In a world where getting Brainwashed by evil Applied Phlebotinum is a common occurrence, what's worse than seeing a teammate taken over by The Virus, subjected to some Demonic Possession, be Not Himself or act all Brainwashed and Crazy?
Finding out that they're not actually brainwashed (or crazy); they've genuinely joined The Dark Side by their own volition, or had a legitimate Freak Out! and their personality is as real as it is new. And you just can't bring them back the same way as you could with anyone else who was brainwashed, assuming you can bring them back at all.
This is often held back as a dramatic (and tragic) reveal after a long montage (or whole episode) of the heroes performing all manner of attempts to break whatever control the Big Bad has over this character. The reason it doesn't work? Because the Big Bad doesn't actually have any control over them to begin with; they insist they are Not Brainwashed, and they're right.
There's also the comedy option, where a character, having gone into a seemingly dangerous situation, finds out that it's actually not what it appears, while their allies (who haven't realized it) attempt to rescue them from the "brainwashing."
- In Magical Project S, turns out Pixy Misa wasn't a brainwashed persona, but the repressed aspects of Misao's personality.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta falls under Babidi's Majin control, which brings out the evil of whoever is placed under it and brings them under his control. After Goku tries to get him to snap out of it, Vegeta reveals that he's not truly under Babidi's control; he let himself be affected because he felt he was going soft, and knew Babidi could bring out his evil side and allow him to finally surpass Goku (however, this implies that he is at least partially under Babidi's influence, and when Babidi puts some effort into exercising it Vegeta has to muster a lot of his will to successfully resist it).
- Aizen's Zanpaktou can cast illusions that can fool anyone, if they have ever seen the sword using its power. However, Tousen is blind, thus unable to see the sword. It is then revealed that he joined Aizen of his own will.
- Played with in Orihime's case when she was kidnapped to Hueco Mundo. At first, everyone thinks Aizen mindwashed her, but actually she was forced to come along as to save her friends. Aizen then says she came of her own accord, and the less... brainy Espada try to twist this even more to say she is one of them, even trying to convince her about it as a part of the massive Break the Cutie process they're subjecting the poor girl to. Only for the lectures to be put down by Ichigo of all people.
- Kaiser in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. He's a champion of a game notorious for causing Split Personalities and Superpowered Evil Sides in players, and his Freak Out! and Evil Costume Switch take place during the More Than Mind Control arc, but in his case, he really just snapped after a humiliating loss. He tells his mentor, his best friend, and his brother that when they try to "cure" him by dueling him since Defeat Means Friendship: "There's no darkness inside me. I am not captured by darkness. I just want to know what brings out the power to win!" Originally, he was still a cold, aloof loner, but at least he had a strong sense of respect for his opponent. He eventually gets better.
- Another Yugioh example in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: the Bigger Bad - who corrupted humans with hatred and Fake Memories - was defeated, but the last Barian standing (Nash) was still intent on taking Yuma down. Understandably, Yuma refused to fight his friend, claiming he still was under the influence of the curse. But Nash explained his memories were not toyed with, that the real curse was his own, conscious vow to protect the Barian World at all costs, meaning their duel to the death was inevitable.
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam had Domon's mentor, Master Asia, turn against him. Domon didn't give this much thought at first, since he had seen many people become Brainwashed by the Devil Gundam before then, and was mighty displeased to discover that Master Asia was serving the Devil Gundam purely by choice.
- This trope appears in the last story arc of the live-action adaptation Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Queen Beryl, who up until this point has been brainwashing her four lieutenants, resigns herself to certain death and releases Jaedite from her spell, so he can escape. His personality doesn't change at all: he reveals that he's always been her willing servant, and he intends to remain by her side no matter what.
- In InuYasha, Sango's brother Kohaku is brought Back from the Dead with Easy Amnesia to work for Naraku. He kills women and children while under Naraku's influence, but then regains his faculties. His sister's attempts to "break" his brainwashing at this point convince him that the best way to protect her (and make up for what he's done) is to continue working for Naraku in order to find a way to permanently destroy him.
- Hellsing, Battle Butler Walter is seen de-aged and on the side of the Nazi Vampires. When Alucard fights him, everyone assumes that he's been brainwashed. While it's left slightly ambiguous, it's heavily implied that not only was he doing it all of his own free will, but he has been The Mole all along.
- In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, woobie Alone is chosen as the vessel for Hades and subsequently begins to kill everyone, planning to end all life on Earth. Turns out this has nothing to do with the influence of Hades, as he was never possessed; being chosen as the vessel for Hades simply gave him the power to execute a plan that was his own from the very beginning.
- In Duall Kazuki assumes that Mitsuki Sanada has been hypnotized to fight him since the same thing had happened to Mitsuki Rara earlier. Turns out that she had willingly agreed to help the Rara army so that they would help her and Kazuki return to their own world. Once she realizes how close she came to killing Kazuki and how dumb her choice was she keeps the truth to herself.
- In Shakugan no Shana, Yuji gets possessed by the Snake of the Festival. Shana tries to reach him and get him to fight it, until he reveals the Snake is not controlling him; they are partners. The Snake turns out to be Good All Along, and he and Yuji had a plan to permanently end the war, they just needed to be Well-Intentioned Extremist to do it.
- The Teen Titans Judas Contract Arc: Moreso in the comics than the cartoon, Beast Boy/Changeling initially hoped Terra was being brainwashed or manipulated somehow by Deathstroke/Slade before he could accept that her alliance with Slade was completely voluntary. In the cartoon, while she is manipulated by Slade, she is very voluntary about doing his dirty work for him. Having his own traumatic experience with Slade, Robin shares the hope that Slade's forcing her into it, and Terra has to spell it out for him: "I DON'T NEED SAVING! I'm not some sad little girl who's waiting to be rescued! I wanted to be this way! I wanted to go with Slade! I wanted to annihilate you and your pathetic friends!"
- In the 90s, when Colossus abandoned the X-Men for Magneto's Acolytes, his team-mates — specifically Wolverine—wanted to believe that he was under mind-control; Colossus immediately denied it and for a while it was the official explanation that he was not being compelled. Eventually Professor X decided that Colossus had committed this Face–Heel Turn because of an undiagnosed brain injury (he had a huge dent in his head at the time and was trapped in his armored form. This led to an Excalibur issue where Xavier has Colossus's ex-girlfriend trick him into coming back to Earth so they can abduct him, then treats the injury. It was specifically asked by one of the characters, "what do we do if he still wants to go back to the Acolytes after we heal him?" The answer turned out to be "we let him go back" and that's exactly what Colossus did. It was kind of refreshing. He remained an Anti-Villain with the Acolytes for a few years, real-time, which only ended when the Acolytes' space station was destroyed and the survivors got scattered across the Earth, forcing the team's disbandment.
- Not quite brainwashing, but Quicksilver had underwent a Face–Heel Turn (to Well-Intentioned Extremist) during- and served as the Big Bad of-House of M, and followed it up with a lot of, if not outright villainous, morally questionable and inherently selfish actions, such as stealing and unleashing the Terrigen Mists on the Earth in an effort to restore the powers of de-powered mutants. After Secret Invasion, when it emerged that several heroes and villains had been replaced by shape-shifting Skrulls, Quicksilver explained his previous actions by claiming that he has been replaced as well- cue a private moment with his Inhuman daughter, Luna, who points out that she is a Living Lie Detector and tells him she knows he is making it all up, and is guilty as sin.
- When Lucas Bishop first returned from the Future after his mad crusade to kill Hope failed and being left there by Cable, it first looked like as if he was possessed by the Demon Bear. However, it turned out that everything he did (including butchering billions of innocent people just to get Hope) was all him without any brainwashing. He just had a Heel Realization later.
- There's a variation in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, where the involved person never actually went evil. The Corps had suddenly vanished, with an unknown foe using their rings to pull them to the previous universe. Soranik Natu would have shared this fate, but her father Comic Book/Sinestro had forewarning of the event, and pulled off her ring just in the nick of time. She's inducted into the Sinestro Corps, which is trying to take the Green Lanterns' place as the universe's lawkeepers. The GL Corps eventually does make it back, but Soranik working with their greatest enemy looks very questionable. She has to explain that, no, she did not pull a Face–Heel Turn at all.
- Infinite Crisis: When the Big Bad is revealed, and explains what they've been doing to Power Girl, manipulating events behind the scenes for years, she takes it to mean that their manipulations are why Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been on the outs through the event. She's promptly told that nope, that's just their own fault.
- The Pony POV Series has this turn out to be the case with Rainbow Dash, who really did take Discord's Sadistic Choice. She only pretended to be Discorded and try to run from the others because Discord just drove Cloudsdale insane when she got there and she could bare to face the others. Applejack eventually finds out and acts as her Secret Keeper for awhile. Eventually, the guilt of it nearly causes her to go nightmare (and in one Alternate Universe, actually do so and become Nightmare Manacle) before the others snap her out of it and calm her down.
- Turns out to be the case with the Valeyard in Dark World. He's not the Discorded Doctor, he's a pure evil regeneration of him. The Doctor was Discorded, however, and Twilight's Memory Spell reverses it, allowing the Doctor to regenerate when they eventually kill off the Valeyard incarnation.
- Inverted with Dark World!Fluttercruel. It turns out she was born Discorded, something not even her father Discord was aware of. When she Body Surfs into Sparkler's body, Sparkler's memories of Derpy break the Discording, causing her to be capable of actually starting to think about whether or not her actions are wrong. She doesn't take this well.
- Double Subverted in that, after her brainwashing is broken, she continues to protect her father.
- In Faith and Doubt, after finding out the same source that turned Luna into NightMare Moon is behind Twilight's new aggressive behavior, the others assume he's brainwashed Twilight. It turns out this is pulled double. Not only is Twilight not brainwashed, neither was Luna. Allowing the eternal night to occur was against Doubt's wishes, and as such he abandoned her just before her battle with Celestia.
- D. Gray-man. Pretty much every Noah!Allen fanfiction in existence.
- Often used to bash the character who believes him to be an example of this trope.
- Or, to make said character appear to be naive or in denial.
- Used to the point that it's slowly becoming cliche.
- Often used to bash the character who believes him to be an example of this trope.
- In The Rise of Darth Vulcan, the eponymous character (whose real name is Ted) ends up in Equestria and is empowered by the Alicorn Amulet. After a fight with Rainbow Dash, the Mane 6 see him with the Amulet, and blast him with the Elements of Harmony, thinking he was corrupted. Since he wasn't corrupted, not only do the Elements not work, but he believes that the Mane 6 were trying to brainwash him, which only serves to fuel his anger.
- Implied in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse. In the Celestiaverse, it's stated that Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon was partially due to the influence of an alien presence (the Nightmare), and that the reason Luna could pull such a quick Heel–Face Turn was that the Elements purged the Nightmare from Luna. But given the fact that Corona rejected Luna's offer of redemption, this implies that Celestia was not effected by any external force, and became the Tyrant Sun entirely on her own.
- And in Crisis On Two Equestrias, when Trixie accidentally teleports herself to the Celestiaverse, she quite naturally assumes that the differences between the two universes are the result of Corona Mind Raping her friends. While her memory transfer spell is able to "restore" their Lunaverse memories, the Celestiaverse Elements of Harmony are not fooled.
- The Inquisitor, a Reaper from When There Was A Tomorrow boast that it did not require Indoctrination to bend The Covenant Leadership to its will. It instead pretended to be a Forerunner AI and exploited their religious fanaticism to forward its Evil Plan.
- Played with in The Ash with the ash ponies, the disease that turns ordinary ponies into ash ponies removes the influence of the Magic of Friendship from their brains and they treat ordinary ponies as having undergone Heel–Face Brainwashing.
- In The Shadow movie, Lamont Cranston assumes Dr. Reinhardt's assistant, Farley Claymore, has been telepathically controlled into helping Shiwan Khan, until he tries to snap him out of it and Claymore boasts he is helping Khan of his own free will, hoping to be rewarded with power. Given Cranston's earlier life as the vicious drug lord Yin-Ko, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and really should have considered that possibility.
- In Dragonheart, this is the main conflict—Bowen hates dragons because he's convinced that King Einon, whom he mentored as a child, only turned evil when he bound his heart with a dragon's to save his life. The viewer, however, can see that Einon was pretty messed up even before his injury; it just takes Bowen most of the movie to accept it.
- In Trader by Charles de Lint, Max Trader has involuntarily swapped bodies with another character. When his teenage neighbor Nia learns this, then sees her mother kissing another woman, she assumes her mother has been swapped too. Not so. Her mother is really a lesbian and just hasn't come out to her yet.
- Multiple examples in Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife series, due to Lakewalker magic having accidental beguilement as a common side effect.
- Fawn is constantly asked if the sorcerous Dag has beguiled her into marrying him, when they are really just in love.
- In Passage, Alder is not beguiled by the rogue Lakewalker.
- In Horizon, a halfbreed Lakewalker beguiles a farmer into loving and marrying her, only to learn that beguilement wears off over time and her husband is staying with her of his own free will.
- Bujold also plays the comedy situation for dramatics in Shards of Honor. Most of Beta Colony believes that Cordelia has been brainwashed by the Barrayarans, when she's really just in love with Admiral Vorkosigan.
- In Bujold's The Spirit Ring, sorcerers can attach the spirits of the recently deceased to inanimate objects and compel them to do their bidding. The heroine decides to skip the compulsion in favor of asking nicely, leading to an unexpected failure when the bad guy tries to destroy her animated statue:
Uri: You cannot release me. I am not bound.
- Kyp Durron in the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a rather ambiguous case. While he wasn't "brainwashed", he was certainly influenced mentally by Exar Kun. But it largely worked because Kun was telling Kyp what he wanted to hear, and it's never 100% clear how much was Kun and how much was Kyp. Using a superweapon to blow up the stars of Imperial-controlled systems as revenge for his life of slavery and the death of his family was all Kyp, though, which leads to some heated in-universe debates when other characters, particularly his mentor Luke Skywalker, point-blank refuse to believe he was responsible despite all the available evidence.
- Horribly subverted in World War Z where "Quislings", humans who pretend to be zombies (to the point of literally believing they are zombies) are just so much more zombie chow.
- Ruthlessly exploited in Harry Potter books: In the backstory, many of the Big Bad's willing supporters escaped prosecution for their crimes by claiming to have been under a mind control spell.
- Tarra from The Ancestor Cell, at least in Fitz's conception. He thinks she's led on by Kellen, but it's obvious she's leading the rich kids on and is the Man Behind the Man. Her "first name" is Mother, the title of a Faction Paradox agent, a vicious Cult engaging in Temporal Paradoxes and whose goal is to destroy the structure of time itself.
- In The Dresden Files, the Knights of the Blackened Denarius are a group of Fallen Angels that inhabit the Thirty Pieces of Silver. If a human picks up one of the coins, they expose themselves to the Fallen's influence. Most of these people are Mind Raped into submission, but a fair few of the coin holders are working with the Fallen on their own free choice, for various reasons.
- In Animorphs the world is being invaded by Puppeteer Parasites, but it's noted that a fair number of the human hosts actually agreed to be infested voluntarily, either because they're quislings or because they were just so depressed and alone that they would join any group that seemed to offer them kindness. Although it's implied even many of the "voluntary" Controllers didn't really know what they were getting themselves into, like Tobias in "Back to Before."
- In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew Diggory and Polly stumble upon a room of very realistic statues, along with a bell. A poem next to the bell challenges anyone who comes to ring it, and notes that if they don't, they'll have to spend the rest of their lives wondering what would have happened. Diggory rings it over Polly's objections, thus waking up the "statue" of the evil Queen Jadis. He tries to play this off like the poem was magic and forced him to do it, but under Aslan's scolding he admits that he was really just curious.
- A perfect example is Connor in Angel's fourth season. Jasmine has the power to enthrall anyone who sees her; only contact with her blood can break the spell, at which point the victim sees her true, horrific face. Fred is accidentally freed this way, and she manages to free the rest of the cast one by one. But when they try to cure Connor, he betrays them — turns out that due to their blood relationship, he's never been under Jasmine's spell. He's just so tired of fighting and being manipulated that he's willing to go along with her Utopia Justifies the Means thing.
- Another episode involved a boy who was apparently being possessed by a demon. When the demon is finally exorcised, he reveals that the boy was already more evil than he was: he was so evil, in fact, that he was not so much possessed by the demon as imprisoning him.
- After Wesley conspired to kidnap the baby Connor (and got his throat cut for his trouble) Angel visited him in hospital. Angel was at pains to stress that he was still Angel (and not the soul-less Angelus) before proceeding to try to smother him with a pillow.
- In a series fraught with Evil Twin and Brainwashed and Crazy Power Rangers, Power Rangers S.P.D. chose to break the chain and give us the A-Squad, a team of "elite" Rangers thought to have been lost in space (no pun intended), but had really faked their disappearance to voluntarily join with the Troobian army, believing it'll eventually crush the SPD and wanted to be on "the winning side" when it happened. All well and good...until a Canon Discontinuity in the Disney Adventures follow-up comic reversed it back to Brainwashed and Crazy...
- This Retcon does illustrate how it can often be hard to tell when somebody's really Not Brainwashed: somebody who really has been brainwashed is rather unlikely to say so, after all. If they did it would mean they were brainwashed really poorly.
- This is debatable as at the start of the season before they were captured, one of the B-Squad Rangers notes something is off about the A-Squad.
- On a lighter note, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers plays with this between Zedd and Rita. At first, she used a love potion. Later, Goldar will use a love potion antidote on Zedd. No effect. Goldar concludes to this trope, although it's possible that the antidote worked only on the love potion displayed in this episode, not on the one used fifteen episodes earlier.
- This Retcon does illustrate how it can often be hard to tell when somebody's really Not Brainwashed: somebody who really has been brainwashed is rather unlikely to say so, after all. If they did it would mean they were brainwashed really poorly.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Worf and the legendary Klingon warrior Kor find an ancient heirloom which has the power to create a new golden age for the Klingon Empire. As the episode unfolds, they become increasingly at odds with one another over who should be the one to present it to the Empire, and even who gets to carry it. The fans were expecting some kind of silly tech explanation for this behavior (i.e. that the artifact was brainwashing them), but no - it was just ordinary jealousy and petty macho posturing. Is this trope therefore Truth in Television, do you think?
- In The Vampire Diaries, Stefan believes this is why he and Damon fell for Katherine. Damon disagrees, and tells Stefan he was never compelled (he would know, since the compulsion would have worn off once he became a vampire himself) and knew she was an evil, murderous vampire... but did not know she was having sex with Stefan as well as him. Katherine herself says that she only took away Stefan's fear, which seems to be the truth. She's never shown telling him, under compulsion, to love her. And let's be honest, his reaction to seeing her vamp face was the base caveman reaction of fear of something he didn't understand.
- In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Making Friends and Influencing People", Ward, a HYDRA mole who betrayed the team in Season 1, reveals during an interrogation that HYDRA sometimes uses Mind Control to force people to join them, but Ward quickly makes clear he was never brainwashed and everything he's done was of his own free will. Downplayed though since he was recruited and conditioned as a troubled young teen by charismatic sociopath John Garrett, so technically he fits the more traditional real-world definition of "brainwashed" by being a victim of indoctrination, which puts him in a murky gray area even after he starts pursuing more selfish end goals for himself (since he's clearly Ax-Crazy and not entirely sane from a combination of that and an abusive childhood).
- In 2011, TNA had a lesbian love triangle storyline where Winter used a Love Potion to make Angelina Love dump Velvet Sky and hook up with her instead, while viciously assaulting Velvet. Eventually, Angelina reveals that she's snapped out of it, but loves Winter anyway and genuinely wants to hurt Velvet.
- In Warcraft III most Orcs believed their enslavement to the Burning Legion was forced on them by Gul'dan. Grom revealed that the chieftains had willingly accepted the Legion's offers of power in exchange for serving them, with Grom being the most eager.
- There is also one in World of Warcraft. The players are sent to assassinate Emperor Dagran Thaurissan, the Evil Emperor of the Dark Iron and rescue the captive Princess Moira Bronzebeard. It however turned out that she took a liking to him and the two were Happily Married with a child on the way, much to the player's surprise.
- In the Stonecore, there's a rock giant that you're tasked by Therazane to kill named Ozruk. At first, she sent agents to free him from whatever magic binds him to this Twilight's Hammer dungeon. "No such magic was placed upon him."
- One theory about Garrosh Hellscream's increasing aggression was some form of mind control, but like his father it turned out to be a simple desire for power and conquest with little thought to the consequences.
- In EarthBound, Ness's "friend" Pokey is often seen with brainwashed humans, even claiming to have been brainwashed and subsequently freed following the Happy Happy Village incident. Halfway through the game, he finally just flat out admits that he is actually working for Giygas of his own volition.
- In Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, much of the early plot revolves around surviving members of the "School" on the opposing side trying to "save" one of your pilots from obvious brainwashing. Of course, she's on your side entirely by choice, and they're the ones undergoing brainwashing.
- Kamen Rider Decade; on DiEnd's world it turns out that Junichi is working for the villain and is not under his control as everyone has believed.
- In Suikoden I: The Big Bad of the game has most of the empire's soldiers under her Mind Control, and everyone (including her) thinks she has the king under that power, too. At the very end of the game, though, he reveals that he was never really under her control, and was acting the way he did because he genuinely loved her.
- In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, this trope was used when Kain - who was repeatedly brainwashed in the first game - insists that he is acting under his own volition when he attacks several of his former allies. It is later discovered that he wasn't brainwashed at all... He was an Enemy Without
- In Mega Man Battle Network 5 a signal that makes people aggresive starts spreading out and the player (immune via Plot Coupon) must shut the signal in each area down, usually meaning he has to fight his teammates first. One of the fights, however (Charlie in Team Protoman, Dusk in Team Colonel) reveals that the character wasn't affected, he just wanted to fight Lan.
- In Xenoblade, while Mumkhar probably was brainwashed (since he was Reforged into a Minion), anything about attacking his former allies and stealing the Monado was redundant. To prove his point, he threatens to kill Fiora a second time, despite the fact that she had been turned into a Face like him, just to torment Dunban.
Dickson: You can quit your bellyaching! I'm in total control! I've always been like this! Ever since long before any of you lot were born!
- Additionally, when Dickson is revealed to have been Evil All Along, several of the party members initially believe Zanza has him brainwashed, telling him to snap out of it. He quickly shoots this down:
- In the Assassin's Creed II "Bonfire of the Vanities" DLC, Ezio must assassinate a number of Savonarola's assistants who shout his propaganda from rooftops and high walls. One of them turns out to be a true believer without the influence of the Apple. He laughs at Ezio for thinking that the Apple is the only way to make people believe something.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom has several of Yugi's actual friends brainwashed into enemy roles in the in-universe video game. Bakura attacks under similar circumstances... and turns out to be his evil alter ego. Act surprised.
- Michalis of Fire Emblem Akaneia killed his own father, took the throne of Macedon and ruled as a power-hungry tyrant. When his sister Minerva finds him Not Quite Dead in the sequel, she assumes he was brainwashed by Gharnef. (And since Gharnef brainwashed at least two other characters into being evil, she's right to be suspicious.) Turns out he was a case of this trope, Gharnef had in fact used More Than Mind Control, playing on his ambition and desire to improve Macedon's standing in the world. The Face–Heel Turn was completley genuine. Of course, this also means he's able to pull a genuine Heel–Face Turn later.
- This is basically the biggest plot twist of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones if you choose to follow Ephraim's path. Turns out Lyon was never possessed by the Demon King. He simply summoned his soul by using dark magic, drew power from it and then pretended to have been possessed in order to easily control his followers. Of course, at the very end, upon Lyon's defeat, the Demon King's soul does end up truly taking over, and implying that he let Lyon get away with what he was doing because it was good for his plans too. None of this happens if you choose to follow Eirika's path. In this latter version, Lyon really was possessed the whole time.
- This happens again in Fire Emblem Heroes. Most Heroes are forced into the service of the Emblian Empire by being placed under a contract that makes them fight for them. Xander, on the other hand, decides to continue to follow the Emblians even after he is released from his contract because he believes Big Bad Princess Veronica is just a lonely girl that he needs to help.
- Halfway through Dragon Quest VIII, the heroes find out that the supposed Big Bad Dhoulmagus was actually possessed by the spirit of Rapthorne contained within his scepter. This force possesses several other characters over the course of the game, so when Marcello picks up the scepter and imprisons the heroes, and they hear that the Lord High Priest is dead and Marcello has taken over the church, they naturally suspect he's the latest victim. As it turns out, Marcello resisted the possession and killed the Lord High Priest of his own free will, for Ambition Is Evil reasons. It's possibly he was still being influenced, albeit more subtly than the other holders of the scepter.
- In Macross 30: The Voice that Connects the Galaxy, a number of heroic characters are found to be brainwashed to fight for the Big Bad. It's therefore a surprise to see that Shin Kudo is not. He's fighting for the enemy of his own will. His reasons turn out to be because the Big Bad told him what happens to Earth at the end of the Zentraedi War, and he's desperate to prevent that from happening. Understandable that he'd feel this way: he's the only heroic pilot from before the Zentraedi War, and thus the only one who never imagined such a thing could happen, while for everyone else it's simply a fact of history.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE: Until chapter 5, the party deals with artists who've been brainwashed into a state of insanity by powerful Mirages. Towards the end of chapter 5, they face Yatsufusa and they assume he's brainwashed like everyone else before him. But no, he's fully aware of his actions and is working with the Mirages of his own free will; he's completely insane and wants to destroy the world because he thinks that'd be the greatest form of entertainment.
- In Resident Evil 7: biohazard, it is slowly revealed that the Hillbilly Horrors you meet are in fact Brainwashed and Crazy. Except for the Psychopathic Manchild Lucas. He turns out to have been already a murderer even before all of this, and just hangs around after escaping the brainwashing for the perks.
- Ys: Memories of Celceta uses this trope, although not particularly sanely. The Bad Guys start kidnapping villagers and making them wear magic masks which gives them super-strength and also makes them obey their new masters. And the sub-boss is the village chief's son Remnos. Oh no! He was clearly mind-controlled too! ...actually he was just faking it, and only got the super-strength from the mask, because he was nebulously awesome and good at everything, including resisting mind control? (Also awesome at fighting, art, music, scholarship. He was just hiding his true talents the whole time to... not shame his elder sister with how awesome he was in comparison.) Why he went along with the bad guys plan which involved wounding and stealing from the villagers (including his father!), and why the bad guys let him keep tagging along after he reveals he wants to "help" them of his own free will, is a question better less unasked. The narrative treats Remnos as a Good Guy spy of course rather than a villain... despite this not really happening...
- Disgaea 5 Alliance Of Vengeance: It is revealed that The Dragon to Big Bad Void Dark, General Bloodis, is none other than Noble Demon martial arts master Goldion, having been defeated and brainwashed into servitude by Void, his own son. Luckily, Goldion's students Killia and Zeroken manage to master the "final technique" of his teachings, Avidya Holy Water, which has the power to break him free. And it doesn't work, Bloodis stays loyal to Void. They try again, but still he remains Bloodis. However, it is eventually revealed that they did break him free the first time; Goldion simply pretended to still be evil in order to secretly help the rebels and act as a Stealth Mentor.
- Mega Man X4: In a series where Reploids regularly get infected by the Sigma Virus and turn violent, the entirety of Repliforce as well as (possibly) Magma Dragoon are Mavericks that are not infected. Sigma just managed to play their attitudes to his advantage in order to incite their Maverick behaviour on their own accord — Magma Dragoon was tempted by Sigma into destroying the Sky Lagoon on the notion that it would goad X or Zero into fighting him (he really wanted to fight and defeat them), and Colonel refused to get Repliforce to stand down after being suspected in involvement with the Sky Lagoon incident, causing the main conflict of the plot to occur.
- The final arc of It's Walky! deals with several mind-controlled former teammates... and one who, it turns out, switched sides by choice.
"He wasn't hypnotised, merely disgruntled."
- In Erfworld, Jillian concludes that Wanda rejects her urging to desert Stanley because she is bound by a loyalty spell. When an ally with spell-detecting abilities informs her that Wanda is not under any loyalty spells, she flatly refuses to believe it. But she comes around for the most part when Wanda tries to kill her, though.
- In The Order of the Stick #640, after Vaarsuvius takes great pleasure in killing an opponent (and their entire extended family) it is revealed that the Deal with the Devil they made had no effect on their alignment or actions— essentially, the character merely revealed their true self. The character was told the spell could affect their alignment, with the implication that this was done to give an excuse for indulging their own darkest impulses.
- At the end of chapter three in Cucumber Quest, the "Roselings"—little plant-minions whom the Guardener had been brainwashed from his own Guardlings—reveal that they served Rosemaster willingly, because she was much nicer than the Guardener was. (And also that he wasn't their master in the first place; he'd just shown up and started bossing them around.) Cucumber gives them Rosemaster's Disaster stone, effectively her remains, so they can look after it.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-804 was investigated up and down for any possible memetic properties that could've driven its operators to keep it going, even as it destroyed them and everything they had made, slowly and methodically unmaking man and everything man had made in the growing vicinity. But after some time, the researcher in charge realized there wasn't anything notable, nothing that'd drive someone to kill humanity or keep operating it no matter what. As such, he's forced to conclude the real reason these people, these activists and artists that had created this thing or at least were part of the group that did, had tried to use it to wipe all traces of humanity from Earth was that they just wanted to do so.
- In the Justice League episode "The Brave and the Bold", Gorilla Grodd uses a mind control helmet as his main weapon. Once it's broken, it turns out that the scientist who was assisting him was in love with him all along.
Flash: Internet romances huh? Go figure.
- In the pilot episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, our hero is surprised to find his ex-partner Warp Darkmatter is not only alive, but working for the Big Bad. Unable to accept that his buddy was Evil All Along, Buzz offers several tried-and-true possible explanations:
Buzz: But how... of course! Amnesia!
Buzz: Evil clone.
Buzz: Android replica!
- As Warp himself points out, with a name like "Darkmatter", how could he not be a villain?
- In American Dragon: Jake Long, Spud makes a deal with an evil Gorgon who claims that she will make his cheerleader crush Stacy fall in love with him. And when Stacy does decide she likes Spud, he thinks that it's because of this supposed "love spell," even though she continues to act far more fickle than you'd think someone truly under a love spell would act. In the end, like any other Deal with the Devil, Spud has to break off his alliance with the Gorgon, and prepares himself for Stacy to break up with him now that she's not enchanted anymore. But Spud is relieved to find that there was never a love spell, and Stacy was Not Brainwashed.
- But that would mean that the Gorgon lied to Spud and broke her end of the deal.
- In the Ben 10: Alien Force episode "Above And Beyond", the Plumbers' Helpers thought Ben was Brainwashed and Crazy when he raoded an attack on them and Max in a satellite station. Except that he wasn't, he was only acting to test their skills of teamwork
- Transformers: Beast Machines:
- Optimus Primal believes that Megatron has brainwashed Rhinox and turned him into the villainous Tankor. While technically correct - he was brainwashed at first - after his spark is awakened, Tankor continues to oppose Optimus, as he has grown disillusioned with him after the failure of the Beast Wars.
- An interesting variation was Silverbolt, who was originally an intensely noble paladin-type and got brainwashed by Megatron into Jetstorm. When he was eventually freed of the brainwashing, however, he was quite upset - he had actually found it liberating to be freed of his own strict code of honor. He decided not to be re-brainwashed when he had the opportunity later, however.
- Comedy-relief punching bag Waspinator got brainwashed into the motorcycle-based Thrust. When he was finally freed of his brainwashing he was quite upset as well, since "biker-bot was cool!" and he liked being cool for a change.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man:
- When Peter learns that the symbiote has bonded to Eddie Brock (who is like a brother to him in this continuity just like in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics), he thinks that it's corrupting Eddie like it tried to do to him and begs him to fight its influence. Eddie responds by saying that he's not being controlled, he just shares the symbiote's desire to destroy Peter (the symbiote wants to kill Peter because he rejected it, and Eddie wants to kill him because Peter's actions indirectly screwed Eddie over). Eventually Eddie reveals that he's always resented Peter, because even though their parents died in the same accident, Peter was taken in by his aunt and uncle, and Eddie ended up all alone... until now. That being said, as it had already been established that the symbiote can and does affect the character of whoever wears it by bringing out their dark side, it is possible that Eddie was simply in denial- while he may indeed have unconsciously resented Peter for all those reasons, it is likely that the symbiote exaggerated and played upon it while smothering the more genuinely positive feelings towards him that he had displayed earlier in the series. Humans Are Flawed, after all.
- Played with in Batman: Under the Red Hood. Given his background, Jason Todd proposes this is what's causing him to cross the line but he himself doesn't seem totally sure, as the Lazarus Pit's influence on his mind could also be to blame (the Pit's side effect is to induce madness in the subject).
- Batman puts forward that he knew Jason was going to be dangerous someday. That's why Batman made him Robin, to try and keep him on the straight and narrow.
- The Dresden Files, when Bob the Skull tries to get Harry to let him out for a night:
Harry Dresden: No way. Last time I let you out, you got into a frat party and started an orgy.Bob the Skull: I didn't do anything another couple of kegs of beer wouldn't have done!
- The Angry Beavers "Zooing Time": The supposedly brainwashed Norbert is genuinely disappointed at being rescued from a zoo, because he actually likes it, but Daggett thinks that he's saying that because he was brainwashed. (And he's taking responsibility for getting Norb sent to the zoo to begin with.)
- Same goes in Codename: Kids Next Door, "Operation: C.O.L.L.E.G.E.", with Nigel participating in snow cone research.
- In the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "HunkaHunka", Lilo's friend Keoni has a crush on Pleakley (in his horrible disguise as a human woman). Lilo, Stitch, and Jumba are quick to blame the Monster of the Week, but no, he actually does have a crush on Pleakley. (For context: Pleakley has green skin, one eye and three legs.)
- On South Park, Henrietta herself believes that she's been brainwashed to turn from a Goth to an Emo (which is totally different!) It turns out to be a prank done by a reality TV show, with Henrietta being suggestible enough to fall for it. Seeing how embarrassed she is, her friends play along with the idea that she really was mind controlled. In the same episode, Firkle turns out to be The Mole rather than even fake-brainwashed, though he wasn't in on the prank either.