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Hyper-Competent Sidekick
aka: Sidekick Ex Machina

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"It's like they did a show about Robin Hood, but Little John was the one who was really good at archery and took down the Sheriff of Nottingham, and also he used to bang Maid Marian."
Chris Sims and David Uzumeri on Smallville's Green Arrow

The underling who's much smarter, more efficient and more industrious than their (usually totally incompetent) boss, and is the one actually responsible for anything that gets done in the workplace. Despite the fact that they work their butt off for little pay and no credit, this person is generally pretty happy with the way things are. If they or the incompetent boss aren't the lead character, they'll often use their skills and position in order to help the lead character out. If their incompetent boss is the Big Bad, they're the right hand and act in the opposite manner to The Starscream even though they may have plenty of motivation to be one. They are often known for appearing right before they are called, always with whatever they were going to be asked to bring.


The greatest danger to the Hyper-Competent Sidekick is having a boss who is too stupid. Witness the relationship between Blackadder and Prince George in the third series of that show. The Prince is easily manipulated, but his sheer idiocy is forever landing himself and his butler into incredibly dangerous or difficult situations.

When the Hyper-Competent Sidekick wields more actual power than his or her boss, it's an Almighty Janitor. If The Dragon is a Hyper-Competent Sidekick who is more of a threat than the actual Big Bad and has little, if any respect for the boss, then he's the Dragon-in-Chief.

When the boss is competent in his own right and/or when the sidekick actually enjoys being the underling, it's a Chessmaster Sidekick.

Frequently the Only Sane Man. See also The Alleged Boss, The Reliable One and The Jeeves. Contrast Bumbling Sidekick. Often the need to be hyper-competent is because the boss is a Clueless Boss.


This trope often walks hand in hand with The Creon, to explain why the character doesn't move up in the organization. Another reason they might not be the boss is because they are Brilliant, but Lazy.

A character that would rather not be in this position is the Beleaguered Assistant (though there's probably some overlap).

Example sub-pages:


Other examples

    open/close all folders 

  • The 2017 UFO Kamen Yakisoban commercials ostensibly star new hero Sauce, but all he does is get beat up and captured. His partner, the Legend, can turn into a motorcycle, a tank, and take on the Demon King via the power of judo throws.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert: Asok the intern is not only one of the best engineers in the office, he also possesses amazing mental powers, including pyrokinesis and shapeshifting. Despite his prowess, he is paid the least, works in an eighth-sized cubicle, and is rarely allowed to leave.

    Fan Works 
  • Make a Wish gives us Henchgirl, who works 'for' the Professor. (They actually both have doctorates; they flipped a coin to see who would be the Professor and who would be the henchman, because in their view someone has to be the henchman.)
  • Subverted in the Deliver Us from Evil Series. Davy Wiggins is the Hyper-Competent Sidekick of an equally Hyper Competent Hero, Sherlock Holmes. Later on in the stories, Wiggins is the Hyper-Competent Sidekick to Dr. Watson - the two men are shown to be equally clever.
  • Played with in another Sherlockian example, A Study in Regret. Mary Watson plays the Hyper-Competent Sidekick to Inspector Lestrade, proving herself to be very handy in languages and other areas. In this sense, she plays the trope straight, especially as Lestrade is The Hero. However, the men definitely defer to Mary "Pintsized Powerhouse" Watson as the real authority.
  • In Of Gods And Men with a couple of bribes of apple pie, Light gets Ryuk to fly all over Great Britain searching for Horcruxes.
  • Kit Bennett, PhD. in Children of Time: she's not much the leader type (just like her dad, she has no problems with following someone else's lead), but she's got a Time Lord's brain.
  • In Mega Man Recut, Proto Man is this to Wily. It's lampshaded frequently.
  • Dauntless (Allora Gale) has Edith who, while less competent than Lelouch, still holds more power than anyone on his staff and is incredibly competent at everything except battle and chess.
  • Kocho acts as Naruto's secretary in The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor and is noted by Naruto as being "freakishly competent". It helps that she's a Technopath.
  • The All Guardsmen Party end up being this, due to usually being the only sane men, relatively speaking, to their Interrogators.
    • Alfred, the Rupert's batman. The Guardsmen instantly bond with him over this.
    • The Diplomacy Adept has this going for him as does an old female Adept they had for a previous mission. The former takes out a traitor that no one but him noticed and the latter could hide enough sidearms on her person for the entire team and she led a cleansing operation of the remaining members of a Nurgle cult.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Mercy is Lexi Luthor's sparring partner, chauffeur, accountant, secretary, and best friend.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Ladybug and Chat Noir are equal partners, but in Scarlet Lady, the titular "heroine" treats Chat Noir as a sidekick and also fobs off all the actual responsibility of fighting Akumas onto him, making him both far more competent than her, and a lot more jaded.

    Films — Animation 
  • Notably, this was the original plan for Disney's Aladdin, where the Evil Vizier Jafar would have been a bumbling fool with his competent parrot sidekick Iago providing the real brains of the operation. Then they switched roles and look out.
  • In Igor, the titular Igor is this to his idiotic master Doctor Glickenstein. However, due to abiding by stereotypes, Glickenstein refuses to listen to his advice and ends up blowing himself up early on in the movie.
  • Tangled: Maximus is the horse of the Captain of the Guard, and is far more competent and effective than the entire royal guard put together. Near the start of the movie, Flynn takes out the royal guard soldiers chasing after him and hijacks the captain's horse, only for the horse to not be as subservient as he expected and put up a good chase before Flynn manages to hide. At a dam, Flynn uses a frying pan to knock out the captain and three royal guard soldiers before Maximus picks up a shortsword with his teeth and manages to trade several blows before knocking the frying pan out of Flynn's hands.

  • The secretary in Charming Disaster's "Secretary" is this to the unnamed businessman, who has an alcohol problem and is having issues with work—he would literally be unable to function without her help. This is not necessarily a good thing, as though he's falling in love with her he's still not sure a) that she's entirely human, or b) whether she has an ulterior motive.

  • Amy from season 3 of Within the Wires. Without her, bureaucrat Michael Whitton (our narrator, nominally the protagonist) would get literally nothing done. (Not that it stops him from sending her scathing memos for not being formal enough in front of visiting bigwigs for his taste.)
  • Georgie from Wooden Overcoats. She's great at... well, everything, and it's pretty clear that without her, Antigone and Rudyard (mostly Rudyard) would run Funn Funerals into the ground. When she has a 10-Minute Retirement, Antigone and Rudyard both beg her to reconsider specifically because of this — Rudyard directs the funerals and Antigone handles the corpses, but Georgie keeps everything running like a well-oiled machine, as well as handles any physical labor that needs to be done. During her stint as the Mayor's secretary, she proves to be great at that, too.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In Real Life, Precious Paul Ellering personally booked The Road Warriors' matches, scheduled their flights, set up hotel reservations, and kept track of expenses. Since he had been a wrestler before this, and is a member of MENSA, he absolutely qualifies for Genius Bruiser.
  • This ended up being the case during Jinder Mahal’s run with the WWE Title. Almost every match he won was because of his two henchmen, Sunil and Samir Singh, who would continually distract or interfere and allow their boss time to recover. Somewhat averted as Jinder would ultimately lose his title even after they helped him during a match with AJ Styles.


    Web Animation  
  • RWBY: Team JNPR is led by Jaune Arc, who begins as a incompetent bumbler (he gets better later). His teammates, Pyrrha Nikos, Nora Valkyrie and Lie Ren are all shown to be extremely competent fighters.
    • Neo is a villainous example. She is a dangerous combatant and extremely skilled at executing whatever task is given to her. Expect her to succeed where her employers do not, and she always delivers no matter how difficult the job. In Atlas, when Cinder failed to get the Winter Maiden's power, Neo curb-stomped JNR and took the Relic of Knowledge.
  • Yorks the goat-slug in Broken Quest is this to Big Bad Sid. A prime example in episode 3, when Yorks thinks a plan to set the heroes against centaurs and get them killed was a failure. It was a complete success as far as Sid was concerned, however, because his only real objective was to see if he could get the heroes to kill their own horses to substitute their hooves for the centaur hooves they were tasked to get.
    Yorks: Wait. You set up a fake boat business. Had me run it for a week, in disguise, to lead them to a sacred centaur hunting grounds all to... (calming breath) trick them into killing useless horses they already hated.
    Sid: Holy crap! It sounds even more gi-nees when you say it. Magic mirror, fat lady taking a bath.
    Yorks: But we helped them across the river! They're moving faster now on foot! what was the point of any of this?!
    Sid: [no longer paying attention to Yorks] Oh yes, that's nice.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Greasy, sidekick to Peeper at Whateley Academy, though with Peeper the bar is exceptionally low.
    • Mephisto claims that this was common for the Captain Patriotic / Kid Sidekick pairings that popped up all over the place during World War II, mainly because the "superheroes" were usually the result of Super Soldier experiments performed by "eccentric" but patriotic researchers under the control of the military. The "kid" sidekicks were actually their handlers, and older than they appeared, as the whole purpose of setting these "flag heroes" loose on criminals and saboteurs was to see if the test subjects could handle the stress of combat and covert ops without going berserk.note 
  • Most of the major warlords have these in Farce of the Three Kingdoms (though the story being what it is, that's not a high bar). Dian Wei is this to Cao Cao at first, and also the Xuns and Guo Jia. Liu Bei has Zhuge Liang, and Sun Quan has Zhou Yu.

    Web Videos 
  • Outside Xbox has a much-beloved intern for their GTA Online heists called Nerascus, who has a habit of waiting for the rest of the team at the dropoff point, having fulfilled his end of the heist long before the rest of the crew. He also has incredible taste in vehicle livery.

Alternative Title(s): The Radar, The Shego, Sidekick Ex Machina


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