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Minion Manipulated into Villainy

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"Wow. That guy's like a misguided henchman for a charismatic supervillain just waiting to happen."

A minion who is extremely loyal to their dark master. Perhaps they firmly believe in their master's cause due to a past tragedy that made them see their master's point of view. Maybe they lost everything and their master aided them in their time of need. Whatever the case, their Undying Loyalty knows no bounds and they'll do whatever they can to fulfill their boss's ambitions.

But, what's this? It turns out that their boss is the one who orchestrated their Dark and Troubled Past to drive them into their master's clutches in the first place! Their boss played them!

This is a cruel tactic by Chessmasters to gain Unwitting Pawns. Whether they're the one who destroyed one's Doomed Hometown, orchestrated their ostracism from society, or took away that person's loved ones, afterwards they would appear to their victim as a kind benefactor who offered them revenge, a chance to regain what they lost, or an idea to make the world a better place, with the unknowing sap becoming their most loyal servant out of gratitude and debt.

Why the villain chooses that particular person to manipulate varies. They could possess certain skills that the villain needs. They could be the most easily manipulated person the villain found. Or, perhaps the villain just picked them at random; anyone would've sufficed and this poor schmuck just happened to have the bad luck of being chosen.

Naturally, when the servant finds out that their life was ruined and their ideals planted into them by the one person they thought they could trust, you can expect things like a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, the servant screaming You Monster!, and perhaps pulling a Heel–Face Turn to aid the heroes in defeating the villain.

Whether or not the servant's rebellion leads to The Dog Bites Back varies. Sometimes, it can lead to Redemption Equals Death. Other times, the servant manages to survive and goes off to start rebuilding their life the right way.

For cruelty, however, the servant might not even get the chance to fight back against the one who destroyed their life, experiencing a Heel–Face Door-Slam when they attempt to rebel, either by a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness once their master's secret is out, or a Villain Override: the villain destroying what independence they had left and turning them into a mindless servant to ensure their continued loyalty.

Sometimes a villain isn't even bothered by the fact that their secret has been revealed; they might even decide to reveal it themselves as part of a Break Them by Talking speech, mocking the servant's inability to figure out the truth, calling the servant a fool that they were able to easily manipulate, and just plain rubbing it in their face what they did. Whether or not this backfires on the villain varies.

This is one possible path that The Corrupter may take. Often a dark twist on Because You Were Nice to Me. Sometimes the case for a character who was Recruited from the Gutter. Compare Forced into Evil and Trapped in Villainy where a servant is not-so-subtly made to do their boss's bidding. Also compare Poison and Cure Gambit based on the method of the villain's manipulation. Contrast Brainwashed and Crazy where a villain uses more direct methods to turn a person into their servant. Reforged into a Minion has a similar situation, where a villain recruits someone who is near death, though the two can overlap if it's revealed the villain was behind the events that nearly got the servant killed. May overlap with Treacherous Advisor or Evil Mentor. If a minion chooses to remain with their master in spite of learning the truth, it leads into a case of Sunk Cost Fallacy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: The Dark Magical Girl Lutecia works for the Big Bad Jail Scaglietti on the condition that he helps her mother, who has fallen into a coma in an incident several years ago. What Jail doesn't tell her is that he was behind said incident and is actually keeping Lutecia's mom in an artificial coma to continue using her daughter's prodigious summoning skills for his nefarious plans. When the truth is revealed to Lutecia late in the series, she promptly deserts Scaglietti's cause, and her mother wakes up soon after she is rescued from Scaglietti's lab.
  • Naruto:
    • In Naruto the Movie: Legend of the Stone of Gelel, the main villain Haido manipulated Temujin into becoming his minion who claims that Utopia Justifies the Means - no matter what happens to him or others. Thankfully, by the end, the villain is defeated and Temujin is in charge of his own destiny.
    • In the proper storyline itself in the manga and anime, it turns out that Madara actually orchestrated Obito's fall from grace by having Rin die on purpose and organizing it so that Obito would witness this happening.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • In the first anime, during the climax of the "Waking The Dragons" arc, it's revealed that Dartz was behind the tragedies of his three servants that drove them to join him: he posed as Kaiba's stepfather and used his tanks to kill Alister's brother, he burnt down Valon's orphanage home and pinned the blame on the criminals that Valon would beat up over it, causing him to spend the majority of his life in prison, and was the one that caused the ship that Rafael's family was on to encounter a storm that resulted in him being stranded on an island and his family drowning. Upon learning the truth, Rafael was naturally and rightfully enraged, which unfortunately was what Dartz wanted as it allowed the Seal of Orichalcos to absorb his soul.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Bommer blamed the destruction of his village on Rex Godwin, due to a Momentum accident that he covered up. His drive for revenge was taken advantage of by the Dark Signers who recruited him. During Bommer's duel with Crow, upon summoning his Earthbound God, he discovered that the souls of everyone from his village was inside it, making him realize that his village's destruction wasn't caused by the Momentum accident, but by the Earthbound Gods, meaning that everything that had lead to him becoming a Dark Signer was manipulated by the beings he now served.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, the Seven Barian Emperors were once legendary heroes that had inherited the 'Number' cards which had sealed away Don Thousand. Don Thousand used what power he had left to orchestrated the tragic end of these heroes before resurrecting them as his generals, with their memories of their past lives corrupted.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Haazheel Thorne orchestrates the apparent murder of Wismerhill's long-lost father in a False Flag Operation to make the Empire of Lynn appear responsible. When Haazheel offers him an opportunity for revenge, Wismerhill joins the Sorcerous Overlord's army and becomes one of his most useful assets in the war against Emperor Haaghendorf. Wis later discovers the truth when his real father shows up to inform his son how Haazheel has been manipulating him all along.
  • A disturbing version in The Boys, where the Homelander's sociopathy is revealed to have been orchestrated by his clone Black Noir, in a severe case of Unfulfilled Purpose Misery. Black Noir was created as a contingency to take down the Homelander, but when that didn't happen, Black Noir started committing atrocities unmasked and sending the pictures to Homelander. Homelander, thinking that he was doing those things, ended up going the Then Let Me Be Evil route... requiring Black Noir to take him out, just as planned.
  • The French comic Chinaman has the protagonist work as a bodyguard/enforcer for an amoral Cantonese merchant out of gratitude for the merchant saving his father from total bankruptcy. He later learns the merchant caused the bankruptcy in the first place.
  • In order to make his daughter, Rose Wilson, an apprentice, Deathstroke had hired an assassin to kill her adoptive parents, so that he could offer to teach her how to avenge them.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Prior to her Heel–Face Turn Paula von Gunther used manipulation, brainwashing and More than Mind Control to convert numerous US citizens into Nazi spies.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Faust: Love of the Damned: John Jaspers is motivated to make his Deal with the Devil with M after his girlfriend is violently and pointlessly murdered by a group of criminals. However, these criminals were working on M's orders in the first place, as his Evil Plan required a man overcome by despair to agree to his offer of demonic powers and become M's instrument of death.
  • Star Wars: Darth Sidious created many of the circumstances that would lead heroic Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side to become Darth Vader. Chief among them was that Sidious became the father figure in his life that he sorely needed, allowing him to plant doubts and fears into his mind as needed. He fueled Anakin's ego and lust for power, ostracizing him from the Jedi, and by the time Anakin was ripe for his clutches at the lowest moment of his life, when his wife was in danger, Palpatine revealed himself as the Sith Lord and promised to help save her. After tricking Anakin into inadvertently getting Jedi Master Mace Windu killed, Anakin had no choice but to side with Sidious as the Jedi would shun him for his actions. After that, it is heavily implied that Sidious kills Anakin's wife Padmé and makes Anakin think he's responsible, destroying Anakin's soul and ensuring his eternal loyalty.
  • Zangief, the Dumb Muscle in Street Fighter, is this to M. Bison, as he genuinely believes that Bison is doing everything to help the world. He's stunned when Deejay reveals that he got paid.

  • Star Wars Legends: In The Thrawn Trilogy, the Noghri worship Darth Vader as the semi-divine protector of their planet because he prevented their extinction after a major ecological catastrophe. The heroes later learn that this catastrophe was actually caused by a space battle above the planet during the Clone Wars, and that Vader manipulated the Noghri into eternal Undying Loyalty to him by pretending to be helping them; the droids sent to restore their vegetation were actually slowing it to keep the Noghri dependent. Once they learn this, the Noghri turn on the Imperials.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Ciaphas Cain: Inquisitor Killian convinced an order of Sisters of Battle to assist him in stealing archeotech from the Mechanicus to aid in his Well-Intentioned Extremist plan (using a device that amplifies psychic potential in people in order to use the powers of Chaos against it, difficult enough with just the one-in-a-billion psykers who're already at risk of falling to Chaos). Once Inquisitor Vail explains the situation (and how it led to a Tyranid invasion of their world), they make amends by helping to arrest him and sacrificing themselves to destroy the Tyranids.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Victor from Burn Notice was an American spy whose family was killed on the same day that he was "burned", that is, blacklisted from doing spy work and completely cut off from any CIA resources. He was later recruited by an organization made up of other burned spies and rogue personnel. Sometime after that he learned that the group had orchestrated all of this to add him to their ranks.
  • In Juken Sentai Gekiranger, Leo's family was killed by an unknown monster, driving him to become strong so he'd never feel weak and helpless like that again. Years later, he was approached by Long, who offered to give him more power than he ever imagined. It's eventually revealed that Long was the monster that killed Leo's family, orchestrating every decision Leo made throughout his life in order to turn him into the Destroyer. Leo is naturally devastated that his life's goal wasn't his own decision.
  • Michael from Nikita worked for Percy because Percy promised that Division was Michael's best chance to get revenge on the terrorist that killed his family. It turned out that the terrorist was a Division agent working on Percy's orders. In this case, Percy's original plan wasn't to manipulate Michael, it was to kill him so his agent could infiltrate a terrorist cell, but when Michael survived and his family died, Percy saw an opportunity to recruit him.
  • Power Rangers Ninja Storm: In their initial appearance, Hunter and Blake, the Thunder Rangers, sided with Lothor's forces because they believed that the Wind Rangers' Sensei had murdered their parents. Just as they were about to take their revenge, however, the spirits of their mother and father appeared before them and told them the truth: that Lothor was the one who killed them. Considering Lothor was the one who told Blake and Hunter that Sensei was responsible, the Rangers thought they were being foolish to believe him.
  • Supernatural: In season 5, Lucifer convinces Nick, a man overcome with despair after his wife and child were murdered, to become his earthborn vessel. This seems random until in season 14 it's revealed that Lucifer ordered one of his demons, Abraxas, to target his family to get Nick in the right state of mind to agree to the archangel's offer. However, in spite of this revelation, by this point Nick is so fraught with Stockholm Syndrome that he still continues to search for Lucifer and serve him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Age of Apostasy was caused by Goge Vandire letting his concentrated power go to his head and using his Amazon Brigade (the Brides of the Emperor) to enforce his will. Alicia Dominica (the leader of the Brides) was taken before the God-Emperor himself so she would understand just how badly she'd been misled. Retaking their former name of Daughters of the Emperor (the proto-Sisters of Battle), she confronted and executed Goge herself.
    • The Tome of Decay mentions how people often turn to Chaos God Nurgle, the Plaguefather, in order to survive grave illnesses. Of course Nurgle bestowed such diseases upon them in the first place, but by the time they find out, his new cultists are already indoctrinated enough to be happy about it (because it mean their god chose them) rather than angry.
    • Ogryns are abhumans with childlike faith and obedience to the God-Emperor, to the point where most Ogryn rebellions aren't so much treason as someone telling the Ogryns "the Emperor is angry with those loyalists".

    Video Games 
  • Dawn of War II:
    • In Retribution, Captain Diomedes suffers a Heroic BSoD after he finally receives irrefutable proof that Chapter Master Kyras has fallen to Chaos. As his right-hand-man for centuries, the many He Knows Too Much purges and other silencing actions Diomedes believed to be for the good of the Chapter were in fact meant to cover up Kyras's misdeeds.
    • Avitus (the canon traitor in Chaos Rising) had a similar reaction, although he actually went along with it until his Suicide by Cop at the end.
  • Damien in MapleStory. He Used to Be a Sweet Kid, but was manipulated by Arkarium into believing that he killed his mother and destroyed his hometown with his budding demonic powers. He joins the Black Mage's army to control his new powers, but quickly becomes Drunk on the Dark Side and one of the Black Mage's most powerful commanders. He learns the truth during the Heroes of Maple storyline when Arkarium tries to steal the Transcendence of Life from him. Damien doesn't take it well.
  • In the Mortal Kombat franchise, Quan Chi disguised himself as Sub-Zero and murdered Hanzo Hasashi (the future Scorpion)'s clan and family in order to manipulate him into serving him. When Scorpion finds out, he never takes it well.
  • Starcraft II: In Wings of Liberty, Donny Vermillion is unapologetically supportive of Mengsk, continuously throwing shade at Raynor for his anti-Dominion actions (and for making the Dominion look bad, such as helping refugees abandoned by the Dominion). Then after Mengsk's role in the Zerg invasion of Tarsonis years earlier is revealed (by planting a psychic beacon there, ensuring the Zerg would swarm the planet, taking out a major Confederate bastion), Donny's next newscast shows him mid-Heroic BSoD, muttering that he had a brother on Tarsonis. He disappears after that, getting committed to a mental ward after he was found in nothing but his socks, Emperor Mengsk's manifesto, and a jar of peanut butter.
  • In The World Ends with You, during the second week, Beat becomes a Reaper (essentially a cross between a psychopomp, GM, and Punch-Clock Villain) and attacks Neku (even breaking the rules to do so) because it's the only chance he has to get his sister, Rhyme, returned back to human form after she was erased by the actions of the other Reapers in the first week.

  • In Apocalyptic Horseplay Lucy, the Devil's secretary, reveals that Lady Babel, one of the more devout members of a holy organization dedicated to wiping out evil, is being manipulated to further their plans since Babel assume the being she prays to, Meteron, is a holy figure when really it the devil in disguise, furthered by taking the form of her deceased comrade who was killed mid-story. If that wasn't bad enough, the head of the council, Ozzam, whom she is very loyal to and has been keeping alive with her powers reveals he's a disguised Heinrich Himmler, one of the worst recorded Nazis in history.
  • While this strip of El Goonish Shive provides the page quote, Elliot is not (as-yet, anyway) such a minion. It didn't prevent Susan from calling "dibs" though.

    Western Animation