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Lovable Traitor

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"Lord Varys, I am growing strangely fond of you. I may kill you yet, but I think I'd feel sad about it."
Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire

The Trickster who seems to have the element of subtlety only in specific clumps. Sometimes the spiritual cousin of the Punch-Clock Villain, sometimes a variation on the Enigmatic Minion or a more amenable Les Collaborateurs.

Merely seeing this guy and having a conversation with him for five minutes already cues the hero he shouldn't be trusted too much. He may even openly work for the bad guys, and say threatening things in a non-directed way. Hey, it's his job, nothing personal. And why shouldn't he enjoy what he does?

Your major safety is he likes being entertained, so sometimes will willingly subvert his bosses if he has his own agenda and help you — or at least not hinder you. He'll get you into trouble, but he'll assure you afterwards he knew you could deal with it. He'll betray you, but he won't tell your enemies all they really need to know about you.

This is Older Than Print — the archetypical example is the Prose Edda's depiction (which, for whatever it's worth, diverges markedly from that within the older Poetic Edda) of the Norse god Loki. Much like the Lovable Traitor, it's a misconception to think of him simply as evil — although he's not above being a Court Jester in the most classy way he can.

Compare Wild Card, Heel–Face Revolving Door and Double Agent. If this character's skillset is right, they may become an Indispensable Scoundrel.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Lupin III believes this of all women: "Betrayal is yet another of women's accessories.". The character of Fujiko is agreed to be a traitor by the entire group, although only Lupin admits her to be loveable.
  • Sergeant Major Kululu from Sgt. Frog. He's technically the superior officer, but since he's so sketchy, no one wants to follow him so he's the intelligence officer.
  • Naruto:
    • Kabuto Yakushi is so ridiculously untrustworthy that even the villain he swore unending loyalty to claims that there's no telling what he'll pull when he's on his own. He can, and has, betrayed everybody he's ever met at least once with a smile on his face.
    • Itachi Uchiha. Even before his true intentions were revealed.
  • Bleach: Gin Ichimaru. He has a blatant case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, and even deliberately joined Aizen to backstab him (it looked to be the easiest way to get to him).
  • Vice-Warden Hannyabal from One Piece babbles very often that he wants Warden Magellan's position, which is a Running Gag. Everybody in Impel Down knows it, but they simply don't care. Magellan even says that he wants Hannyabal as his successor. After the great outbreak in Impel Down and the Time Skip, it's revealed Hannyabal has become the warden, and Magellan the vice-warden.

    Comic Books 
  • Thunderbolts: The Fixer frequently switches sides or abandons his friends to die to save his own skin. He doesn't care about money, power, revenge, altruism, duty or loyalty. He only cares about the challenge of a task, proving he's the smartest one in the room and staying alive. He will help save the world or help conquer it provided he is given an interesting technical challenge to figure out.

  • Labyrinth features Hoggle, Sarah's cuddly goblin friend, who betrays her to Jareth, although he doesn't feel good about it.
  • Inverted by D'Arcy in The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak. Originally the traitor who led to Gwendoline getting captured by Amazons. When he tells Gwendoline he is willing to betray the Queen for her sake, she exclaims in exasperation, "You betray everybody!"
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Captain Jack Sparrow. In the course of the first film, he ends up allied with and conspiring against every single character down to and including the monkey.

  • Neil Gaiman:
    • The Marquis De Carabas from Neverwhere. Though, more accurately, Hunter is the true mole of the group, and is considerably likable. The Marquis on the other hand can be relied upon when he owes you (or your father) a favor - though he much prefers you to owe him.
    • Crowley of Good Omens: "An angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards". Strictly speaking, Aziraphale is one as well, since both he and Crowley are working against their respective factions in an apocalypse-averting Take a Third Option plan.
  • Littlefinger and Varys in A Song of Ice and Fire. Both are men of low nobility (or, in Varys' case, honorary nobility) and no martial prowess to speak of, they're not semi-trusted or relied upon so much as completely underestimated by most of the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms. Those who notice enough to actively distrust them can still find them both charming enough to endure working with, if not actually finding themselves enjoying it. Both are also a lot more dangerous then they seem if you do cross them either intentionally or not, however. Littlefinger does complicate it a little, as some in-world spot the Lovable, but mistake the Traitor for Rogue: the Tully family, for one group. However, he loses the "lovable" part completely once you get to know him better, turning out to be a far more destructive kind of Devil in Plain Sight.
  • Rupert of Hentzau, one of the main antagonists in The Prisoner of Zenda, will stab just about anybody - hero or villain, whichever seems most fun - in the back, with an amiable smile on his face. The women of Ruritania have a collective crush on him; even the hero keeps bringing up his positive qualities.
  • Dustfinger, of Inkheart, betrays them about twice in the first book, yet each time, and AFTER, they trust him readily enough.
  • Krager in David Eddings' The Elenium. He's openly and unrepentantly on the side of the bad guys (he's basically The Dragon's sidekick), but he has no real loyalty to them, he just thinks they're going to win. If the heroes capture him, he'll trade information for his life, and it's always good information, so they'll accept the deal the next time they capture him. Thanks to this, he gets away with murder (literally) for the whole series, since by the time his usefulness is spent (meaning the heroes can kill him) it's obvious he's dying of liver disease.
  • Evil Harry Dread in The Last Hero is the Disc's last Evil Overlord, who joins up with the last Barbarian Heroes on their final quest because they're the only ones who remember the old days and how things used to work. And then betrays them, because that's what Evil Overlords do. And the Silver Horde completely understand this. Of course he has to betray them; if he didn't he'd be betraying the whole Barbarian Hero/Evil Overlord dynamic.
  • The Worm Ouroboros: Lord Gro feels that any idiot can do well by being on the winning side but that true genius and sportsmanship lies in joining the losing side and helping them to become the winning side. So in the war between Witchland and Demonland he deserts whichever side is winning to help the losing side and does this several times throughout the novel. He is unhappy but not surprised at the sort of reputation this gives him.
  • Treasure Island: Long John Silver is a charismatic and likeable figure, who spends the entire book playing Xanatos Speed Chess with both the mutineers and the loyalists to ensure that he comes away from the island with as large a cut of the money as he can manage.

    Live Action TV 
  • Jayne Cobb from Firefly may have made a deal with the bad guy in the pilot episode and tries to turn Simon and River over to the Feds in "Ariel", but only out of foolish greed than genuine malice and he comes to regret the latter incident. Even his own recruitment into the crew was due to this when Mal offered him a better cut of the profits and his own bunk.
  • Angel:
    • Harmony, bimbo cheerleader-turned-vampire-turned-perky-executive-assistant, gets a letter of recommendation from Angel even after she betrays him. To be fair, he was counting on her doing it anyway, and she was a pretty good secretary...
    • Angel's lack of respect towards Merl is somewhat justifiable given that in his first appearance, Merl tricked him into killing a pregnant woman's demon guardian so that she'd be vulnerable to bounty hunters.
  • Supernatural has Bela, a highly-successful thief of supernatural items who has occasional run-ins with Sam and Dean. She becomes much more of a Loveable Rogue, however, after she willingly (if at gunpoint) gave Sam and Dean's whereabouts to a Knight Templar hunter who wanted to kill them. Dean calls her after the two narrowly escape with their lives, and when she proves unrepentant about the affair, Dean tells her in no uncertain terms that if he ever sees her again, he'll kill her. Then he hangs up. A few minutes later, Bela calls back with an apologetic non-apology and the hunter's location as recompense.
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Daleks' Master Plan," the Meddling Monk makes a reappearance for a few episodes. He goes around with the heroes, then helps the Daleks in order to save his own skin. Then when the heroes show their contempt for him, he says something like "I hoped I was convincing enough to fool the Daleks, but I didn't think even you would be fooled. This destroys my faith in humanity, it really does."
  • Amanda from the Highlander TV series has a habit of getting Duncan Macleod into various kinds of trouble, but never so bad that it's not pretty likely he'll survive it. She really does love him, in her own twisted way, something she is reluctant to admit even to herself, but which pretty much everybody around them recognizes. Duncan's problem is that it's mutual...
  • A comical example is Chang from "Community". He constantly tries to worm his way into the study group only to sell them out later, yet he's so pathetic that no one can bear to outright banish him.
  • The Cimarron Strip episode "Journey to a Hanging" has Screamer, an avaricious cowboy who joins a posse to hunt down an outlaw for the bounty on his head and constantly endangers the mission so he can get the money. His enthusiasm makes him lovable, even before his Heel–Face Turn at the end of the episode.
  • Doug Judy, the Pontiac Bandit from Brooklyn Nine-Nine may double-cross Jake in every episode that he appears in, but he's also such a Lovable Rogue that even Jake himself can't stay mad at him for long.
  • On It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the Gang can regularly be counted on to split into scheming opposed factions. And whenever this happens, the pathetically needy Mac can be counted on to offer each side his aid ... always forgetting to stay mum about his standing offer to the other side.
  • Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger: Kaguragi Dybowski, king of Toufu, is well known by his fellow monarchs to be a two-faced manipulator with a history of repeatedly and openly betraying them for their enemies. Nonetheless, he's a respectable member of the King-Ohgers' alliance because he reliably betrays their enemies right back, and also because he, surprisingly, has a firm moral compass: all his scheming is genuinely for the good of his kingdom. Hilariously, this makes him Immune to Mind Control: betrayal comes so easily to him that he can defy a Compelling Voice at any time.

  • Bart Rathbone from Adventures in Odyssey. Little more than a conniving businessman, not above helping the out-and-out villains at one point, and generally the opposite of everything the show stands for. But... it's just so hard not to love the guy sometimes. (It helps that, in practice, he's generally harmless. And he did turn on the bad guys eventually, albeit for selfish reasons.)

    Video Games 
  • Saemon Havarian from Baldur's Gate II, as lampshaded repeatedly by CHARNAME, the supporting cast, the villain, and anyone else who's ever had to deal with him ever. If it hadn't been for the fact that sidequests equal more XP and loot, going along with almost anything he says becomes a major point of Who Would Be Stupid Enough?.
  • Jill, a Wyvern Rider in the Fire Emblem Tellius games, becomes a traitor not once, but three times. First, she leaves Daein to spy on Ike in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, which leads to her altogether abandoning her country and joining the Crimean Army. Then, in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, she's fighting Crimea on Daein's side. Then, it's possible to make her betray Daein and join Crimea again. Luckily, she's heroic enough (and a spectacular unit to boot) that the audience overlooks her constant flip-flopping.
    • In Path of Radiance, she sets two milestones. If you have her on your active team during the mission where you face her father, and they come in contact with each other, she'll switch sides. She has now become the first, and so far only, character unit to be recruitable by the enemy. The second milestone she sets? If she has a strong enough Support bond with Mist or Lethe, they can re-recruit her back to the party after her Face–Heel Turn. So not only is she amazingly conflicted and a good unit, she's damn cute too.
    • Naesala, too. In Path of Radiance, he basically sells Reyson into slavery—with the intention of later freeing him, but the heroes beat him to it. He then later sneaks into Gritnea Tower disguised as a Daein soldier in order to save Leanne while the guards are occupied with fighting the heroes, but insists he's still not a good guy. Come Radiant Dawn, and he has betrayed the Laguz Alliance yet again, once more leading to death threats from Tibarn—but once again, he had a perfectly good reason for his actions; Kilvas was subject to a Blood Pact. Which, when you think about it, might explain his actions in Path of Radiance as well... (His time as a villain during that game starts at Chapter 13, when the heroes first cross into Begnion, and ends in Chapter 19, the last chapter before they cross into Daein. And Oliver, the slave trader he sold Reyson to, was a Begnion senator. All of his villainous actions could conceivably be traced back to his Blood Pact with Lekain.)
  • Some consider Drakuru from World of Warcraft to be one of these. Sure, he tries to zombify you against your will, but look at all the power serving the Big Bad got him! Why wouldn't he want to share it with his old friend the Unwitting Pawn? Besides, it's one of the cooler quest chains in an expansion filled with cool quest chains.
    • When his true intentions are revealed he definitely fits this trope: He tells you he's used you to bring the ice trolls under the sway of the Lich King, and gets transformed into a death knight as a reward. Then he thanks you for helping him and lets you go unharmed.
  • Zevran from Dragon Age: Origins is this Hell-Bent for Leather doused in fanservice. As the assassin who just tried to murder them, it takes a long time for the rest of the party to come to trust him and initially consider the Warden insane for sparing his life and letting him join the party.
  • Kanbe Kuroda of Sengoku Basara suffers from a bad case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and inevitably tries to seize power for himself against Ieyasu or Mitsunari. However, he suffers from a worse case of being a Cosmic Plaything and his determination to be The Starscream despite that makes Ieyasu state that he's impossible to despise.
  • Tales of Vesperia has Raven/Captain Schwann. Capped off when, to rescue one party member captured due to betrayal, every human party member present punches him in the gut. Later, it's revealed that said captured party member also punched him after the rescue, so as to not be left out.
  • The Medic from Team Fortress 2 is pretty seriously unhinged, and tends to make a lot of comments about murdering all of his teammates. However, he still likes all of them, and most of them are friendly with him as well. In the spin-off comics where he joins the mercenary group hunting down said teammates, eagerly expecting a bloodbath, and yet is genuinely surprised when people aren't happy to see him.
  • In Tyranny, Lantry is a Cool Old Guy, a useful White Mage, and a font of lore. But he's also The Quisling to Evil Overlord Kyros... which is fortunate for the Villain Protagonist player, also an agent of Kyros. Even so, a lot of other party members (most of them also eager servants of Kyros) are quick to muse that he may sell out the Overlord, and thus the player, just as readily, and he certainly knows more than he lets on.
  • Kirby: Marx and Magolor are two of Kirby’s so-called friends. Marx asked Kirby to stop the sun and moon from clashing, but all Marx wants is power, and lots of it! So Marx shoulder-bashes Kirby, sending the latter flying through space. Marx wishes to Nova that he wants to take over Pop Star, to which Nova grants, causing Marx to turn into a One-Winged Angel. Magolor asks Kirby, Meta Knight, Bandana Waddle Dee, and King Dedede to save his homeland, Halcandra, from a supposedly evil dragon named Landia. After defeating Landia, Magolor reveals that he only wanted the Master Crown, and also turns into a One-Winged Angel. Both Marx and Magolor were then defeated by the tough pink puff himself, and later reappeared as Dream Friends in Kirby Star Allies.


    Western Animation 
  • Bender from Futurama. Most of the time his "Kill all humans" isn't meant seriously. Although in "A Pharaoh to Remember" he loses the Lovable part and becomes The Quisling (and later, after he scams his way into becoming the new Pharaoh, Drunk with Power).
  • Legend of Korra: Oh, Varrick. He only gets more loveable after being put in prison. Nobody seems capable of holding any bitterness towards him, and he even makes up for it with a heartless war machine, Zhu Li (the battleship, not the cute assistant). Bolin definitely misses him and wishes he were there to lighten the mood.