or another, none faces it more clearly than Black Widow. Having made personal connections with leaders of both factions, but also willing to see the bigger picture in her own way, her path through the movie leads in all sorts of directions. Ultimately, while publicly a supporter of Iron Man's side, her trust in Captain America leads her to make a diversionary play to help him finish his mission. Which ends up costing her good will with the government, forcing her to flee solo. (Ironically, ending up exactly on the side she was fighting against by Avengers: Infinity War)
  • Chariots of Fire: "God knows I love my country. But I can't make that sacrifice." (Eric refusing to run on Sunday)
  • Ringo Lam's City On Fire (1987) is all about this, as Chow Yun-Fat plays an undercover cop who has to choose between loyalty to his fellow cops and loyalty to the triad gang that he's infiltrated.
  • Both brothers in Deewaar face this.
    • Vijay is loyal to his family on one hand, and crime boss Daavar on the other.
    • Ravi is loyal to his family on one hand, and the police force on the other.
  • This is a major problem for undercover LAPD Officer Brian O'Connor in The Fast and the Furious (2001), who is assigned to obtain evidence against Dominic Toretto and his team of truck jackers. He ends up falling for Toretto's sister and becomes Toretto's friend. In the end, he chooses to let Toretto go.
  • Tony Leung's Alan from Hard Boiled also has to deal with conflicting loyalties, both due to having to choose between Johnny Wong and his old triad boss, and also being an undercover cop as well.
  • Vincento in Hussar Ballad finds himself facing a choice of either exposing a Russian spy and sending a Friendly Enemy to his death or covering for him and betraying his own vow to his army and country. He chooses the latter, saving the hero(ine)'s life, but the defection ends tragically for him, as he is shot by the French.
  • Jason's Lyric: The primary theme. The main character, Jason, is a dutiful son who used to be a breadwinner to his family following his father's passing and vows to prioritize their well-beings above his, particularly his troubled younger brother, Joshua. However, when he found love in Lyric, he starts to feel torn between his family or his wish to be with Lyric. Upon learning Joshua has become insufferably unbearable, he eventually leaves his brother for good and chooses to be with Lyric.
  • Lawrence of Arabia:
    Arab: You are loyal to England...
    Lawrence: And other things...
  • In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Enterprise has a different captain, Decker, but he's quickly replaced by Kirk and demoted to first mate. This sets up a number of moments of conflicting loyalty for the crew, particularly in a scene where Decker countermands one of Kirk's orders because he has better knowledge of how the new, improved Enterprise works.
  • In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker falls to The Dark Side when circumstances force him to choose between his loyalty to the Jedi and the need to save Padmé, which Palpatine promises he would be able to do. He chooses Padmé. He finally makes the right decision in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
  • In Summer Camp Nightmare, in the early part of the teenagers' takeover of Camp North Pines, The Smart Guy Donald Poultry must make a decision to side either with his friend Chris Wayne or with Franklin Reilly, who saved his life when he was drowning in the lake. Donald chooses Franklin over Chris at first, even going so far as giving him and Heather from Camp South Pines the Silent Treatment at the order of Franklin, but when things get really deep during the takeover and the revolutionists start acting really strange, Donald rejects his alliance with Franklin and sides with Chris so they can get the police to end the takeover and bring the children safely home.

  • In the 1632 series, Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz is torn between loyalty to his new American wife, and to Spain. Ultimately, the wife wins.
  • In Ancillary Justice, the ship AI Justice of Torren is made to kill one of its officers by The Emperor Anaander Miaani, but immediately afterwards turns against him. At the end of the book the entire Radchaai empire faces one when it is revealed that Miaani has a Split Personality and is at war with himself.
  • Animorphs: Ax's entire character arc is built on this. He is an aristh, the Andalite equivalent of a cadet, and thus the only one of the Animorphs to have prior affiliations. Further, his culture places a very high value on loyalty and service, meaning that even when he learns the Andalite military is doing things that aren't entirely kosher, he is still obliged to support them. And yet, he comes to find himself caring for his human friends, who are at first simple allies of expedience but slowly grow into true companions. This is the main reason why David is referred to in-series as the Sixth Ranger rather than Ax - almost every book Ax has in the 54-book run is devoted to this conflict in some way, and it's not until he's given an ultimatum in the second-to-last book that he finally commits himself fully to the Animorphs.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Sylvester has family members in different two different factions of the nobility. He's already defying the trope by the time his situation is made explicit; one group was consistently making use of Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! while the other was being consistently hard-working and loyal to Sylvester, making choosing a side relatively easy. Or so it first seems. The faction associated with the realtives he turns his back on also contained the most people who supported his rule, and many of those people are starting to like the idea of seeing his older sister in his seat. The faction associated with the relatives Sylvester sided with, meanwhile, is overall reluctant to support him until he makes clearer political moves in their favor, and many of those that the faction's members have in mind are some Sylvester has no plans to make.
  • Assassin Fantastic: Drives the plot of "On My Honor": the protagonist is a Double Agent, working as a trusted assassin under a queen while secretly remaining loyal to his homeland. This puts him in a tight spot when the queen sends him to murder the current king of his own country...
  • The Assassins of Tamurin: Lale is torn between loyalty to her Cult mother and her lover after she becomes the mask.
  • The Bhagavad Gita makes this at least Older Than Feudalism. Arjuna's family has usurped his crown with the only hope of getting it back being to fight them for it, and he is stuck between two conflicting dharmas (duties): his duty to his family and his duty as a soldier and a king. Eventually, Krishna sorts him out and tells him that he should suck it up and fight the battle.
  • The Chosen: Danny must choose between his father and friendship with Reuven.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): Morrelia is deeply committed to protecting humanity and other surface races from the monsters of the Dungeon. Having spent several months with the Colony, though, and watched the ants repeatedly protect their surface allies, she no longer really considers the ants to be monsters, but a peaceful people deserving protection. Unfortunately, having joined the Abyssal Legion in order to better fight against the monsters, she's obliged to take up arms when the Legion decides that the Colony is an unacceptable threat, leaving her torn and uncertain about what is the right thing to do. She eventually allows herself to be captured by the Colony and used as a bargaining chip, causing the Legion's assault to fail, and she then pursues a leadership role so that she'll be able to influence future decisions and avoid being caught in the same dilemma.
  • Daisy Miller: Winterbourne must choose between Daisy (Rome's local strange girl who has caught his eye) and the approval of his peers (who scorn her for being a shameless flirt).
  • Discworld: At the climax of Jingo, Vimes is briefly torn between his loyalty to the law and his loyalty to the Patrician. He picks, as the Patrician knew he would, the law. Anything else wouldn't be Sam Vimes.
  • Dragonlance: In Brothers In Arms, one of the commanders mentions that this is why he didn't want to be a knight. He feared the potential for his lord and his god to demand conflicting things of him.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: Rielle is torn between her long held love for Audric and Corien's appeals to her bruised ego. On the hand, she'd love nothing more to stay with Audric and become a revered heroine in the eyes of her countrymen. On the other hand, her power is insatiable and always hungers for more, thus making the restrictions placed on her powers and actions all the more stifling. Corien claims that if she joins him, she'll be given free reign and won't have to answer to anyone. It's this internal conflict that drives her as much as external ones.
  • Sebastian in The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, whose behavior is ambiguous because (a) he comes from the Gardella vampire slayer line, and yet (b) has a relative who is a vampire that he is very close to.
  • In Melisa Michael's Skyrider series, as tensions heat up between the belt and Earth, Skyrider's primary loyalty is to the belt, but she stayed out of the last war because she has close family still living on Earth.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Marietta Edgecombe is torn between her loyalty to Cho and her loyalty to the Ministry. She chooses the ministry, at what would have been the expense of Cho and a lot of other student's careers seeing as they would have all been expelled and unable to complete their NEWT exams, and for many of them their OWL exams as well if not for Dumbledore's intervention. It's implied that either she did not take Voldemort's return seriously or she believed the Ministry propaganda about him not being back, since she went willingly on her own to expose the DA to Umbridge. In her defence, Marietta has no actual loyalty to the Ministry herself- it's her mother who is employed there and she's presumably concerned about the possible effect on her career if her daughter was caught working against it.
  • In the Honor Harrington series, many of the Havenite characters experience this between the first and second revolution, when they're forced to deal with the conflict between their duty and honor, the loyalty to their nation, and the demands of serving an increasingly sociopathic dictatorship.
  • Lancelot of Arthurian Legend is torn viciously between his place as Arthur's general and Guinevere's knight, to say the least of the romantic involvement. Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart makes little of this, as Arthur is mostly an inept and impotent king, but from Le Morte D Arthur onwards it tends to be one of the driving forces of the tragedy. Idylls of the King cranks it up to the point where the conflict inside him prematurely ages Lancelot, and the longest book of The Once And The Future King is dedicated to Lancelot's story, at which this struggle is the focal point.
  • The Lord of Bembibre: Beatriz is torn between loyalty to her father Alonso -who wants her to marry the amoral Count of Lemos- and her lover Álvaro, feeling reluctant to disobey her father but flatly and stubbornly refusing to accept any other man as her husband.
  • Les Misérables: Conflicting Loyalties are build up in a majority of characters (including, but not limited to: Cosette, Jean, Eponine, and Gillenormand). But special notice should be given to Marius and Javert; Marius, because it's his position in the novel, and Javert because of the twist. Conflicting Loyalties are a central theme of the novel.
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer: Korede is fiercely protective of Ayoola, her younger sister. She is also worried for Tade, Ayoola's newest boyfriend, as Ayoola has killed her last three suitors. It doesn't help that Korede had unrequited feelings for Tade before he met and became infatuated with Ayoola.
  • Nibelungenlied: Conflicts of loyalty play a huge part. To point out the more important ones: In the matter of the murder of Siegfried, Gunther is torn between his obligation to protect the honour of his wife Brunhilde and those towards his vassal and brother-in-law Siegfried. Later, after the deed is done, Gunther and his brothers are torn between their feudal obligation to protect their vassal Hagen and their fraternal loyalty towards their sister Kriemhild; they opt for Hagen. Rüdiger of Bechlarn is visibly torn between the oaths he swore to his queen Kriemhild and to the Burgundians, one of whom is betrothed to Rüdiger's daughter. Kriemhild has to choose between her sisterly affections to her brothers (especially Giselher, the youngest) and to her loyalty to her dead husband Siegfried. She eventually opts for the latter, allowing Gernot and Giselher to die in battle and ordering Gunther to be executed. This is an interesting switch from earlier versions of the story (preserved e. g. in the Icelandic Atli-saga), she killed her second husband Atli (Etzel) in order to avenge her dead brothers.
  • Nightfall (Series): Myra is loyal to the Resistance. Still, she won't let them kill Vladimir and helps him escape from the cave.
  • In the third book of The Queen's Thief series, Costis finds his loyalty torn between his queen and king. He wonders what he would do if they should ever go against each other.
  • In the Rachel Peng Novels, set in the A Girl and Her Fed universe, Rachel repeatedly has to choose between protecting OACET and obeying the law—and while she tries very hard to make everyone think the law comes first, more often than not OACET wins out.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Defender of the Crown forces Isengrim to choose between his friendship with Reynard (who is rapidly approaching the Moral Event Horizon) and his own notions of right and wrong.
  • This is a common theme in A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Throughout the story, Ned always chooses Honor Before Reason, every time, no matter how much the other choice would help him. But at the end of the first book, he must choose between his honor and his family, the one thing that matters to him more. He finally decides against honor. It doesn't help.
    • In order to gain the political support of the Freys, Robb vows to marry a daughter from the Frey family. However, when he sleeps with a girl while he is pledged to the Frey daughter, he must choose to either keep his vow to marry the Frey daughter or protect the honor of the girl. He chooses to protect the girl's honor and breaks his oath to the Freys — resulting in far-reaching consequences.
    • Jaime Lannister is known across Westeros as the Kingslayer for killing the king he swore to protect. He provides the page quote when he points out that the oaths about honoring your family and honoring your King are forced to be helplessly contradictory sooner or later. But once the readers get to know him, they learn that Jaime can actually be very loyal, if his loyalty is earned (or if you sleep with him enough). When he killed the king, he chose between his duty to his king and to his father and family. Also, the fact that choosing his family meant saving thousands of innocent lives is what tipped the balance for him. He also debates with a fellow Kingsguard whether their vow to protect the royal family extends to protecting the Queen from the King.
    • Brienne's level of Honor Before Reason would confound even the Starks. She takes quite a number of vows, and it's always for a good cause. Protect Renly. Protect Lady Catelyn. Protect Jaime. Bring Sansa home. Later, she is implied to take another vow: to kill Jaime. Not surprisingly, a few of her vows start to conflict after a while.
    • Jon Snow gets this a few times. At first, it's always between the Watch and something else: his family he loves, the girl he loves, his home, his friends. In the first book, he has a conversation with Maester Aemon about this conflict, who once faced the very same situation Jon does. Later, once he becomes Lord Commander, it's between his commitment not to interfere in the affairs of the realm and his desire to protect innocents and right wrongs.
    • Theon gets trapped between his adopted brother and his birth family.
    • Stannis notes this early, describing the difficulty in choosing to side with his brother in the rebellion against the rightful king.
  • Star Wars: The new canonic version of Grand Admiral Thrawn is shown to have divided loyalties between the Galactic Empire and the Chiss Ascendancy. He does his best to maneuver in such a way as to keep him loyal to both, but both the Emperor and Vader ask him several times point-blank about his true loyalties in Thrawn and Thrawn: Alliances. While Vader is initially fearful that Thawn is Palpatine's new favorite, he realizes that Thrawn will never give up his loyalty to the Chiss and would thus never fully commit to the Empire, thus his own position is safe. In fact, in Alliances, Thrawn actually makes a call that is more beneficial to the Empire than to the Ascendancy by sending the Grysks a warning to stay away from the Empire, while also giving his full name, which identifies him as a Chiss (knowing full well the Grysk propensity to attack the nearest target).
  • Mickey from Survivor Dogs is considered this because he still cares for his old owners despite being a stray now. He's supposed to stay loyal to his pack and only care for other dogs, not humans, but Mickey is too attached to humans after having grown up a pet. He especially misses "his boy".
  • A major theme of Tales of the Branion Realm novel The Stone Prince, in which a great deal of bloodshed is caused by characters torn between love and duty.
  • Temeraire: At the end of Empire of Ivory, the British government has sent a dragon infected with a highly contagious disease to France, where it will infect Napoleon's dragons — and from where the disease will likely spread and kill off most of the dragons in the world. Laurence and Temeraire bring Napoleon the cure, an act of treason against Great Britain. Then Laurence goes back to England, fully intending to let them hang him for it.
  • Treegates Raiders: At the Battle of Cowpens , upon seeing some highlanders advance one of the title character's men shouts, "Go to the other end of the line, there are Frasers here", thus showing a conflict on both sides between military duty and tribal ties.
  • Waltharius: Hagen's old friendship to Walther conflicts with his duty as a retainer of his king Gunther, who wants Walther to surrender his gold and his fiancé Hiltgunt to him, and, when Walther predictably refuses these conditions, orders his champions to engage Walther in life-and-death combat. Hagen first tries to talk Gunther out of his plan and advises him to accept a compromise; when Gunther in turn accuses him of cowardice, Hagen refuses all orders and stands by as his companions fight with Walther. Only after Walther has killed eleven Frankish champions including Hagen's own nephew Patavrid, Gunther apologizes and implores Hagen that the Franks will never recover from the shame if they let Walther get away unpunished. With the new state of affairs, Hagen is concerned that his own honor as a warrior could be compromised if he continues to do nothing, and finally agrees to fight Walther.
  • In War of the Spider Queen, half-demon Blood Knight isn't partial about who is giving him orders as long as he can brutally tear someone to shreds. He is ordered by his mother, the high priestess of Menzoberanzan, to accompany his aunt Quenthel on her quest and follow her orders without question. However, when Quenthel starts to eat herself up with doubt and loses her faith in the Spider Goddess, he is conflicted between his loyalty and his belief that Asskicking Leads to Leadership, which is the foundation for their race's entire society. Danifae however, who as a slave is nominally the groups lowest ranking member, proves herself to be a Manipulative Bitch who plays the game of lying, betraying, and instilling fear like no-one else. When Jegrred finally switches his loyalty, Quenthel helplessly resigns and doesn't try to stop them, but when she gets all her powers back, she sacrifices him for punishment.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
  • In Warrior Cats, the Warrior Code is very strict about inter-Clan relationships to prevent this kind of situation. It is broken many times, though, and results in cats having to choose between loyalty to Clan, family or love.
  • Kaladin ends up facing this in Words of Radiance, when his vow to the king he has sworn to protect conflicts with the vows he has made to his men, which include a man who hates the king. The conflict places him in a situation where he can't act honorably no matter what he does, which kills his honorspren (And with it his Windrunner powers) until he finds a way out of it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Robert Kardashian is close friends with O.J., Simpson and even became one of his "Dream Team" lawyers, but over the series, Kardashian began to have increasing doubts about defending his friend, especially after DNA evidence was introduced, which shows that O.J. could be the killer. At the end of the series, Kardashian ends his friendship with O.J. after O.J. announced his intention to search for the real killers. According to the epilogue, they didn't speak to each other again after Kardashian died in 2003.
  • Angel:
    • Gunn, between his old vamp hunting team and Angel's group, in "That Old Gang of Mine".
    • Wesley had this big time in Season 3, during the baby Connor storyline. He was struggling over whether to stay loyal to the team and Angel or help the baby even if made the team hate him - which is ultimately what happened. Foreshadowed in "That Old Gang of Mine". Wes was addressing his speech to Gunn, but it's really easy to tell it was being pointed at Wes himself as well.
  • Cinderella and the Four Knights: Yoon-sung is eventually caught between his loyalty to his admirable boss, Chairman Kang, and Hwa-ja, his mother and Kang's wife who is planning to oust him. He sides with the former.
  • CSI: Flack has a few instances of feeling torn between the lab and the precinct he is technically part of. The big one is when he struggles with Mac bringing to Justice a Dirty Cop whose conviction overturns many prior cases. Flack never really is able to rectify which side he's closer to.
  • Dark Matter (2015): Crewmember Six is hit with this bigtime in the last few episodes of Season 1. Aside from Five, the Mysterious Waif, the Raza crew are all criminal mercenaries with extensive rapsheets including everything from piracy to mass murder, but a mindwipe at the start of the series while they were in stasis for a long journey to their next target caused them all to lose their memories. Hence adopting numbers as names and rejecting their old ones after learning what kind of people they were. During "Episode 8", Six learns offscreen from a colleague that he actually wasn't a criminal at all, but an undercover cop with a mission to sabotage the Raza and deliver the crew to justice. Which their original selves arguably would have richly deserved. But now, thanks to the mindwipe, he genuinely thinks of them all as friends/Family of Choice, knows they're trying to be better people, and is very reluctant to fulfill his original mission.
    • Finally in "Episode 13", the season finale, Six does incapacitate the rest of the crew and bring them into custody after their heist of what turned out to be a white hole bomb unintendedly led to the destruction of an inhabited planet a few episodes ago, deciding that they're too dangerous to go free. In the Season 2 premiere "Welcome to Your New Home", he begins to have doubts after learning the Galactic Authority had known in advance about the bombing of a space station by terrorists in one of his previous undercover missions but had wanted it to happen for propaganda purposes, and in the next episode "Kill Them All", he finally helps the crew escape prison after learning that One has been whacked and the rest of them are surely next.
  • The Devil Judge:
    • Ga-on is forced to choose many times between his virtuous Best Friend Soo-hyun and the merciless Vigilante Man Yo-han and his questionable methods of punishing evil. His choice differs depending on the situation but he mostly takes (the morally unambiguous) Soo-hyun's side.
      Yo-han: If you want to save the world, cut Yoon Soo-hyun out of your life.
      Ga-on: (Removes Yo-han's hand from his shoulder) Soo-hyun is my world.
    • He was made to pick between Yo-han and Professor Min once, and he eventually chose Yo-han.
  • Foundation (2021): Demerzel is utterly loyal to the Empire due to her programming, and is also a devout follower of Luminism. When the religion starts leaning towards radical beliefs that put it in opposition to the Empire's ruling genetic dynasty, she finds herself torn.
  • ER: At one point Dr. Neela Rasgotra suggests that Dr. Luka Kovač not treat a female patient who may be pregnant because she thinks he may put his Catholicism ahead of the patient's welfare. Dr. Kovač does not take kindly to that suggestion and empathicatly states the welfare of his patients always comes first.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • A recurring theme for Jaime Lannister all through the series:
      • The HBO adaptation changes the page quote slightly, making the focus on Jaime's conflicting loyalties even sharper. If you've sworn to defend both the king and the innocent, what do you do when said king kills innocent people?
        Catelyn: You have forsaken every vow you ever took!
        Jaime: So many vows. They make you swear and swear. Defend the King. Obey the King. Obey your father. Defend the innocent. Protect the weak. But what if your father despises the King? What if the King massacres the innocent? It's too much. No matter what, you're forsaking one vow or the other.
      • As he revealed to Brienne, Jaime broke his oath and killed the Mad King when he decided to explode huge quantities of wildfire hidden beneath King's Landing. This action saved 500,000 lives but came at the price of his honor and universal contempt for soiling his office.
      • He faces this dilemma again in Season 4 on his return to King's Landing when he must choose between his brother and the rest of his family when Joffrey dies and Tyrion is arrested and Sansa is suspected and also between protecting Sansa - an oath he swore to Catelyn Stark, which is complicated by her death and a changed political landscape - and pleasing Cersei. Jaime had also made the decision to honour his Kingsguard vows as best as possible, but this is no easy task. He eventually decides to go against his family in secret, giving Brienne help to rescue Sansa, and working with Varys to rescue Tyrion.
    • Ned Stark consistently chooses Honor Before Reason no matter the cost until he must choose between his honour and his other core value: his family.
    • Jon Snow is constantly caught between his duty to Night's Watch and family, justice, and love. First, he wants to go to war beside his family, but he doesn't want to leave the Watch after swearing to serve, then the needs of the Watch require he overlook the crimes of Craster, then he falls in love with a Wildling. He is also conflicted between the Watch's purpose and protecting the soft and unreliable Sam. Jon's very conflicted.
    • Theon Greyjoy gets caught between the Starks who held him hostage but treat him somewhat kindly and the Greyjoys who despise him as a symbol of weakness and failure. Since he finds he cannot fully be a Stark, he tries to be a Greyjoy, only to realize too late that he chose wrong.
    • In one of the Histories and Lore segments, Stannis describes the choice between his lawful king and his elder brother as the hardest choice he ever made. Since he is both of these to Renly, he views Renly's refusal to support him as doubly treacherous.
    • Walder Frey parleys the question of loyalty to the king vs. loyalty to his lord into an advantageous deal with Robb Stark in "Baelor".
    • After the invasion of Westeros doesn't go quite as planned, Daenerys accuses Tyrion of deliberately pulling his punches because he doesn't want to kill his family. The truth is more complicated. Tyrion wants Jaime to live (being the only Lannister left who ever actually loved Tyrion), but he doesn't give a damn about Cersei, who would kill him on the spot. However, in the Season 7 finale Cersei doesn't have him killed, and he instinctively gives her a goblet of wine to share.
  • Firefly:
    • Simon chooses to rescue his sister, not only against the wishes of The Government but against those of his parents. He also chose her over a calling he loved which may have been even harder.
    • Also, in "War Stories", Mal admits that he was initially against Zoe's marriage to Wash, concerned that it would split loyalties amongst the crew.
    • Strongly averted by Zoe in the same episode when given a choice between saving Mal or Wash from torture. She picks Wash because Mal can take the torture and Wash can't, while Wash's piloting skills will be needed for the team's Big Damn Heroes moment to rescue Mal.
  • Kings episode "Insurrection". David is sent to his hometown by King Silas to convince the locals to accept the decision to give their land away in a peace deal. His family turn out to be the leaders of the protesters.
  • Merlin is often conflicted at this. Should he protect Arthur or reveal himself as a wizard, where he would be executed?
  • Murder Rooms: During a particularly difficult investigation in "The White Knight Stratagem", Conan Doyle, who serves as a mediator between his friend and mentor Joseph Bell and Bell's old enemy Lieutenant Blaney, grows to sympathize with the latter. Which doesn't make Bell happy, especially considering the fact that Doyle refuses to support his theory on the case and instead, apparently, supports Blaney's. Doyle feels uncomfortable. In the end it is revealed that Doyle joined forces with the lieutenant only because he suspected that Blaney had something to do with the crime. However, it is likely that Doyle still felt sorry for him.
  • NCIS: Ziva is torn between her father and Gibbs in the last few episodes of season six. She chooses her father, after Tony kills Michael and she believes Gibbs no longer trusts her. When her father promptly throws her under a bus when a mission goes south, it's Gibbs and his team who save her, prompting her to revise her earlier decision.
  • Necessary Roughness:
    • Danni works as a therapist for the New York Hawks, a football team. As a psychiatrist her primary responsibility is to her patients, the players. However, this can conflict with the wishes of the team's management who want the problem fixed immediately and the players back on the field. When the new manager suggests that Danni break patient confidentiality, she tell him off and is fired.
    • Nico has to judge multiple instances of this. His loyalty to Danni can conflict with his loyalty to the team. His loyalty to the team can conflict with his loyalty to the team's owner Marshall Pittman. His loyalty to Marshall often conflicts with his loyalty to Marshall's wife and daughter. In season three he gets a whole new set of conflicting loyalties as he has to juggle his loyalty to Danni with his loyalties to his new bosses in V3 and his loyalty to whoever has him acting as a mole in V3.
  • The whole concept of The Other Kingdom is how Astral's emotionally torn apart over whether she should stay in her magical kingdom of Athenia to be their newest queen, or stay in the human world to live as an "other" forever. Part of the show's central conflict is how she'd have to make a choice after 90 days.
  • Our Miss Brooks:
  • Smallville:
    • This happens to Chloe a lot. During most of the middle seasons she is seriously torn between Lana and Clark, and later between Oliver and Clark's colliding ideals.
    • Also between Davis and Clark, especially when Davis asks her to kill him and Clark asks her not to. Also when she runs away with a resurrected Davis in an effort to stop them from killing each other. There is nothing that could Break the Cutie as brutally as being caught between Superman and Doomsday.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode Death Knell, Delek accuses Jacob/Selmak of being torn between his loyalties to the Tok'ra and his ties to Earth, stating that he's fallen out of favor with much of the Council as a result.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Several times, Kirk has to decide whether to violate the Prime Directive in order to save the Enterprise. Each time he goes ahead and breaks it, always coming up with a plausible rationale for doing so. The only time he ever enforces it is when another starship captain violates it.
    • In "The Menagerie", Spock shows his loyalty to his former captain Christopher Pike by risking the Starfleet death penalty for taking him to Talos IV. He spends the two-parter torn between his loyalty to Kirk and his loyalty to Pike — committing mutiny against the former to help the latter.
    • In "Amok Time", Captain Kirk must choose between obeying Starfleet orders and going to Altair VI or taking Spock to Vulcan to save his life, which could result in Kirk being court-martialed.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "A Matter of Honor", Commander Riker serves briefly on a Klingon ship as part of an officer exchange program. When the captain of the Klingon vessel, Kargan, suspects the Enterprise to have sabotaged his ship, he demands Riker tell him how best to attack the Enterprise. When Riker refuses, Kargan accuses him of being negligent in the oath of loyalty he took when joining his crew. Riker states emphatically that he will not break any oath he had taken, neither to Kargan nor to Starfleet: if so ordered, he would join Kargan in battle and go down swinging fighting the Enterprise, but he would not reveal any secrets that would endanger the Enterprise.
    • Admiral Norah Satie and her aide Sabin Genestra accuse both crewman Simon Tarses and Lieutenant Worf of conflicting loyalties in "The Drumhead" as Tarses had a Romulan grandfather and Worf's father was (wrongly) accused by the Empire of betraying the Khitomer outpost to the Romulans.
    • In "Redemption" Worf has to decide whether his duty as a Starfleet officer or his duties as a member of the House of Mogh take precedence. Feeling he owes a debt to Gowron for restoring his honor, Worf resigns his commission as a Starfleet officer in order to fight in the Klingon Civil War.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • At one point, Odo must choose between his loyalty to Starfleet and his feelings towards his race. He finds it quite easy to chose once he learns what his people are doing. He doesn't hate them or wishes them any harm, but that doesn't mean he is going to let them get away with their blatant disregard for Justice.
    • Worf also has to choose between his loyalty to Starfleet or his loyalty to his people in "The Way of the Warrior." Unlike the previous time where he chose the Empire over the Federation, this time he remains loyal to the Federation on the grounds that if he joined Gowron in the invasion of Cardassia he would be going back on his word to the Federation.
    • Later Garak and Damar are faced with similar choices.
    • Very early in the series, after the episode opens with Bashir and Garak discussing literature and Garak stating he would choose loyalty to the state every time over his personal feelings, later in the same episode he does actually face that choice (he's ordered to kill some dissidents who are under orders of execution by the Cardassian government, but which he personally feels is the wrong decision for the government to have made). Eventually, he chooses his feelings over the state. His decision is helped by the Gul who is representing the government making the Too Dumb to Live decision to try Bullying a Dragon; Garak implies afterward that this convinced him these dissidents were actually the better choice for Cardassia in the long run.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In the early seasons B'Elanna Torres and other members of the Maquis freedom fighters have loyalties that conflict with that of Captain Janeway and the Federation. In particular, the Maquis members on the Voyager want to do whatever it takes to get back to the Alpha Quadrant, but are expected to act in accordance with Federation regulations. The conflicting loyalties angle is largely downplayed in later seasons as the two crews become a cohesive single crew.
  • Supernatural: Castiel deals with this during season four. All of his existence, he has been loyal to the orders sent by God through the higher ranks of the angels down to him. However, of late the orders have been increasingly strange and apparently contrary to God's wishes, and he finds himself slowly persuaded by Dean's insistence in the need to protect human life. Should he obey the higher angels, or listen to Dean and do what he was always taught God wanted? Near the end, he tries to discuss something with the angels, and is punished so badly he becomes totally loyal to them again. Until the finale, at least, when Dean finally gives him the impetus to Fall for good.
  • Teen Wolf: Allison spent most of season two being torn between her family and Scott. It came to a head when she told them about Jackson being the kanima and then her mom almost killed Scott, only to be bitten by Derek. After that, she, under the influence of Gerard, went fully against the wolves until she learned how truly evil her grandfather was.
  • The White Princess: The central conceit: heroine Elizabeth of York is torn between the marriage and family she is building with Henry Tudor and her scheming mother and the rest of the Yorkist faction, who would gladly see Henry deposed. She aligns herself fully with the House of Tudor in the end when she condemns her brother and cousin to execution to secure her children's future.

  • The Bible: The Israelite Prince Jonathan was caught by his insane father's paranoia of Jonathan's comrade David. He chose David.
    • Also from the Bible: In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus says "nobody can serve two masters, for you will either love the one and hate the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other." He also goes on to say that "you cannot serve both God and mammon [or money]".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: Due to the Geas system, Lilim tend to face this on a routine basis, with favors called in that require them to betray existing loyalties. Their sisters understand that this happens, their other employers are far less understanding. With that said, deliberately setting a Lilim up so that she'll suffer dissonance from rival Geasa pulling her both ways is considered abuse, and Lilith won't be happy with the one involved.

  • The ancient play Antigone is about a woman choosing between law and loyalty to her brother. She chooses burying her brother though it is against the law, forcing her uncle to choose between her and the law. He chooses the law.
    • The laws of the gods insisted Polynices be buried; King Creon decreed that he must not be buried because he attacked the city. Antigone chose the gods' law rather than the king's law. A priest even calls Creon out on his treatment of Antigone.
  • Antony and Cleopatra: A major part of Antony's character. He's stuck between his love for Cleopatra and his duty to serve Rome.
    • Enobarbus is also conflicted between his love for Antony and his duty to Rome.
  • Billy Elliot: The Musical: When Billy's dad (who has been on strike for almost a year) becomes desperate to afford Billy a future, he must choose between breaking strike and betraying the community and his son Tony, or staying on strike and betraying Billy.
  • Pierre Corneille's plays are full of this. In Horace, Camille has to choose between her Roman brother and her lover, who is fighting against Rome. In Polyeucte, Polyeucte chooses his (banned and persecuted) Christian faith over his wife and country.
    • What about Becket? His loyalty is most definitely torn between king and church.
  • In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the eponymous lovers are each torn between their families' warring factions and their intense devotion to each other, especially as the fighting escalates. On a less grandiose level, Juliet's Nurse is torn between wanting Juliet to be happy with Romeo, and wanting her to be happy at all. In the end, she advises Juliet to give up on Romeo and marry Paris, saying that would be the practical option.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: In "Robb Stark", Theon ends up needing to choose between his loyalty to his birth family and his loyalty to his best friend, who is part of a rival family who practically raised him while holding him hostage.
  • Which Witch The Musical: Bishop Daniel is torn between his love for Maria and the vow of celibacy he took when he became a bishop.

    Video Games 
  • In Asura's Wrath, Yasha had to choose between his family and his duty to protect humanity from the Gohma, since Deus' plan required Asura (Yasha's brother-in-law) being scapegoated as a traitor and Mithra (his niece) enslaved as the Brahmastra's Mantra-channeler. After witnessing many people suffering after the Gohma's recent attack, Yasha sided with Deus. It got worse for Yasha since his sister Durga (Asura's wife and Mithra's mother) was also killed though it's unclear whether Deus ordered it or Sergei did it on his own just to anger Asura. 12,000 years later, Yasha has to make the choice again when Asura returns, hell-bent on saving Mithra. He initially remains loyal to Deus since he still believes stopping the Gohma is more important than anything. Ultimately, Yasha turns against Deus after battling Wrath Asura helps Yasha realize that if there's even the slightest chance to stop the Gohma without resorting to Deus' horrific plan, then he has to take it.
  • Etna from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness has great loyalty to King Krichevskoy, so great in fact that it remained with her even when she lost her memory. But she also made a promise to him; to protect Laharl and make sure he become a great Overlord, which may or may not be more then Etna can stand.
  • The entire world of Dragon Age is designed to create lots of conflicts of interest, which are the main reason for many of the plotlines.
    • In Dragon Age II, this trope seems to be the primary theme of the whole story.
      • Ser Thrask is a Templar, whose job it is to monitor mages and prevent them from falling to demons. But he also hates the inhumane treatment many mages see from other Templars.
      • Depending on the player's choices, Aveline's duties as member of the city guard are sometimes at odds with Hawke's activities. Hawke can be a good friend to whom Aveline owes her life, but they can also be just a few degrees shy of a full-fledged criminal.
      • Isabela asks Hawke to help her find an "artifact" that she was supposed to transport to a crime boss so he calls off the assassins waiting for her in her homeland, while at the same time Hawke is trying to negotiate with the Qunari army to leave the city without causing trouble before rioters start a fight with them. What Isabela neglects to tell Hawke is the artifact is a holy relic she stole from the Qunari and the army has been in the city causing problems for four years, because they are looking for her and the relic. This soon leads to a massive battle that destroys half the city.
      • Anders had always had problems with his loyalties, but at the end of the game, his conviction that the mages can only be safe if the Templar order is destroyed leads him to ignore Hawke's attempts to find a diplomatic solution by killing the Grand Cleric, who had always been the only person who could stop both sides from attacking each other. He achieves this by blowing up the entire temple with a magic bomb.
      • As a Keeper, Merrill regards it as her duty to restore ancient elven magic, even if the rest of her clan thinks it is madness to get help from demons to repair a cursed magic artifact.
      • As tensions between the mages and Templars mount, Varric is fully aware that he will have problems with this, though in his case his loyalty is to individual people rather than overarching principles. Summed up perfectly in the following conversation:
      Merrill: How do you do it, living in the city without picking a side? Doesn't it matter to you?
      Varric: Of course it does. That's why I don't take sides.
      Merrill: That doesn't make any sense.
      Varric: I've got you and Aveline, Fenris and Anders. Hawke. Isabela. I've got friends in the Circle and drinking buddies in the Templars. All of them matter.
      Merrill: But you're going to fight. If it comes to that, I mean.
      Varric: I fought my own brother, Daisy. Nobody said this was going to be a happy story.
      • Cullen, as second-in-command to the increasingly paranoid Knight-Commander Meredith, ultimately has to choose To Be Lawful or Good. Despite making what he knows is the right choice, it continues to have psychological problems for him in the next game.
    • The Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC Jaws of Hakkon poses this problem for Thane Sun-Hair of Stone-Bear Hold. She very much wants to assist the Inquisition in stopping the eponymous Jaws of Hakkon, which is another Avvar hold whose members keep attacking the Inquisition soldiers (and who are clearly up to something big and problematic). However, her hold has a peace agreement with the Hakkonites, and if she went back on that, other holds would see hers as being filled with oathbreakers. She therefore tasks the Inquisitor with finding her a really good reason for her to break the peace agreement without damaging her hold's reputation. They do, when it's revealed that the Hakkonites kidnapped Stone-Bear Hold's sacred animal.
  • This is ultimately Giygas's undoing in EarthBound Beginnings. He's sort of a subverted Superman, sent to our world as an infant in the hopes that he would grow to conquer it, but he still feels love for the human couple who raised him. Playing a music box tune that was his childhood lullaby is enough to get him to back down.
  • This trope is the basis for both Beatrix and Steiner's character development in Final Fantasy IX, where they stand torn between their sworn duty to protect Princess Garnet, and their loyalty to Queen Brahne who means to kill the girl. It's only when they find the queen trying to kill the princess outright that they finally come their senses and rebel.
  • Raubahn in Final Fantasy XIV is the leader of Ul'dah, but is a native to Ala Mhigo, a city state that was taken over by The Empire. In Stormblood, Ala Mhigo is freed, which makes Raubahn happy since his homeland can now start anew. As much as he wants to return to his homeland, he feels that he has to stay behind in Ul'dah to serve and protect Nanamo like he had sworn to do. Nanamo can sense Raubahn's inner turmoil and she makes the decision for him by effectively firing him from his role, which would allow him to stay in Ala Mhigo.
    • Vtra in the Endwalker story wants to find his sister who had sealed a void gate behind her so that the voidsent couldn't invade, but he refuses to do so because he feels his duty as ruler of Radz-at-Han is more important and he can't leave his people behind. The citizens learn of this and encourage Vtra to go find his sister and that they can take care of themselves.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • This is often a recurring theme in the series; usually it's an enemy general struggling between his conscience and their loyalty to the nation they serve. Characters who choose their nation are called Camus archetypes by the fans, while characters who choose their conscience are called Lorenz archetypes.
    • Ishtar in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War is torn between her love for her family and the big bad, the reincarnation of the evil god, and what's right. She chooses to basically suicide on your army.
    • You also get to experience this decision for yourself in Fire Emblem Fates, where you must choose whether to side with the homeland you were born in or the country that raised you. You may also Take a Third Option.
    • You get hit with this in Fire Emblem: Three Houses if you're a Black Eagle. Chapter 11 reveals Edelgard is the Flame Emperor who has been orchestrating attacks on the Church throughout Part 1; if you accompanied her to her coronation in Enbarr, you must choose whether to side with the student you've been teaching for the better part of a year or the Church who has been signing your paychecks for the same amount of time. If you didn't accompany her for whatever reason, you are automatically forced to side with the Church.
  • Guenevere:
    • Lancelot is torn between his loyalty to King Arthur and his love for Arthur's wife.
    • Guen herself can be played as dutiful and dedicated to being a good wife and queen, but still in love with Lance or Arthur's sister Morgana.
  • The Heroes of Might and Magic II expansion The Price of Loyalty had this in one of its campaigns. Interestingly it isn't the eponymous campaign, but in "Voyage Home", where the final scenario is a war between the protagonist's sister (whom he is close to) and his king (who has treated the protagonist honorably during his years of service, giving him no reason to rebel), with the protagonist forced to choose which side to fight on.
  • In Infernal, Lt. Barbara Mitchell, an EtherLight member and a friend of Lennox, is with Lennox at a bar when the EtherLight ambush occurs. She seems to have been ordered to kill Lennox as part of it, but after briefly pointing a gun at him, tells him to run. This conflicting loyalty lingers - she doesn't like what EtherLight is up to, but isn't keen on Lennox's association with the Abyss, either, wondering if she can still trust him now that he's all demon-y. In the end, she sides with Lennox, although there's a bit of Double Agent confusion before that's clear.
  • Kingdom Hearts has Axel. Although he apparently suffers from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and has no issues with being a Double Reverse Quadruple Agent when necessary, he's shown some capacity to be conflicted in which side to stick with:
    • In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, Axel's friendship with Roxas and Xion conflicts with his orders by the Organization to "let things run their natural course". Even his friendship with the pair suffers from this trope, as he comes to realize that only one of them can survive, and one of them has to perish to ensure the survival of the other.
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, his friendship with Roxas is again the driving factor of his Conflicting Loyalty. While he has no qualms with his orders to bring Roxas back, he starts to grow disgruntled with his superiors when he is tasked to eliminate Roxas. He eventually screws over the Organization, and starts working independently, leading to a Tear Jerker when he dies at Sora's side, lamenting the fact that he never got to revive Roxas. Fortunately, by the events of Kingdom Hearts III, Roxas is revived by Sora and Vexen, and reunites with Axel.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, Shepard is a Commander in the Systems Alliance Navy (Earth's Space Navy) who gets invited to become a Spectre, a special operative serving the will of the Citadel Council (a multi-species governing body for The Federation, which doesn't yet include Earth). It's ultimately up to the player which organization Shepard is more loyal to. Renegade!Shepard is loyal to humanity alone, and sees the Citadel Council and their resources as a means to an end; Paragon!Shepard wants humanity to join the Citadel Council, and believes in cooperation between all species. This is highlighted when Shepard must seek the help of several non-human allies—the krogan Urdnot Wrex, the turian Garrus Vakarian, the quarian Tali'zorah nar Rayya, and the asari Liara T'Soni—to stop the Big Bad; some of the Normandy's crew are uneasy with the new arrivals, wondering whether their Commander is still loyal to them.
    • In the first game, Garrus has trouble reconciling his decision to go rogue and fight alongside Shepard with the typical Turian ideology. He ultimately accepts the fact that he's "not a very good Turian" and settles for being an extremely good lancer to the galaxy's best chance of avoiding extinction.
  • Mass Effect 2 - Miranda is loyal to the end for Cerberus, having given up everything so they could protect her from her father. Then Shepard comes along and wins her loyalty by treating her as her own person and helping her out with a personal issue without expecting anything in return. In the endgame, if she goes with Shepard into the Final Boss area, when forced to choose between Shepard and Cerberus, she chooses Shepard. Without hesitation.
  • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Saturn realizes in the post-game that what he'd been working for was truly terrifying (he tries to tell you that he didn't know what his previous leader, Cyrus, was really after, but he was the first character to tell you the extent of the plan, so either he's lying or he's trying to convince himself that he didn't know). But he still believes in the ultimate ideal, which is a peaceful world. Having been left in charge of Team Galactic by default, he says he's going to try to work for basically what he's always worked for, having realized that "extremism is never the answer".
  • In Red Dead Redemption II:
    • Javier Escuella has this. While still blindly obedient to Dutch van der Linde, he's noticeably hesitant in drawing his gun on Arthur Morgan and John Marston, whereas the rest of Dutch's loyalists aimed at them without question.
    • Dutch thinks this is happening to John. He is noticeably bitter and hostile to John Chapter 4 and onward when John is taking his role as a father and husband more seriously even though John continues to remain loyal to the gang. While others like Arthur and Hosea don't share these concerns, it's possible that Dutch sees John embracing his role as a family man as a threat to Dutch's power over John. It's worth noting that Dutch and John's relationship deteriorates the more John becomes a better husband and father.
  • In Sands of Destruction, Kyrie promises Morte that he'll help her end the world if that's what she wants, but after Elephas Rex points out that he can't be with her if the world is destroyed, Kyrie begins to feel an internal conflict between his desire to keep his promise and his desire to keep Morte safe. He ultimately chooses to save her - and the world - by asking Naja to kill him so he can't lose control of himself. This causes Morte to change her mind and decide that remaking the world is better than outright destroying it, and after finding a way to resurrect him, that's exactly what they set out to do.
  • A driving force in the plot of Sleeping Dogs is how attached undercover agent Wei Shen gets to the Triad gang he's infiltrating, and whether he'll end up defecting or not.
  • In Solatorobo, Elh must choose between her duty to seal Lares (which requires the sacrifice of Red) and her loyalty to her friend. She ultimately can't do it and stops the Rite mid-way, unable to bring herself to finish.
  • In the Sith Warrior's story in Star Wars: The Old Republic, this ends up being the reason that Quinn betrays you. Whether you simply view them as The Mole or as a more nuanced case of conflicting loyalties depends partly on your choices.
  • A relatively minor example happens in World of Warcraft in patch 4.1 Rise of the Zandalari. Following the Cataclysm, the previously player friendly Zandalari trolls have decided that they will rebuild the troll civilization at any costs, to which end they start making alliances with all the various barbaric troll tribes scattered throughout Azeroth, including the Horde aligned Darkspear Trolls, whose leader refuses the offer in a very much awesome manner:
    Zandalari Leader:Vol'jin of the Darkspear. You would turn your back on your own people?
    Vol'jin: Da Horde is my people. If it be war you bring, den i stand against you.
    Zandalari Leader: So be it, Darkspear.
  • In Yggdra Union, Nessiah's first prerogative may be to ensure the safety and growth of the Gran Centurio, but he's also implied to care fairly deeply for the Imperial Army. When forced to choose between protecting the Imperial Army by killing the player's army, thus ensuring that the sword's current wielder will die, or joining up with the player to rescue Yggdra and oversee the Gran Centurio's growth personally, he decides to Take a Third Option and kills himself to let things play out as naturally as possible. (Which isn't as extreme as it sounds, because Nessiah's pretty nonchalant about dying for obvious reasons.) This is probably also done to preserve the balance of the game, but Nessiah having conflicted loyalties is the most reasonable explanation in-plot.

    Visual Novels 
  • Mortelli from Daughter for Dessert is a police officer who is sworn to uphold the law, but also is a friend and regular customer of the protagonist's. He ends up putting his loyalty to his friend first.
  • Fate/stay night: For the third route, there's a choice between killing the innocent Sakura or putting hundreds or thousands of lives at risk. The first is Shirou wanting to save as many lives as possible and the second is based on trying to have there be no sacrifices and everyone be happy instead. The previous routes also involved this conflict, but the third route is where it finally comes to a head. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot have both. He chooses to save Sakura, and even in the best of endings this results in widespread death and destruction. Sakura herself is horrified at the situation she put him in.
    Sakura: I... I broke him.
  • Comes up a few times in Majikoi! Love Me Seriously!: Jun between Touma and his own wishes in the Ryuuzetsuran route; Chris between Yamato and her father in her own route; the entire group between Miyako and Wanko in Miyako's route, so on and so forth.
    • Miyako seems to act like one at times.
  • In Nightshade:
    • Chojiro hesitates to side with Enju, not because he doesn't have feelings for her, but because, if he did, Koga would be destroyed if he did not kill her. Chojiro, having survived the loss of his first village, is terrified of losing his home again.
    • Near the end of his route, Hanzo is torn between his love for Enju or completing his mission. Ieyasu orders him to kill Enju to secure the position of Hideyori's guardian. Ultimately, Hanzo chooses to protect Enju from the rest of his clan. Thankfully, Ieyasu lets him off by only ordering proof of Enju's death (in the form of her bloodied sash), allowing her to live on in secret and spare Hanzo from defying his orders.

    Web Animation 
  • ZigZagged in Lackadaisy when Marigold Gang Consummate Professional Mordecai shows reluctance to join a Car Chase Shootout, his underling Serafine asks directly whether they should "worry about you gettin' sentimental about old times." Mordecai proceeds to acquit himself by Sniping the Cockpit of rival Lackadaisy Gang's fleeing car, subsequently engaging their gunner Freckle in a shootout, each time only defeated by The Leader Rocky's wildly unpredictable intercessions. But when he finally lines up another, better shot at Lackdaisy's rear window and locks eyes with their frightened getaway driver Ivy, he doesn't take the shot, implying his underlings were right, after all. Confusing the matter further, in The Stinger, Mordecai readily recommends to his boss that the Lackadaisy runners now "warrant our attention," which suggests nothing good.

  • Trawn from Electric Wonderland has to hide Magical Girl Aerynn Arlia from the police, so that Aerynn won't get arrested for performing witchcraft. Unfortunately, this requires Trawn to act secretive towards one of her other friends, Action Girl Natasha Wing.
    • Natasha tells Trawn that "hypothetically", if she found Trawn harboring an illegal secret, she'd probably have to throw Trawn in jail, even though she can't stand that thought.
  • Erfworld:
    • Jillian is in love with both Ansom and Wanda, which is rather awkward when the two are on opposite sides of a war.
    • When Wanda begins "decrypting" people (think a creepy form of resurrection) using the divine Arkenpliers, this happens a lot. The decrypted are automatically loyal to her, but retain all their old memories. While they are compelled to serve her above all else, this can cause serious friction with their old Loyalty. Royals especially have trouble, since Wanda is part of a Side that has denied the Divine Right of Kings. Ossomer ends up turning back to his original Side over this.
    • Lilith mentions that many of the decrypted archons still love Charlie, their old boss. Since he used the divine Arkendish to pop them, they were loyal to him in the same way that the decrypted are loyal to Wanda; the archons do serve her above all else, but they spend quite a bit of time whispering about what Charlie would have done differently.
    • Lilith herself is both a subversion and a straight example; she has no Loyalty left for Charlie, which is why she is happy she is the one he managed to capture. Some of her decrypted sisters still loved him and would have begged to be let back into the fold, and he would have dissected them anyway. Later, Wanda does something very stupid by countermanding one of Parson's orders. When Parson asks Lilith what happened, Lilith thinks to herself that sometimes you don't know which way your Loyalty is going to fall until a choice actually appears in front of you. Then she tells Parson the truth, that it was Wanda's fault.
    • Bonnie is another subversion. After she gets decrypted, she really hates her new Side, but not because she misses Charlie specifically. She just misses the organization he was able to bring to his Side. It certainly doesn't help that her new Ruler is an idiot, the entire leadership corp is a mess, and everyone keeps insisting that the most important unit is some low-level warlord who managed to get them into two impossible wars at the same time.
  • Tyler from morphE has been kidnapped and forced into learning magic from a charming sociopath who has murdered three people before his eyes. Of course he wants to side with his fellow captives and escape from this torment, he is always there to help them out with all their fact finding and scheming. And yet he would much rather be learning magic, getting closer to his captor and embracing the abnormal mage world instead of escaping to reality with his peers.
  • In The Order of the Stick Therkla is ordered by her master Kubota to kill Elan, who she is in love with. Elan successfully persuades her to quit even if he won't be her boyfriend, but she still won't betray Kubota. She tries to convince Kubota to step back because Hinjo already knows everything about his plan, but she also tries to convince Elan not to kill Kubota. Finally, she realizes that she can't have it both ways and sides with Elan. It doesn't end well for her, as Kubota immediately hits her with a Poisoned Weapon.

    Web Original 
  • An Echo Chamber episode is based on this trope. Dana tries to produce both Echo Chamber and its rival series [citation needed] at the same time, hoping she won't be forced to choose between the two shows.
  • Phase of the Whateley Universe. Brought up as an heir in the Goodkind family to hate mutants and know they are a threat to everything one should care about. Then Phase manifests as a mutant and ends up at Whateley Academy and in Team Kimba, where he is expected to support mutants and hate the Goodkind family. He's loyal to his family even after what they did to him. He's loyal to his friends and has risked his life for them.
  • For the first eight arcs of Worm, Taylor struggles between doing the right thing and betraying the only real friends she's has in years, a gang of supervillains that she has infiltrated. She picks her friends.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • There's an example of this in the third season. Mai has to choose between her love of Zuko and her fear of Azula in "Boiling Rock," and chooses her love of Zuko. When Azula goes to kill her for this, Ty Lee makes a quick choice between her friendship-based love of Mai and her fear of Azula, and she also chooses the love. Either Azula isn't really that scary (which, let's be honest, isn't completely true), or both of her friends are much more loyal (to other people) than Azula previously thought.
    • Zuko goes through this throughout the entire third season. He's finally got everything he's ever wanted, but he's betrayed the only family who cared for him. Team Avatar, his enemies, care more for him then his father and sister do. And then we find out that his grandfathers are not just Fire Lord Sozin but also Avatar Roku, splitting him even further. He finally chooses Team Avatar and his uncle - a decision which ultimately pays off in spectacular style.
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Ms. Marvel becomes the first superhero to work for two teams: The Avengers and SWORD. This comes to a head when Hawkeye is accused of being a Skrull in disguise, and Ms. Marvel risks harming her relationships with the Avengers if she turns him in.
  • Anything involving the Supertrooper project on Galaxy Rangers will send Shane Gooseman, the team's Lancer, straight to this trope. Goose was the youngest of the Troopers, and the only one who remained loyal to Earth's government after the disaster that ended the project. His loyalty was "rewarded" by BETA forcing him into becoming a Hunter of His Own Kind. It's not so much of an issue with Psycho for Hire Kilbane, but a much bigger problem when it came to Darkstar (who just wanted to be left alone with her boyfriend), and Max Sawyer (who may or may not have been guilty of the crimes he was charged with).
  • This was exploited in Justice League Unlimited by General Eiling, who used Captain Atom's loyalty to the USA to pit him against Superman while Cadmus tortured the Question for information. Captain Atom got a good beating for his trouble, and went back to the League in short order.
  • In Motorcity: While Julie definitely believes in the Burners' cause over that of her Archnemesis Dad Kane's by a long shot, she still wants to believe that her father can be a good person and wants him to be proud of her. That might be why she agrees to succeed him if something should happen to him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • Discord manipulates Rainbow Dash this way by tricking her into thinking she has to make a choice - stay and play the game by the rules or retake her wings and fly off to save her hometown from being destroyed. She picks the latter, and Discord uses this as an excuse to declare the game over because someone cheated. Not that it mattered anyway, as regardless of which choice she made, she'd play into his hand by betraying something she cares about and going against her Element Of Harmony which was Discord's intention.
    • Rainbow Falls has a decidedly less sadistic version where Rainbow Dash is forced to choose between her loyalty to her friends and the Ponyville Team (which, to not mince words, sucks), and her loyalty to the Wonderbolts and their team. This turns out to be her Secret Test of Character which in turn bestows her the Loyalty key to the Tree of Harmony chest.
    • Another one that counts is Sugar Belle in the big finale episode. The pony races fall for Queen Chrysalis spreading rumors and hate and causing the pony races to hole up with their own kind. In Ponyville, we see unicorn Sugar Belle choosing her new husband Big Mac and his family, who are earth ponies, rather than holing up with the rest of the unicorns in Canterlot.
  • Steven Universe: Peridot initially cooperates with the Crystal Gems in an Enemy Mine because she's in just as much danger from a world ending superweapon called the Cluster as they are. In the process, she grows to like both the Earth and the Crystal Gems, but she never loses her loyalty to Homeworld or her leader, Yellow Diamond. This results in Peridot trying to convince Yellow Diamond to terminate the Cluster and spare the Earth without exposing the existence of the Crystal Gems. When Yellow Diamond fails to be swayed by the objective logic Peridot prizes and reveals that no potential benefit outweighs her desire to see Earth gone, Peridot's conflict resolves itself in the form of her calling Yellow Diamond a clod, Peridot's trademark insult.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Karai's loyalty to the Foot and her father will often clash with her loyalty to the turtles, who helped her restore the Foot when she asked for their aid.
  • Kaldur/Aqualad went through this in the Young Justice episode "Downtime", wondering if he should stay on the team or return home to Atlantis where his crush Tula was. This was eventually resolved when he found out Tula was already in a relationship with his best friend Garth and he decided to pull an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and thus return to Young Justice in good terms.

    Real Life 
  • At Noverra in 1499, the King of France was invading Italy and met a local Prince. Both happened to have Swiss mercenaries and it was decided that "kinslaying" wouldn't do, but both had their contracts. The Swiss officers on both sides met secretly. The agreement was that the ones on the Italian side would defer, but that the ones on the French side would spirit the Italian prince away by disguising him as a soldier in a sort of inversion of I Am Spartacus. The French King's general offered gold to whomever would betray the Italian prince, and finally, one did. This man was beheaded by the Swiss government for disgracing Swiss arms. See The Mercenaries by Anthony Mockler.
  • The Thebans at Thermopylae were a curious clash between one interpretation of Patriotic Fervor and another. The Thebans were all exiles, yet stood and fought beside the 300 Spartans. In other words they put the honor of their city ahead of the laws of their city.
  • George Washington in the Whiskey Rebellion. As the hero of the American Revolution, he had a certain sympathy for people revolting against being taxed (particularly as he was himself a rural distiller—albeit one for whom paying the excise was not particularly onerous); as the President of the United States, he had a duty to uphold the Constitution and the laws made under it, including the tax laws. He resolved the conflict by exercising the office of President: as President, he led an army that captured the rebels; as President, he put them on trial for treason; and when they were convicted, as President he pardoned every one of them.
  • In his social history A History of Honor James Bowman suggests that Western Civilization is based on an uneasy tension between Christian values, old fashioned tribal/aristocratic values (and though he doesn't mention it, or not much, Greco-Roman Civic values) that formed something of a yin-yang which was ultimately quite fortunate. In his opinion the "Victorian Gentleman" was an attempt at compromising between these.
  • Many soldiers and sailors fighting for both the Federals and Confederates during The American Civil War.
    • Sam Houston, considered one of the founding fathers of Texas and the 1st and 3rd president of the Republic of Texas (and many other things as well), was forced to resign as governor of Texas when he refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. When the US Army offered him a commission to lead an army and stop the rebellion in Texas, he refused. He was very pro-union, but he could not bring himself to cause misery to the people of Texas.
    • Robert E. Lee loved the United States and loved Virginia. He was even offered the position that eventually became Grant's during the American Civil War, but turned it down because it meant he'd be attacking his fellow Virginians, who ultimately chose to side with the Confederacy.
  • The early days of the Irish War of Independence constituted this for many Irish policemen, who were primary targets of the IRA. As one history book put it, "the Irish policemen needed to decide if their loyalty lay with the British who paid their wages, or their fellow Irishmen who were shooting at them." Even more pronounced in the Irish Civil War (which began less than a year after the end of the War of Independence, and was the culmination of tensions which had been building since that time), which, as a result of the split in the IRA, meant that many men who had been comrades only a short time before were now fighting one another. It has been speculated that part of the reason the anti-government forces got such an early foothold was because Michael Collins was unwilling to use maximum force against people who had recently been his close friends.
  • In medieval times, it was possible for a minor noble to swear fealty to multiple overlords. To simplify matters when this trope came into play, such fealty contracts would often include statements on the order of "If liege A should go to war against liege B, I shall send X men-at-arms to fight for A, and fight with the rest of my troops alongside B".
  • After the Great Reformation, Protestant monarchs were often suspicious of their Catholic subjects because of conflicting loyalties that could arise between obedience to their king or to The Pope.
    • This was a source of prejudice in the United States against Catholic politicians, and still can be. During his 1960 campaign for President, John F. Kennedy made several statements to reassure people that he was not running to be a Catholic President who took all his marching orders from The Pope but a President who was also Catholic, and that neither he nor the Church spoke for one another.
      "I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me."
  • Many codes of professional ethics direct their practitioners to avert this trope. For instance, judges are expected to recuse themselves from cases in which they have some tie to one side of the case that might raise questions about their impartiality.
    • Much of the lawyer code of professional ethics are rules entirely dedicated to what constitutes a conflict of loyalty, how to avoid conflicts of loyalty, and how conflicts of loyalty can be resolved if they arise.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Conflicting Loyalties


Jessie and Dustox

Jessie releases Dustox to go live her mate.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

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Main / ConflictingLoyalty

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