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Heel–Race Turn

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A Heel–Face Turn (or Face–Heel Turn) on an ethnic scale. A faction allied with the enemy joins the heroes' team. A neutral people becomes convinced it has to side with the villains to survive.

This trope is more often used in realistic settings where there's gray morality, wars are good vs. good, and alignments aren't ethnically based. Settings where this trope won't be seen are where a culture is Always Chaotic Evil or otherwise demonic. Some sultry succubus or burly half-human warrior might have a Heel–Face Turn but these characters are rare exceptions.


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  • All Space Battleship Yamato /Star Blazers stories set after the end of the second season portray the Gamilas (Gamilons in the U.S.) as allies of Earth, thanks to Leader Desslok's Heel–Face Turn.
    • Except for the Bolar Wars Extended, a semi-canon webcomic. The Gamilons are on the side of Earth - the Galmans (basically the Ur-Gamilons) aren't.
  • The Zentran/Meltran in Super Dimension Fortress Macross are pretty much split down the middle when they encounter humanity. Some stay with Bodolza, while a large chunk side with the humans. Later Macross series indicate that contact with "uncultured" Zentraedi fleets is still a semi-regular occurrence as humanity and their "cultured" Zentraedi allies explore the galaxy; sometimes they are successful in convincing these fleets to join their society, and sometimes they are not, resulting in wars.

    Comic Books 
  • Artesia: Each faction in the setting has had previous alliances and works with whoever its current ruler thinks best serves the faction's interest.
  • Venom (Donny Cates): The symbiotes were created by the dark god Knull to corrupt and destroy the universe, but most of them ultimately turned on their god, sealed him in the core of an artificial planet called Klyntar, and established the Agents of the Cosmos in order to maintain peace across the universe — banishing symbiotes that backslid into evil.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Treens in Dan Dare were villains in the first story but were usually good guys thereafter because of their gratitude for a generous peace settlement. They could be considered a case of Heel-Race Revolving Door because the psychological hold the Mekon held over them meant they usually fell back in line behind him whenever he reappeared.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: Towards the end of "What if Tom was infested by a member of the Yeerk Peace Movement?", Tom and Aftran convince all the Yeerks on Earth to stop being enslavers after they're promoted to Visser One.
  • Cutie Mark Crusaders 10k: Queen Chrysalis' hive of Changelings joined forces with the Equestrian Empire after they were offered an alliance following a defeat in battle. Several years later, the Changelings have taken to pony culture so wonderfully, Chrysalis is worried they'll lose what made them changelings in the first place.
  • The Dark World arc of the Pony POV Series has few bright spots, but this is one of them: Cadence takes control of the changelings from Chrysalis, and under her leadership they go from parasites to true symbiotic lifeforms living in peace with the other races. This ultimately occurs in the main timeline as well.
  • This is one of the main themes of The Urthblood Saga, based on the Redwall series where the line between "goodbeasts" and "vermin" was strongly established and rarely crossed. In it, the titular badger has received a prophecy of a coming dark crisis, and decides to bridge the divide between the two groups by taking vermin under arms and training them to be decent creatures and soldiers, in the hopes of countering it.
  • Canonically in The Owl House Giraffes are demons banished to the human world, though for what reason is not stated. In Witches Among Humans they were soul eaters, but by modern times have given up such practices. However they are also talking giraffes, so the humans who witness them speaking freak out as if they were still in fact soul hunters.


  • At the end of Starship Troopers , it has been revealed that the "Skinnies", the race shown as one of the enemies in the very first combat scene of the book, have allied with Humans against the Bugs. The raid, in fact, was a scare tactic/warning by humans to convince the Skinnies to ditch the bugs.
  • After the first book of the Sword of Truth series, the D'Haran empire become allies, primarily because the protagonist, Richard, turns out to be the heir to the empire.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has the Noghri, who were saved by Darth Vader from Palpatine and collectively owed him a debt and became his personal assassins. Then he gave them to Thrawn. Then Thrawn sent them after Leia; he didn't know she was Vader's daughter, but the Noghri (who can tell your bloodline by your scent) figured it out. Yeah, that went over well. (Though that alone wouldn't have been enough to get them to switch sides; the real turning point was Leia proving that the Empire's claim to be restoring the Noghri's poisoned soil in exchange for their service was a lie. Oh, and one other thing: they also worshipped Darth Vader as a god, and figured that because Leia was his daughter, that meant she must have been a divine being too.)
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, the Urgals go from fighting in the evil king's armies to joining the side of The Varden, thanks to the king betraying them.
  • In the original Shannara trilogy, the Rock Trolls serve in the evil Warlock King's army in the first book. In the second, having realised they were duped, they aid the elves in their fight against a demon invasion.
  • In the last two books of Animorphs, the Taxxons defect from the Yeerk Empire and ally with the Animorphs in exchange for getting to Mode Lock themselves into anacondas to escape their Horror Hunger.
  • Goblins in the Castle: The goblins, in both directions. Before, they were friends to humanity, but after being locked away, they grew angrier and angrier, until they were determined to destroy the people who left them in the dark. They return to their friendlier selves when their King is healed and restored to sanity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 played with this extensively over its five-year run, which helps cement the show's reputation for moral complexity. Seen one way, it's full of races turning one way or the other; seen another way, it's just each race acting in its own perceived self-interest, not changing at all.
    • The Narn Regime are bad guys for the first season, but after their former overlords the Centauri get power again and reconquer them, they are treated as wholly sympathetic. However, when they're freed again in Season 4, the Narn immediately begin rebuilding their war machine, suggesting that they've learned nothing from the events of the last four years.
    • The Centauri Republic starts out as a downplayed Vestigial Empire, then turns Heel when it becomes a Resurgent Empire. It turns back to Face after Londo kills the psychotic Emperor Cartagia, and then turns Heel again in the final season. It's implied in the Distant Finale that they eventually turn good again. But underneath it all, the Centauri leaders are driven by their own interests, not any desire to "do good" or "be good". The initial Heel turn happens only with Shadow assistance; the Face turn is only because Londo and his fellow conspirators realize Cartagia's madness is dragging the Centauri Republic to destruction; and the final-season Heel turn happens after the Drakh take over by implanting the Regent and then Emperor Londo with a Puppeteer Parasite.
    • The Minbari turned Face at the end of the Earth-Minbari War, and during the series proper they become Earth's strongest allies in the Babylon Project. But eventually it's revealed that they did it for reasons of their own, which had nothing to do with whether they ever saw humans as "good" or "bad."
    • Several of the Non-Aligned Worlds ally themselves with the Shadows for protection against neighboring star nations that threaten to conquer them.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The most notable example of this is the Ice Warriors. In the story "The Curse of Peladon", the Doctor is instantly suspicious to encounter Ice Warriors as members of The Federation, and spends most of the story suspecting them of being secretly malevolent, but is finally forced to accept that the culture has, indeed, become more peaceful and altruistic. The next (and last twentieth-century) Ice Warrior story "The Monster of Peladon" then has the revelation that the Ice Warriors in it really are the villains as a shock twist, but the bad guys are explicitly identified as a Renegade Splinter Faction who want to revive the old ruthlessly xenophobic ways. The first twenty-first-century episode to feature them, "Cold War", had an Ice Warrior as a villain, but it was set in the twentieth century well before any of the other TV Ice Warrior stories, and depicted the character has a Noble Demon whose conflict with the human characters was due to equally-xenophobic mutual suspicion rather than unprovoked malevolence.
    • The Doctor states the Viperox will one day make this and become peace-loving, suggesting he knows from seeing the future, and it's part of his justification for actively avoiding inflicting the Viperox's total extinction in "Dreamland".
  • The Orville: The Krill, of all races, are the first to ally with the Planetary Union when the Kaylon launch their war to rid the galaxy of organic life. This is turned on its head when the moderate Krill Chancellor who wanted to deepen ties with the Union is ousted by a far more radical Teleya, who cancels the alliance. The Moclans, whose strongly misogynistic culture had already made them an uneasy ally, are finally kicked out of the Union when their government blatantly commits several crimes against other Union citizens. The Moclans then ally with the Krill out of necessity, and both soon get their hands on a stolen superweapon that can be used to wipe out the Kaylon. The Union then allies itself with the Kaylon because they think wiping out a sentient species goes too far, first as a pure Enemy Mine, but when a biological sacrifices herself to destroy the weapon, Kaylon Primary is so startled that he agrees to a peace treaty and even possible membership in the Union.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Southlanders that join Adar and his horde of Orcs were shown to be at their worst just simple people minding their own business, with no loyalty to any faction. But Adar's threats to kill them if they don't join his side made them join Adar instead of fighting and defend their homes from him.
  • The Slave Race Jaffa of Stargate SG-1 desert their evil alien masters en masse in the later seasons. Only a few die-hard fanatics continue to serve The Remnant that is Baal.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ferengi, partly due to Early-Installment Weirdness, which portrayed them as Always Chaotic Evil Literal Maneater Money Fetishists. Characterization marched on and the first two were eventually dropped as they became extreme Libertarians. Finally, Nog became a Starfleet member, performing with honors, while Rom became the Grand Nagus and became shifting the Ferengi ever-so-subtly towards benevolence, even submitting a preliminary petition for Federation membership in season 4 of Lower Decks.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise, the Xindi's hat is that their "race" consists of several sentient species that evolved on the same planet. At the beginning of the Xindi arc, the crew of the Enterprise considers all Xindi to be their enemies. But by and by, Archer and co. manage to convince three of the five living Xindi species to do a Heel Race Turn. They help the humans in defeating the other two species and preventing the planned Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
    • In Deep Space Nine, we have the Cardassians, longtime enemies of the Federation and allied to the Dominion, switching sides en masse - in the middle of a major space battle - due to the Dominion having just informed the Cardassians they had destroyed a city and killed its two million inhabitants as reprisal for an act of the Cardassian Resistance.
    • While they slide back or waver a couple of times, the Klingons go from one of the Federation's main enemies in the original series to long-standing allies in The Next Generation. This was initially an off-screen change until Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country showed the beginning of the shift. DS9, however, turns it into a Heel Race Revolving Door when the Klingons invade a newly democratic Cardassia (on the false impression that the overthrow of the Cardassian military dictatorship = Dominion infiltration, an impression planted by the Dominion itself as it turns out) and then declare war on the Federation after the latter tells them to knock it off and provides asylum to the new Cardassian government. They then come running back to the Federation with their tails between their legs after the Cardassians join the Dominion in season 5. (According to Daniels, both the Klingons and the Xindi become full-fledged members of the Federation.)

    Video Games 
  • Many Elites in Halo switch sides around the end of Halo 2, after the Prophet of Truth orders their extermination.
  • The Orcs in Warcraft III. The first game had them as servitors of the coming demonic invasion and in the second after The Starscream became the Warchief they were a Proud Warrior Race with imperial ambitions, but Thrall's rise to Warchief and push for the Orcs to return to their pre-demon shamanic traditions eventually led to them allying with the Elves and Humans to defeat Archimonde.
  • All that's known about the Vortigaunts during Half-Life is that they're aliens invading Earth. In Half-Life 2, it's revealed that they were actually enslaved by the Nihilanth during the events of the previous game, and are very grateful to Gordon Freeman for the destruction of their former master.note  As a gesture of gratitude, they joined forces with humanity against the Combine, and by Half-Life 2: Episode 1, they gather en masse to support Gordon specifically.
  • The Arcadian Empire in Final Fantasy XII. At least in the ending.
  • The Lurkers are brutish Mooks in the first Jak and Daxter; in the second game, they're... not necessarily good so much as oppressed. Brutter and the Lurkers he asks you to save seem pretty grateful, at any rate.
  • In between the first and second Sword of the Stars, a group of Zuul came to a Heel Realization and split from the majority of their race to join the Liir.
    • For a better explanation, The Zuul as a species learn primarily by Mind Rape of other sentient species. The more you fight them the smarter they get. Eventually a Zuul called The Deacon (who took the name after his band attacked a Catholic convent) got into a psychic battle with a Liir, who uploaded all its empathy and positive emotions into The Deacon. Combined with his knowledge of Catholic Dogma, this led to The Deacon becoming The Atoner and leading a faction of the Zuul, caling themselves the Prester Zuul, into allying themselves with the Liir. Most of them view themselves as 'priests' to the Liir and use their psychic powers to remove excessive negative emotions from their flock.
  • The Zerg in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, thanks to their queen Kerrigan regaining part of her humanity. To say they actually become good guys is a bit of a stretch (they still express interest in assimilating other species, and Kerrigan pretty much is keeping them on a leash), but at least they do join force with the good guys, and are on their way to help save the Universe against Amon by the end of the game. After Amon's defeat and Kerrigan's departure as a Xel'Naga, their new Queen, Zagara, seems satisfied with controlling the systems around their hive planet Char and leaving both Protoss and Terrans alone, though how long this will last is not clarified. Star Craft Evolution, a sequel novel set after the last game, clarifies that Zagara at least intends this to be a long-term thing, and is also engineering new zerg forms capable of repairing biospheres to undo some of the damage from the last wars.
  • In the X-Universe, the resident theocratic and xenophobic empire, the Paranid, join forces with the Earth State after they witness the Argon Federation blowing up Earth's Torus Aeternal, killing millions of Terran civilians in the process, before declaring war. A Paranid captain is instrumental in saving Earth from Argon artificially intelligent warships shortly before the jumpgate network abruptly shuts down.
  • Early in The Elder Scrolls series, Orcs were simply random Always Chaotic Evil enemy Mooks. In Arena, crossing over with Early-Installment Weirdness, they had no real backstory beyond being standard fantasy Orcs. In Daggerfall, they get more fleshed out. They're actually a subspecies of Mer (Elves), the "Orsimer", meaning "Pariah Folk". As such, they are in an eternal state of Fighting for a Homeland while facing extreme Fantastic Racism from the other races of Tamriel. Due to a Cosmic Retcon/Time Crash at the end of Daggerfall (which is an in-universe way of Merging the Branches of its Multiple Endings in a Broad Strokes fashion), their homeland is recognized as a province of the Empire and they become citizens. Come Morrowind and every game after, they are fully Promoted to Playable.
  • Star Control II: In your fight to gather allies against the Ur-Quan and their slave races, a number of said slave races can be convinced to join you in various ways. The Spathi and the Thraddash can both be convinced to join your side, and you can incite an Enemy Civil War among the Yehat which will eventually lead to the side that supports you winning and sending you aid against the Final Boss.
  • The original 2-D games in The Legend of Zelda portrayed the Zoras as a common water-based enemy. From Ocarina of Time onward, they were more commonly portrayed as friendly NPCs and close allies of the Royal Family of Hyrule. However, the Oracle games portray the good and bad Zoras as separate species.
    • There is also the Gerudo tribe. In Ocarina of Time, they're technically subjects of the King of Hyrule, but their allegiances are more toward Ganondorf, and they are portrayed as a bunch of fierce Desert Bandits who kidnap Hylians. Once Link raids their fortress to save the carpenters and defeats Twinrova, however, he quickly earns their respect. By the time of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, they're portrayed as being as nice as any of the other races of Hyrule.
  • In the campaigns of both Splatoon and Splatoon 2, the Octarians are very much the enemy, with the humanoid Octolings serving as their elite troops. However, 2's Octo Expansion DLC not only has you play as an Octoling defector trying to make their way to Inkopolis, but it's revealed in a chat log that you're far from the only one, following many of them hearing the Calamari Inkantation and realizing that they'd rather live wherever that cool music came from. By Splatoon 3, plenty of Octolings now coexist on the surface alongside Inklings.
  • In Guild Wars, the Charr have been at war with humans for centuries, and are portrayed as Always Chaotic Evil fodder for the players. In the sequel, the Charr have overthrown the Flame Legion signed an uneasy truce with the humans, and been Promoted to Playable.
  • Kirby:
    • The Birdees in Kirby Mass Attack start out antagonistic to your Kirbys. However, after the Kirbys rescue Big Birdee's children, Birdees stop antagonizing them and become their allies.
    • The Beast Pack from Kirby and the Forgotten Land changes their ways and sides with the heroes after Fecto Elfilis' defeat. Their leader Leongar won't fully come to be until after the events of Isolated Isles: Forgo Dreams, wherein the entire pack revives him with pieces of his soul.

    Web Original 
  • Hamster's Paradise: In what is probably the most bizarre example of this trope, the war-mongering harmsters in a way get this treatment when the cancer that killed them evolves into transmissible tumor known as the shroomor — technically their descendants — which eventually finds a niche in the environment, acting as a fungus-like decomposer and serving a purpose for good.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this presumably happened to the Fire Nation, when Ozai and Azula were defeated in the series finale, and Zuko became a new, benevolent Firelord. This didn't come out of the blue, though, as throughout Season 3 it had been shown that Fire Nation citizens weren't inherently evil. Most of them merely believed in the war propaganda promulgated by the governments of Ozai and his predecessors.
    • Confirmed in The Legend of Korra, where firebenders and Fire Nation citizens are actually something of a minority among the villains even though Equal-Opportunity Evil is in full effect, while Fire Nation royalty is at least sympathetic to the protagonists even if they can't interfere in that particular incident. Hiroshi Sato is Fire Nation-descended and P'li is a combustion-bender, but Amon, Unalaq, Tarrlok, Ming-Hua and Varrick are all from the Water Tribes, Zaheer is a non-bender turned airbender of unknown background, and Ghazan and Kuvira are earthbenders. Meanwhile, General Iroh - a prince of the Fire Nation and son of the Fire Lord- leads a United Republic fleet to Republic City's aid in the first season cliffhanger, the Fire Nation is as willing as any other to keep the Red Lotus imprisoned until Zaheer sets them free, and Fire Lord Izumi only refuses to intercede in the Earth Empire incident because she's worried about the appearance of the Fire Nation once again engaging in large-scale military action. Supplemental material in Avatar Legends reveals that Zuko spent his reign rehabilitating his people from the ill effects of his great grandfather's imperialism, which has all but disappeared after 70 years.
  • The Highbreed in the Ben 10: Alien Force second season finale, after Ben ended the conflict with them peacefully by saving their species from extinction. What makes this remarkable is that the Highbreed are the equivalent of Alien Nazis willing to commit genocide on other races, and once Ben discovers their true colors, he got them to reevaluate how pointless their obsession with purity is.
  • Final Space: It's revealed in Season 2 that the Titans weren't always omnicidal monsters. They were originally created by the Arachnitects to help them build the universe and layer the dimensions, but Invictus forcibly corrupted the Titans' minds so that they became Invictus' slaves, bent on helping Invictus to destroy the very reality which they once helped to build.
  • The Changelings in the sixth season finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, upon realizing that they can survive by sharing love instead of stealing it and constantly starving. They quickly follow the example of Thorax, and make up for their earlier kidnapping of the Royal Family and Mane Six as well by freeing them with the destruction of Chrysalis' throne. Queen Chrysalis is the only one seen to refuse. This causes them to undergo metamorphosis (much like a caterpillar to butterfly) to much more colorful and love-filled creatures. In season seven, we learn there are more than a few changelings who are resistant to this new way of doing things, and prefer the "good" old days of stealing love on which to feed, but they are eventually won over by a combination of Thorax becoming more assertive and refusing to give up on them.
  • The Serpentine from Ninjago undergo this between "The Day Ninjago Stood Still" (when they're sealed into the tomb of the Stone Army) and Season 3. By the time the Ninja visited the tomb, Pythor was the only one who didn't redeem himself.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Race Heel Turn


To Where and Back Again

Starlight Glimmer manages to convince the changelings that they can survive not by stealing love from other creatures, but by sharing love with them. And after witnessing Thorax undergo a magical metamorphosis into a more colorful and powerful changeling, the rest of the hive (sans Queen Chrysalis) follow suit.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / HeelRaceTurn

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