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Emerging from the Shadows

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Thus we beheld the face of Morwyn Nerdbane!

"Sorry, this corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. [beat] I think a bulb is out or something."
Agent Phil Coulson, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Pilot"

Someone's face, or whole body, is kept in shadows until just the right moment to come out and show his/her face to the other characters and/or the audience.

This person might be someone the audience knows, or looks like that person, or it might just be someone we don't know, but it's time to see who this character looks like.

The duration of the shadow hiding can also vary. It could be just a few seconds, to spending several episodes not seeing this person.

And how much shadow there is can also vary. This can range from going into the only source of light in a dark area, to leaving the only shadow in a bright area.

This is especially popular in some High Fantasy (usually involving a shadow in a lighted scene) and Film Noir (usually involving a light in a dark scene). If anyone has dark powers, expect them to use this at least once.

Occasionally comically subverted by having someone cluelessly turn on the lights to reveal the darkness-shrouded figure.

A Sub-Trope of The Reveal, Chiaroscuro, Rule of Drama.

A Sister Trope to Lightning Reveal, The Unmasking.

Compare Face Framed in Shadow, Dramatic Spotlight, Natural Spotlight, Face-Revealing Turn.

Contrast The Unreveal.


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  • Used for a Visual Pun in The Naked Gun-type adds for Red Rock Cider. Leslie Nielsen shouts, "Hey! You, over there, in the shadows!" The man steps forward and reveals himself to be Hank Marvin, guitarist with sixties pop group, the Shadows.

    Anime and Manga 
  • The☆Ultraman has a race of alien slavers called the Baladons, who released various past kaiju of the Ultra Series from their cells, one at a time, to hunt down the humans. Their final and strongest monster, Red King, is revealed in this manner, being obscured by shadows but the iconic Red King screech being faintly audible, before the entire monster makes itself known to audiences.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first two issues of The Batman Adventures, the Penguin and Catwoman receive two-way video screens that put them in contact with a figure hidden in the shadows... until a hapless henchman turns on the lights to reveal the Joker. In both cases, Joker shoots the offending minion and continues the conversation as if nothing had happened.
  • Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra: Matt did this trick at the sensei's dojo, when Elektra was training alone in the night.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Godzilla pulls off such an entrance when he arrives outside Castle Bravo, seeming to just materialize out of the darkness.
  • Adam does this in the epilogue of Chapter 52 of BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant when Cinder asks if he can get the White Fang back in line after Mountain Glenn was thwarted. Terumi even lampshades this, mockingly praising Adam's "performance" as if he was watching a tv show or stage play.
  • Old West: In this Rango fanfiction, Rattlesnake Jake pulls off such an entrance when he slinks out of a dark cave, eyes appearing first.
  • Fate/Long Night: Zouken Matou performs the summoning ritual, but nothing seems to happen. Losing patience, he commands his "Servant" to come out. The Stranger's Champion steps out of the shadows, but shocks him by wearing the form of his lost love Justeaze von Einzbern.
  • In the first part of Hope for the Heartless, Avalina's two first meetings with the Horned King include him concealing himself in shadows for a reason. During their third meeting, he reveals himself fully to her by slowly walking out of the shadows, giving her a major scare at the confirmation to her suspicions about who she's dealing with. While the Horned King's identity is never a secret to the readers, the effect is still strong when the reveal is told from Avalina's POV.

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. Director of the Arkham Asylum Hugo Strange has worked out the identity of Jack the Ripper and asks Bruce Wayne to contact Batman for a meeting (it's implied he knows they're the same man). Shortly before the appointed time, Hugo finds a cloaked man waiting in his dark office and so starts discussing his theory about the killer, only to have an Oh, Crap! when Jack the Ripper steps out of the shadows instead of Batman.
  • When Belle pleads for her father in Beauty and the Beast, she asks Beast to step into the light, and we see his full form for the first time.
  • In Cars, this is how we first meet Lightning McQueen.
  • Coco: Héctor does this in his Frida Kahlo guise when he confronts Miguel and Ernesto and reveals the truth.
  • Esmeralda beckoning Quasimodo to come out of the cathedral at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • Inside Out: Joy is introduced this way during Riley’s birth.
  • Downplayed in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, when the Dazzlings introduce themselves to Sunset Shimmer. Not the first look at them since they're seen already in the prologue, but at least a first look at them with their standard clothes.
  • Rapunzel does this to Flynn in Tangled.
  • The Little Mermaid:
    • This is how Ursula was introduced in her own lair, whilst spying on Ariel and Flounder with her crystal bubble.
    • King Triton does this to Ariel when he discovers her secret grotto.
  • In Quest for Camelot
    • Ruber is first introduced by coming from a dark hallway before secretly following the knights to the round table.
    • This is also how Garrett was introduced after Kayley fell into his net and before he defeats Ruber's ironmen.
  • In Turning Red, this is how the face of Ming's panda form was introduced, moving from the relative darkness of the city in the evening to the brightly lit stadium.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • David Lynch has done this in many of his movies, particularly when revealing a love interest or Femme Fatale.

  • Colonel Kurtz's face in Apocalypse Now is emerging from the shadows only after minutes of talking.
  • In Batman (1989), Jack Napier does this to his old crime boss Carl Grissom, revealing his new form as The Joker, before shooting him.
  • Ben-Hur uses this trope for a big return to his adversary's home place.
  • Blood Diamond. Used for the reveal that the feared warlord Danny Archer is going to meet is actually a Child Soldier.
  • In Dead Again, Roman's face is in the shadows for a couple minutes.
  • In The Fly (1986) remake, during the "Insect Politics" scene, when Veronica tells Brundle, "I don't know what you're trying to say," he finally reveals himself to her, as he steps into the light coming from the skylight.
  • In Friend of the World, this is how Berenger is introduced.
  • The Funhouse Massacre: Manual Dyer is introduced by having him walk out of a shadow in his first scene.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Twice this occurs.
    • When Godzilla is approaching Castle Bravo underwater, it's completely dark outside... then a flare of blue light from Godzilla's spines reveal his silhouette slowly approaching before darkness closes back in. Then the light flashes again, revealing Godzilla getting closer.
    • When Godzilla and Mothra have Ghidorah down, Ghidorah's overhead stormclouds turn red as Rodan's silhouette materializes and he makes his entrance onto the Final Battle with a Dynamic Entry upon Mothra.
  • In Gooby, this is how Gooby introduces himself to Willy’s dad.
  • Done very creepily in Hellboy. The door at the end of a shadowed hallway opens, a security guard shines his flashlight around to make sure no one's lurking there... and as soon as he leaves and the hallway is dark again, out steps Rasputin.
  • The male lead in House of Games enters the story this way.
  • Dr. Claw is sort of revealed this way in Inspector Gadget (1999).
  • Inverted in The Invisible, when Nick's spirit recedes into indistinct shadow when the physical Nick regains consciousness.
  • A variant in Jurassic Park III; a Pteranodon approaches Eric Kirby whilst surrounded by Ominous Fog.
  • There's a scene in Land of the Dead where Zombie Infectee Cholo was heading back to the city, determined to settle things with his Bad Boss Kaufman before dying. When Kaufman is trying to flee the zombie invaded city, we see Cholo take a shot at him while standing in the shadows and miss. Kaufman shoots back, hitting him in the chest, and Cholo falls. Kaufman goes back to packing his bags into the escape car only to hear a noise. Turning, he turns to see Cholo walking towards him. "You're dead!" Kaufman shouts. Cholo then finally comes into the light, revealing that he had turned into a zombie at some point while walking back into the city, and he's now close enough to do a Deadly Lunge at Kaufman. Kaufman reacts by saying "Oh god, you are dead!" in dismay.
  • In the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Lolita, Humbert comes home to find a man waiting inside; he turns on the lights to reveal Claire Quilty (known to the audience but not Humbert) in the guise of the college psychiatrist, Dr. Zempf. "I sat in ze dark to save you ze expense of ze electricity." Given his general behavior, it's likely this is a deliberate attempt to screw with Humbert's head.
  • Inverted with Gandalf's reappearance in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: his face is revealed after a bright flare dies down to background lighting.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: In The Stinger, Nick Fury is at first hidden in the dark when he starts talking to Tony, before stepping into the light for Samuel L. Jackson's first appearance as the character.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, Steve Rogers reveals himself after coming to help Wanda and Vision by walking out of the shadows that had previously been hiding his face.
    • In Thor: Love and Thunder, having his plan been exposed by Jane Foster, Gorr the God Butcher proceeds to reveal his creepy white persona, coming out of the endless, all-encompassing shadows of his tent. It's SUPER effective, given the aesthetic of the Shadow Realm makes this entrance colorless.
  • In The Men Who Stare at Goats, Bill is revealed this way to Lyn and Bob in the goat barn.
  • Blackbeard combines this with Feet-First Introduction and Hitler Cam for his first scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indiana Jones is first seen from the back, chest-height shots, or in shadow. But when he disarms an attempt to kill him, he steps forward and reveals himself to be played by Harrison Ford.
  • In Saw III, Amanda emerges from the shadows to a soon-to-be-killed Allison Kerry.
  • Screamers. Just as he's about to use the escape rocket to get off the planet, Colonel Hendrickson is knocked down and his weapon taken by one of the human Screamers, who then steps out of the dark to reveal he's Hendrickson's Number Two, who should have been killed by the Screamers when they swarmed the Alliance base. Turns out the real Number Two was killed and replaced by the Screamer before the events of the movie even started.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Intrepid Reporter Polly Perkins is waiting for Sky Captain in his darkened office. Rather than stepping from the shadows, her face is revealed when our hero tilts his desk lamp towards her.
  • In The Third Man, Harry Lime is revealed when light from a window shines on him from across the street.

  • In the science fiction series, Alterien, the antagonist, Theseus Spencer reveals himself to be the one behind the string of terrorist attacks executed by brainwashed people. Theseus had actually used his telepathy to program them into doing what he wanted in an elaborate test to see if Oberon was another Alterien.
  • Cradle Series: The Akura family mostly practice Shadow paths, which often involve teleportation and always involve stealth. Therefore, it is quite common for them to pull this trick on a regular basis.
  • Gods and Warriors: When Hylas is in the last book brought to meet the leader of the Akean rebels, the true High Chieftain of Mycenae, the latter is obscured by the darkness of a cave until he steps into the light and reveals himself to be Akastos.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, a revived Gandalf the White keeps his face and new garments hidden until it is time to reveal himself, inadvertently causing much fear and suspicion as the only other old man in white robes the heroes know about is one of the world’s greatest enemies. The films actually invert this, by having him reveal himself as a blinding light fades.
  • In Take a Thief, when the thief Skif, having just been Chosen, is brought to the Collegium, one of the Heralds confronting him is waiting in the shadows. That Herald, Weaponsmaster Alberich, turns out to be a tough guy familiar to Skif.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson reveals he's still alive this way, and immediately lampshades it in true Joss Whedon fashion.
    Agent Coulson: [steps out of shadows dramatically] Welcome to Level Seven. [beat] Sorry, that corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. I think a bulb is out or something.
  • Happens in almost every season of American Horror Story (In season one it's Ben appearing to Larry. In season four, Desiree appears to Dell)
  • In the Angel episode "Parting Gifts", a demon comes to Angel Investigations seeking protection from the Determinator who's been chasing him across several states. Angel is then confronted by a leather-clad man in the shadows holding a crossbow, but is singularly unimpressed when Comedic Hero Wesley steps into the light.
  • Angel himself does this in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Innocence", knocking out the lights, then emerging in Game Face to attack Willow in the Internal Reveal that he's turned evil. Given Angelus' love for mind games, he's obviously doing it deliberately to scare everyone.
  • The final villain in Chuck is revealed this way.
  • Dear White People: In the season 2 finale, this is how the narrator introduces himself to Sam and Lionel, implying that he's actually be a member of the Order of X.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "City of Death", Captain Tancredi's identity is revealed in this way.
  • Game of Thrones: When the Tyrell-Greyjoy fleet is ambushed in the middle of the night, Yara and Theon Greyjoy don't know who their attackers are, until the distinctive black ship of their Evil Uncle emerges from the fog and rams their own.
    • House of the Dragon: The dragon once ridden by King Jaehaerys, Vermithor, lives in a dark cave beneath Dragonstone. Daemon Targaryen goes in that cave singing an old Valyrian song with the intent of taming the beast so he can have a new rider and Weapon of Mass Destruction for the faction of the Blacks, and the gigantic beast first signals its presence (and becomes first visible in the dark) by breathing fire at the ceiling.
  • The Gates: Used effectively at the end of "Little Girl Lost", when the villainous vampire Christian is heading out of town on foot by night... only for a completely shadowed figure to emerge from the darkened forest. It's Claire, come to stake him for kidnapping her daughter and general emotional torture.
  • Smallville
    • "Kandor": Jor-El is revealed this way.
    • "Idol": Chloe does this to the Wonder Twins; comes with a pretty epic threat.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • Our very first look at Captain Jean-Luc Picard in "Encounter at Farpoint" is this trope, as he steps into the light to look out a window of the Enterprise.
    • In "Redemption", Sela showing her face is the last shot. This is The Reveal that she is the Romulan daughter of Tasha Yar.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Persistence of Vision", the crew encounters an alien who greets them with his Face Framed in Shadow, which Captain Janeway puts down to psychological warfare. When he does step into the light, Janeway is shocked to see her fiance Mark whom she left back on Earth, as the alien is using telepathy to lure victims.
  • Supernatural:
    • In "What Is and What Should Never Be", the shadow of the djinn appears on the screen behind the woman in white before he appears.
    • In the Season 6 finale, the third fragment of Sam inside his mindscape pulls this off to unsettling effect. When Sam first finds him, he's silhouetted in shadow. Then he stands up, and his face is illuminated, revealing he's disheveled as he explains to Sam that he's the fragment that remembers their time being tortured in Hell.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) does this in "Eye of the Beholder" (when revealing that these "humans" have quite a different standard of beauty than ours) and "He's Alive" (when revealing that the person guiding the neo-Nazi is Hitler himself).
  • A very common occurrence in The X-Files, particularly if it's someone involved in some way with the myth arc conspiracy.

  • The original version of Stern Pinball's Batman has a large black cylinder in the middle of the playfield. During the game, the side rotates away, revealing The Joker inside.
  • Stern Pinball's Playboy has the "Tease Screen," a black curtain that drops down during a game to reveal the Playmate hidden behind it.

  • Played for Laughs in Wooden Overcoats. Taking everyone by surprise by dramatically slinking out of the shadows is the only way Antigone can appear. Even in broad daylight.
    Eric: I didn't know they had any shadows around here.
    Antigone: They follow me everywhere.
    Eric: Of course they do.

    Theme Parks 
  • The gangster that hijacks the ride vehicle on The Great Movie Ride does exactly this in his/her first scene.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham City: The Joker's first on-screen appearance in the game is this, with his face hidden in shadows after he seemingly faked his death with a Body Double to ambush Batman from behind. Batman initially guesses that Joker was just Playing Sick and nothing's wrong with him... until Joker steps into the light and reveals the nasty rash on his face:
    Joker: Nice of you to say, but you of all people should know... there's plenty wrong with me.
  • Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth has it revealing the protagonists from P3 and P4.
  • The fight against Meta Knight of Kirby & the Amazing Mirror starts as this, he appears as a colorless shady figure, then he becomes suddenly colored and proceeds to strike toward you without giving you a sword. this is the first sign he's an impostor, he's actually Dark Meta Knight.
  • God of War (PS4): Kratos is introduced in the E3 2016 gameplay trailer as such.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduces Sheik in this manner.
  • In Undertale, Sans is shown only as an ominous advancing shadow until the moment the player character turns around to greet him. A much later and very serious scene has both Sans and the player character entirely shadowed in a brightly-lit corridor.
  • Battletech achieves the same basic visual effect with a slow-moving hatch in a moodily-lit airlock for The Reveal that a certain character is not as dead as the player character had been led to believe.
  • Rendering Ranger: R2 has the Chicken Walker boss revealing itself in this manner; you're in an empty room after fighting a factory full of enemies, then the back wall suddenly opens up to reveal total darkness. And then, in the middle of the darkness, the robot's glowing red eyes appears through the shadows, followed by the rest of the machine.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Deviant: Verity, who is supposed to be dead, skulks in the shadows for a small portion of chapter 2.06.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "Dungeons and Wagons", Haley's game avatar is revealed this way.
  • Batman Beyond:
    • "Splicers": Terry is spliced with vampire bat DNA by Dr. Cuvier. After breaking free of his restraints and saving Barbara and DA Young from Cuvier's mooks, Terry goes back to the Batcave. First, all we see is a massive silhouette of Batman... and then Terry throws his mask at Bruce's feet and comes into the light, revealing he's become a Man-Bat.
      Terry: Bruce! Help... me!
    • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: When we first see the Jokerz and their gang speak with their leader, he is partly concealed in the shadows at first, except for his red Glowing Eyes of Doom and his grin, but then, after shooting Bonk dead for defecting him, he emerges from the shadows, revealing himself to be the newly-resurrected Joker.
  • Danger Mouse: In "Mousefall" Augustus P. Crumhorn VI tried to do this inside Crumhorn Headquarters, but after three failed attempts he approached Danger Mouse and Penfold from outside.
  • Kim Possible: Played for Laughs in "Two to Tutor". Señor Senior Senior records a warning message about an upcoming heist by Junior and Shego (he'd gotten annoyed with them because, after he hired Shego to tutor Junior in villainy, she kept blowing him off whenever he tried to check in on them). He records the message in a dark room with only his eyes showing... until Junior barges in and turns on the light.
    Junior: Father? Why are you sitting in the dark?
  • The Legend of Korra: In "A New Spiritual Age", a figure whose face is clad in shadow welcomes young Korra to the spiritual world, only to milk out for a few more seconds the Wham Shot of Uncle Iroh's return.
  • Love, Death & Robots. Played for horror at the end of "Beyond the Aquila Rift". As the alien emerges from the shadows, it first appears to resemble a slightly exotic Pink-Skinned Space Babe. However, as it comes fully into view, it's revealed to be a horrible, oozing, multi-eyed Starfish Alien that resembles a Giant Spider.
  • Mighty Mouse: The Bakshi episode "Bat With a Golden Tongue" has Bat-Bat arriving to an arranged meeting where he faces a shadowy figure he first thinks is not of this world. The figure turns out to be Mighty Mouse.
    Bat-Bat: What'd ya bring me out here for? I haven't got time to play Spielberg!
  • Molly of Denali: In "Wise Raven and Old Crow," in Molly's dream, Grandma Catherine appears in the light as a shadow, and steps out to reveal herself to Molly.
  • My Little Pony:
  • The Simpsons: Played for Laughs. Bart and Lisa meet a shady figure in a parking garage, and he stands in the shadows as he tells them to investigate Sideshow Bob's successful run for mayor, but refuses to give away his identity. Suddenly Homer drives up, illuminating the man in his headlights, and cheerfully calls out "Hi, Mr. Smithers!"
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Temporal Edict", the Gelrakian leader describes how Vindor, their gladiatorial champion, would usually emerge from the shadows at the arena for maximum intimidation, but they'll skip that since he's present right now. Vindor still manages to pull it off.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Out Of The Shadows Reveal



The symbiote is covered in black skin and it is undeniably dangerous, both in how it can brainwash its hosts and its apocalyptic potential.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / DarkIsEvil

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