Follow TV Tropes


Hunting the Rogue

Go To

"We're going to kill a friend, Yevgeni. We're going to kill Ramius."
Capt. Tupelov, The Hunt for Red October

This trope happens when a Rogue Agent from an organization is hunted by the party they used to belong to.

A rogue, by definition, is an operative or agent that acts against the best interests of the mission or takes unauthorized action counter to mission parameters. There are Rules of War, and the armed forces are expected to adhere to them. A soldier who goes off on a killing spree of unarmed civilians would be a rogue agent, and his fellow soldiers would be obligated to capture, kill or otherwise thwart him.

The rogue may have quit for many reasons. Either they know/knew too much about the inner workings of the organization and were in the wrong place at the wrong time, they were framed up for a third-party crime within (or even without) the organization, they were fed up with the organization's incompetence (or at least those of the higher-ups), they may even have worked for people who are not particularly nice (or at least the very paranoid), whatever the case, they don't work for the organization anymore. But the organization has a Resignations Not Accepted rule, so once you're in, you're in forever, not to mention that the rogue may know too much about the organization's inner workings or they're the Dangerous Deserter kind.

Cue the chase. Regardless if the time came for them to leave their employer, or at least be forced into circumstances where the employer thinks they've left, the organization is now very determined to retrieve their renegade, dead or alive. Expect Internal Affairs to be in charge of such an operation, and an Internal Death Squad being put in charge of this specific task. A "Wanted!" Poster for Bounty Hunters may appear in certain works, otherwise they may appear in the list of The Most Wanted.

Thus, the key parts of the trope are as follows:

  • There must be a rogue, and they must have a reason why they abandoned the organization they belonged to.
  • The rogue must be chased by their former organization. Bounties, retrieval statuses, and the status of the mission itself are optional.

Sister Trope to Cult Defector, which is this trope applied to Cults as opposed to agents lawfully dispatched to apprehend a rogue member, very much like Military Police pursuing a criminal operative. A cult might do the same thing, but their agents aren't necessarily lawful, and their motives are often closer to He Knows Too Much.

Also compare Contract on the Hitman, which is this trope applied to rogue assassins. Compare The Paragon Always Rebels, where the rogue agent is often the best of them, and Action Survivor if the rogue is an Almighty Janitor rather than an operative. When a creature is being hunted for betraying their own species, compare Hunter of His Own Kind and My Species Doth Protest Too Much.

    open/close all folders 

Franchise and multi-media examples:

As a war-themed long-running franchise, this has come up a number of times in Transformers, ranging from the Dangerous Deserter to Frame-Up to He Knows Too Much.
  • The Transformers (Marvel):
    • In an early issue, the Autobot Brawn suffers mental damage from an accident and wanders off, even attacking humans. Fearing that this will worsen already bad ties with the humans, Optimus Prime dispatches troops to find Brawn and bring him in. While they succeed and manage to repair him, Brawn is so consumed with guilt he becomes a Death Seeker for a time.
    • Taken to its Logical Extreme with Grimlock's disastrous tenure as Autobot leader: a number of Autobots refuse to continue serving under him and desert, including Blaster and Goldbug. A furious Grimlock puts them on a wanted list, and this further undermines his leadership with members of the Protectobots and Aerialbots grumbling that rather than hunt the deserters, they'd rather join them.
    • In the prose story "Trigger-Happy" (included in the 1988 Transformers Annual), the Autobot Triggerbot Backstreet is tasked with informing his comrades when a couple of Decepticon couriers are in position for an ambush, with strict orders to not give away his position to avoid endangering a nearby town. When he notices a squad of Decepticon fliers accompanying the couriers, he disobeys orders and fires a warning shot, triggering a firefight. As a result, the ambush fails, and his stray shots actually hit the town. When his fellow Autobot Override comes up claiming Optimus Prime is so furious Backstreet faces court martial and even execution, the already panicked Backstreet flees. He is so terrified that both factions are hunting him that when he notices a military convoy, he mistakes them for the Decepticon special forces team known as the Combaticons and attacks them, only realising to his horror he'd attacked humans. Up until that point, Optimus and the Autobots were indeed searching for him, but only to ask what happened during the ambush and get his side of the story. But the news of the unprovoked attack causes Optimus Prime to grimly make the decision that if they find Backstreet and find he's completely lost his mind, they'd have no choice but to take him down. He is described as having to take a moment to calm down when Override finally confesses his role in the whole wretched affair.
  • The Transformers:
    • In "Auto Berserk", similar to the Brawn example above the Autobot security director Red Alert sustains damage during a skirmish with the Decepticons. His logic circuits are damaged to the point he becomes completely paranoid and convinced that Optimus Prime intends to have him deactivated, going so far as to join forces with Starscream. Naturally, the Autobots attempt to recover their friend before his damage becomes fatal.
    • "Enter The Nightbird" ends with Starscream outright shooting the titular Nightbird (a ninja robot the Decepticons stole and upgraded), due to jealousy that Megatron mockingly described Nightbird as probably being a more effective second-in-command. As this outright costs the Decepticons the battle, an enraged Megatron orders the entire Decepticon force after him as a result.
    • In "A Thief In The Night", the Decepticon Triple-Changer Octane is expelled from the Decepticons for quietly recovering the defeated Trypticon and attempting to keep the titanic Decepticon for himself. In "Starscream's Ghost", he's shown to still be on the run, with the Combaticons making repeated attempts to kill him and at least one bounty hunter attempting to take him down for the reward.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: This is one of the functions of the Decepticon Justice Division. However, part of the reason the DJD are so feared and despised by most other Decepticons is that just what makes you a "rogue" seems completely random. Hunting Deathsaurus for deserting with his contingent of 500 troops due to dissatisfaction with Megatron's leadership is understandable, executing otherwise loyal Decepticon Blip for worshipping the legendary Sparkeaters (claiming that worshipping anyone other than Megatron was heresy) far less so.
  • Transformers: Animated: Wasp is a victim of the Frame-Up variant, as he's set up as a fall guy by Longarm. While a Jerkass Victim, by the time the series begins his mind is pretty much gone and all he wants is revenge on Bumblebee. When he escapes, the Autobots on Cybertron alert Optimus Prime's team on Earth to be on the lookout.
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron: Brought up when Megatron is resurrected by Soundwave and retakes command of the Decepticons, chasing off Starscream in the process. Onslaught suggests sending the Combaticons to finish Starscream off, but Megatron brushes Starscream off as not being worth the time.
  • Transformers: Prime: When Starscream becomes a Dangerous Deserter in the 2nd season (thanks to scheming by Airachnid), Megatron issues orders to the effect that he should either be recovered or terminated since he has so much information about Decepticon operations. He eventually rejoins the Decepticons after successfully stealing the Omega Keys from the Autobots.
  • The G1 toy-only characters Garboil and Howlback are members of the Cobalt Sentries, an Internal Affairs unit of the Decepticon forces tasked with identifying and hunting down Decepticons whose loyalty to the cause isn't quite ironclad.

    Other multi-media examples 
  • The Hunt for Red October: Both in the movie and the book, Captain Marko Ramius, commanding a new, ultra-quiet Soviet Navy ballistic missile submarine on her maiden voyage, sends a letter to the commander of the Navy announcing he and his officers plan to defect to the United States. This forces the entire Soviet Arctic fleet to pursue him, including many submariners Ramius himself trained, notably Captain Tupolev of the Alfa-class attack sub "V.K. Kanovalov".
  • In A Storm of Swords, the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire and the third season of Game of Thrones, a number of Night's Watch brothers commit mutiny at Craster's Keep, murdering Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and Craster, chasing out any loyalists, and setting up the place as their base in the Lands Beyond The Wall, where they can eat, drink, and fuck to their hearts' content. In the books, they are all exterminated by Coldhands. In the show, however, Ser Alliser Thorne and Ser Janos Slynt, acting commanders of the Night's Watch until a new election can be held, allow Jon Snow to take a band of men to slaughter them all for vengeance and to deny Mance Rayder any intel from them.

Other examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: Bucciarati's group goes rogue from the organization after finding out that the boss wanted to kill his daughter so no one would find his identity. For doing so, the boss sends his best assassins, who also happen to be Stand users, in order to take down Bucciarati's group.
  • Naruto:
    • Played with during the Sasuke Retrieval Arc. By that point, Sasuke has become increasingly estranged from his comrades due to feeling they're holding him back from his ultimate goal of avenging his family by killing his older brother Itachi (who had left Sasuke the Sole Survivor and witness after massacring the clan). Before this can fully come to a head, he's kidnapped by the Sound Four, and the resulting mission is described as a cross between a rescue mission and a retrieval mission: if he was taken unwillingly then it's a rescue, but if it turns out he went willingly then he must be captured or killed.
    • Jiraiya, Orochimaru, and Tsunade, known as the Three Sages, were a Childhood Friend trio. However, Orochimaru's For Science! attitude eventually resulted in him going rogue (among other things, he was interested in developing techniques to revive the dead). Jiraiya would spend much of his time attempting to find and bring him in, partially because on some level he still sees Orochimaru as his friend.
  • Psycho-Pass: In the final arc of Season 1, Kougami leaves the Public Safety Bureau to hunt down Makishima. However, the Sibyl System isn't pleased with his actions and orders Akane to capture him.
  • Sakamoto Days: Taro Sakamoto was the world's greatest hitman before retiring. Once they find out he's still alive, the Hitman Association tries to take him out.
  • Subverted in Vinland Saga. Floki, a high-ranking member of the elite private army known as the Jomsvikings, hires an outside mercenary group to kill Thors, a prominent member of the Jomsvikings who had deserted during battle years earlier and faked his death. Floki claims he's just doing it because Thors is a rogue and to uphold the Jomsvikings laws against desertion, but the mercenary leader immediately suspects this is false since if that was really the case, the Jomvikings would want to do it themselves and make a big show of hunting down the deserter instead of hiring outsiders. A later arc shows that the mercenary was right; the ambitious Floki wanted to make sure Thors was out of his way while he solidified his power within the Jomsvikings and also had a personal hatred for Thors.

    Films — Animated 
  • Spies in Disguise has this trope as the crux of the plot. Killian frames Lance Sterling for the theft of a dangerous drone, forcing him to go rogue as a team of Special Ops agents track him down. He's forced to rely on a scientist he recently fired to escape their chase and clear his name.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Zigzagged in Captain America: The Winter Soldier: HYDRA, protected by their infiltration of the World Security Council, tried to eliminate high-level agents of SHIELD who might object to the launching of Project Insight. This included Nick Fury, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanoff. After sending the Winter Soldier to eliminate Nick Fury, they grow suspicious that Fury may have had time to warn Rogers. STRIKE team members attempt to detain Steve when it becomes clear he's aware that something is amiss at SHIELD. This leads to an elevator fight, a chase sequence, and a highway brawl as they try to kill Rogers, Romanoff, and new ally Sam Wilson. When live news coverage prevents them from executing the trio on the spot, they are instead arrested. However, they manage to escape and begin to work to turn the tables, hunting for the rogue HYDRA agents who have infiltrated SHIELD. The cat-and-mouse chase continues until the climax of the movie.
  • The Gray Man: Sierra Six, a CIA asset, is ordered to kill another former asset who has proof of corruption within the organization. Though he follows through, he refuses to hand over the evidence, causing his former handlers to order his assassination.
  • Licence to Kill: James Bond (Timothy Dalton) goes rogue from MI6 once it becomes clear no-one will do anything against Franz Sanchez for the maiming of Felix Leiter and the rape and murder of Leiter's freshly married wife Della. His Roaring Rampage of Revenge drives him to the Panama-like country Sanchez practically owns, Isthmus, and Hong Kong Police Narcotics who are infiltrating Sanchez's drug empire prevent Bond's Assassination Attempt on Sanchez, capture him and bring him to a MI6 operative who's travelled there to bring Bond back. Bond is then saved by Sanchez's army led by Heller, who assault the British agents' hideout, kill them and find him unconscious.
  • Lionheart: A soldier in the French Foreign Legion learns that his brother was attacked by drug thugs, and is in critical condition. When Lyon's request for a pass is declined, he deserts to visit his brother. Two legionnaire enforcers are sent to retrieve him by any means necessary. The two men hound Lyon "Lionheart" Gaultier through the seedy world of underground Fight Clubbing.
  • Magnum Force has Detective Callahan deduce that three rookie cops have decided to become judge, jury, and executioner to the various criminals they encounter. While Callahan is a Cowboy Cop not in the department's best graces, he's still Lawful Good, as opposed to the rogue cops who've taken to Playing God. "A man's got to know his limitations."
  • Masked Avengers: The film's Sixth Ranger is Gao Yi, formerly the second-in-command of the Masked Gang, who quit his organization after witnessing the gang's leader and the Big Bad, Lin Yung-Chi, ordering a young woman who is the Sole Survivor of a family massacre to be gang-raped. For most of the film, Gao-Yi is hiding from killers sent by the Masked Gang, his former allies, until he joins a band of warriors dedicated to overthrowing the dreaded Masked Gang.
  • Minority Report: Detective John Anderton, commander of the D.C. Police Precrime unit, suddenly receives a prediction from the Precogs that he will be committing a murder in a couple days against somebody he's never met. He goes on the run to investigate the predicted crime, with his own team in pursuit.
  • Mission: Impossible: When a mole hunt operation Goes Horribly Wrong, the NSA brands Ethan Hunt as a rogue agent. Hunt uses his rogue status to ally himself with the villains, convincing them that he's willing to expose deep-cover agents to spite the NSA.
  • The Warrior's Way: Yang is a ninja and formerly the best warrior of the Sad Flutes, who eventually quit his organization after being unable to kill a baby. He managed to escape from Asia to America, but the Sad Flutes are ready to hunt him down all the way to the West.

  • Artemis Fowl: After having been framed for the murder of Commander Root, Holly Short had to hide from the LEP.
  • Danger Money: In the second half, Jotun is on the run from his own corp after an executive sells out his team.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Blacklist:
    • Liz's mother, Katerina Restova, was once a double agent for the KGB and the Cabal, both of whom are still hunting her to this day.
    • Mossad ordered Samar's death when she suffered brain damage which they believed would make her incapable of keeping classified information secret.
    • The Osterman Umbrella Company was created specifically for this purpose. When an agency has to hunt down a rogue member, they hire the Osterman Umbrella Company as an independent contractor to avoid conflicting loyalties. They were hired in both of the above cases.
  • In Burn Notice, Michael spends a lot of time dodging the CIA and other spy agencies who are uncomfortable with a burned spy still walking around breathing. Because of his skill and the knowledge and connections he's gained during his time as a spy, they view him as a threat to themselves and to national security.
  • The Chosen: The Zealots do not take kindly to Simon Zee suddenly abandoning a mission and going AWOL. It's not long before they track him down and attempt to assassinate him.
  • In the premiere episode of season 6 of Grimm, police captain Sean Renard uses his power as mayor-elect and head of the local homicide unit to issue an APB and shoot-to-kill order on Nick Burkhardt, in an attempt to legally blame Nick for a murder Renard himself committed. Forced to lie low, Nick hides with his small team of allies as they try to figure out how to clear his name. However, as far as the local and state populace know, Nick and his partner Hank are killer cops gone rogue.
  • Kamen Rider Dragon Knight: Kamen Rider Strike is sent by General Xaviax to destroy his colleague Torque after the "con-man" tricked Xaviax and tried to strike out on his own. He's too clever by far and is vented by Strike despite pleas for mercy.
  • Kamen Rider Saber: The second arc of the show involves operatives of the Southern Base implicating Touma as a traitor to the Sword Of Logos seeking out the same power Kamen Rider Calibur did, decreeing his capture. It's actually a variation of the same Frame-Up Master Logos pulled on the previous Kamen Rider Calibur years ago, done in this case to draw out Yuri the Sword of Light after a failed attempt to get Touma to join their side (itself an attempt to secure his sword). The arc sees Touma's friends pursuing him whenever he fights enemy Megid; clashing blades with him while simultaneously doubting their benefactor's intent. One-by-one, his determination (and Reika's increasing inability to keep the Riders from questioning her) wins them over as they realize the shady nature of the operation and defect — ending what had been a cycle of this trope in-play for fifteen years of in-universe time to distract from Issac's plans to gather the Seikens to achieve godhood.
  • Nikita: The series opened with Nikita being hunted by Division after having left them. Once Percy and Amanda are removed, the government allows Division to continue operating for the sole purpose of hunting down the holdout agents who refused to return when ordered.
  • In Person of Interest, Reese and Shaw are being hunted by various intelligence networks including the CIA and ISA due to working with Finch to stop various criminal and terrorist plots from taking place after they go rogue from their previous organizations and are assumed dead.
  • The Pretender:
    • Mr. Lyle joined the Centre but would soon run afoul of the direction, having to hide from the Cleaners before being able to return.
    • Similarly, in Season 4, Mr. Parker had to hide himself from the Cleaners, having been convocated by the Triumvirate over Jarod escaping.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: Discovery: Lieutenant Spock is accused of murdering the medical team that had been treating him and escapes with no explanation, leading to him being labeled a priority one fugitive. Section 31 is sent to apprehend him but he eludes their every effort. Eventually, it's discovered that Control, Section 31's AI, has gone rogue and is framing Spock, but Spock and Discovery still have to stay out of Control's reach until they can disable the AI and disprove the frame job.
    • The Next Generation: "The Wounded" had the Enterprise forced into hunting one of their own ships, USS Phoenix, whose captain was attacking Cardassian ships without orders, on suspicion of weapons smuggling. The fact that, per Deep Space Nine, he was right, didn't change the fact he'd taken the law into his own hands.
    • Deep Space 9: In "Defiant", Thomas Riker impersonates Will Riker in order to get aboard the Defiant and hijack it for the Maquis. This forces Sisko to ally with the Cardassians to track him down.
    • Voyager: "Equinox" had Voyager discover another Starfleet ship in the Delta Quadrant that was speeding their way home by using Energy Beings to power their warp drive. Janeway went after them, considering their actions reprehensible and a disgrace to the uniform.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): Number Five was one of the Commission's best agents, but he figured out the secret to time travel while on a mission and bailed on them to return home to his family and stop the apocalypse. In turn, the Commission sends Hazel and Cha-Cha to hunt him down.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica: The Order of Hermes' most severe punishment for magi who violate its Code is to declare a Wizard's March, a standing Kill on Sight order against the transgressor. As an incentive, the magus who kills the rogue gets to keep their stuff.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The Imperial Colleges of Magic deal with rogue members themselves wherever possible, not least to avoid airing their dirty laundry to the untrusting public. This generally means assembling an Internal Death Squad, but every magister is required to help the effort if called to.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed:
  • Borderlands has both Player Character Roland, and Quest Giver Athena from the The Secret Armory of General Knoxx's DLC, both of which are former Crimson Lance soldiers who are chased by this organization.
    • Roland was a former Crimson Lance Engineer (as only Engineers have access to Scorpio Turrets, and Roland deploys one as his Action Skill) who left his squad after his former superiors tried to frame and kill him. He gets to fight against them in both the main game (both in the "Old Haven" level and after Baron Flynt was killed) and the Knoxx DLC.
    • Athena was a former Crimson Lance Assassin who left after the higher-ups duped her into killing her sister and everyone in her village. She's one of the main story Quest Givers of the DLC she appears on and has as much of a bounty on her head as the Vault Hunters.
  • Early on in Cosmic Star Heroine, protagonist Alyssa and her friends defect from API upon discovering their director's plot to use the Mind-Control Device to Take Over the World. Alyssa's ensuing travel through Araenu is spent mostly on fleeing from the director's death squads.
  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII: Due to a variety of circumstances, Angeal and Genesis, the top two SOLDIERs aside from Sephiroth himself, wind up going rogue. Zack, Angeal's protégé, winds up having to track him down and kill him, an event that leaves him physically and mentally scarred. Tracking down Genesis eventually leads Zack and Sephiroth to Nibelheim, where the Disaster Dominoes that lead into the original game occur.
  • Dead or Alive: Kasumi entered the Dead or Alive tournament to fight and kill her Evil Uncle Raidou as revenge for his seemingly killing her brother Hayate and stealing her clan's sacred technique. While Kasumi succeeds in her goal, her actions went against the orders of the Mugen Tenshin clan elders who responded by marking her for death.
  • In Deus Ex, Paul and JC Denton both defect from UNATCO after discovering its connections to the Government Conspiracy, leading the higher-ups to send out their top agents after them.
  • Fallout 4: Some of the Institute's robotic synths chose to abandon the organization, hoping to live freely. They are subsequently hunted down by the Institute's Coursers, who capture and reclaim them for further use. The Railroad have dedicated themselves to helping these synths escape the Commonwealth.
  • Hitman 3: The game has Agent 47 being hunted by his former employers the ICA in a nightclub in Berlin halfway through the story. During which he demonstrates to his pursuers exactly why he was their best agent for decades, by killing about half of the operatives, which causes the remainder to wisely abort the assignment.
  • Kingdom Hearts II: The prologue of the game centers around Roxas, a boy living in Twilight Town who is suddenly assaulted by weird creatures and their masters — who want him back at any cost. He was originally part of their Organization until a complicated chain of events caused him to simultaneously defect and get captured by an opposing faction that locked him into the Twilight Town simulation in the hopes of reuniting him with his other half Sora.
  • Live A Live: In the twilight of Edo Japan chapter, Oboromaru is sent by his clan to rescue a captive from Ode Iou and also slay the tyrant. However, Oboromaru can choose to abandon the mission. Doing so will have him branded a traitor and constantly hunted down by his clan up to his own master stepping in to suicide bomb him.
  • Saren from Mass Effect is a highly decorated Spectre, a member of an elite squad who are entrusted with missions so vital they are literally above the law. However, upon discovering the powerful precursor battleship known as Sovereign (larger than any known warship and capable of single-handedly destroying entire fleets), he went rogue and began launching attacks on civilised space alongside the Geth and Krogan. The other Spectres (mainly Shepard) are tasked with hunting him down.
  • In Mega Man Star Force, Omega-Xis is hunted by the other denizens of Planet FM under King Cepheus's orders to retrieve the key that controls the FM-ians' Doomsday Device, Andromeda. This results in Omega-Xis crashing into Geo and convincing the boy to become Mega Man as they fight off an impending Alien Invasion.
  • Nuclear Throne has, well, Rogue, who defected from the Inter Dimensional Police Department after stealing the Portal Strike. Insurbodination is not tolerated in the I.D.P.D, which manifests as I.D.P.D troops teleporting in at least once every level.
  • Overwatch: After defecting from Talon and going on the run, Baptiste became a target for the organization to track down due to his knowledge of its inner workings. So far, he's been on the run for years, although the Talon-aligned characters make sure he knows he's still being hunted.
    Widowmaker: Hello, Baptiste. Think you can hide from Talon forever?
    Baptiste: You can send your people to find me. But I'll find them first.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: In the Prologue and Act I of the Trooper story, most of the Republic's special ops group Havoc Squad defects to the Empire. The remaining members, led by the Trooper player character, are assigned to hunt down the traitors.

    Web Comics 
  • Following chapter 2 of Genocide Man the Genocide Project assumes that Jacob Doe has gone rogue when some wannabe terrorists deactivate the telemetry in his portable biowarfare lab. And they don't believe in "proportional response".
  • A significant part of Haley's backstory in The Order of the Stick. Haley was once a member of the Greysky City Rogue's Guild until she quit due to better employment opportunities as an adventurer and due to new leadership making the organization less of a home for Loveable Rogues and more of a haven of scoundrels. Unfortunately, you're not allowed to leave the Rogue's Guild, and when she returned to her hometown in Don't Split the Party the whole guild ganged up to capture her, and, even after that arc, the leader sent a golem version of her old rival Crystal to hunt her down.

    Western Animation 
  • Totally Spies!: In one episode, the girls were framed for committing a string of robberies in Arizona. So they go on a run to find the real culprit while evading Jerry and the WOOHP agency.
  • The Zeta Project is about an NSA infiltration robot who developed a conscience on his own and is on the run.