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Poisonous Friend

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"You put fire to everything you touch, McNulty, and then you walk away while it burns!"
Lester Freamon, The Wire

A character defined both by their obsessive loyalty towards a target character and by their vastly divergent (and comparatively "cynical") moral code.

The Poisonous Friend is usually attached to an Ideal Hero or an Anti-Villain. They tend to consider their "master" a person to be worshipped or protected at all costs — and they may accomplish this through actions that the master would not knowingly permit.


For example, if the master is a Fettered Actual Pacifist or a Noble Demon who is completely against killing his enemies, the Poisonous Friend might pay lip-service to this trait while the master is nearby... and then turn around and butcher the enemy behind the master's back. If caught, they'll claim they just "did what had to be done". Few masters catch on.

Sometimes the master's influence gets through to the Poisonous Friend, with varying results. In other cases, the Poisonous Friend continues to pose a danger both to the master's other friends (through jealousy) and to the enemy. The Love Interest, Living Emotional Crutch, and the Morality Chain is in particular danger of the Poisonous Friend if they suspect them of making the master "vulnerable".

Though sometimes introduced as anti-heroes or turncoats from the other side, they cease to be those things because they place their fundamental loyalty upon the shoulders of their "master". Basically they become a good guy's secretly-evil minion, or a bad guy's much-badder sidekick.


This character is often used when writers don't want to stain the "innocent" master's hands, but still need a way to deal with those pesky defeated enemies. Even friends who have been explicitly told to behave or otherwise decided to hold back can still function in this regard if they have done something bad or really bad enough to intimidate the villains. If a particularly noble and idealistic hero cannot wrong anyone, but has a particularly cruel and ruthless poisonous friend, the villain may hesitate to take advantage of that hero's idealism and kill him out of fear of what his buddy's response could be.

The name of this trope comes from a song by the band Seabound.

See also Toxic Friend Influence (when their behavior actually starts to rub off on the hero), Psycho Sidekick, Token Evil Teammate (when the hero retains their own morals, but still knowingly tolerates what this character gets up to) and The Creon (when the character is the hero's second-in-command).


Contrast: Psycho Supporter, The Only One Allowed to Defeat You, Loony Fan, Token Evil Teammate, Shoot the Dog, Overzealous Underling, Underling with an F in PR. Compare Big Bad Friend. Not to be confused with Poisonous Person, in which someone is literally poisonous, though they can be combined. Also not to be confused with False Friend, in which one deceives another as being their friend, only to have an ulterior motive to do so. A Mysterious Backer might turn out to be one of these.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in The Twelve Kingdoms: In the last arc, Kouya initially appears to be a Poisonous Friend to his leader, Atsuyu; he murders dissidents regularly and claims to have "exiled" them when Atsuyu, who is presented in a positively saintly light, asks. However, Atsuyu is revealed to be a Manipulative Bastard who abuses Kouya's extreme loyalty to get away with atrocities while keeping his own hands clean.
  • Death Note: Misa is unwaveringly faithful and supportive of Light Yagami — and also much cruder and more indiscriminate in her use of the Death Note, which Light considers an insult to his goal of punishing only criminals.
    • Mikami's even worse, killing exactly a page a day but killing reformed criminals and those that Light thought were redeemable or innocent.
  • Code Geass has a pseudo-sibling version of the trope in Rolo, who has an obsessive devotion to his "brother" Lelouch... so much that he wants to prevent Lelouch from reuniting with his real sibling, and murders Lelouch's possible love interest when Rolo decides she might get in the way of this goal.
    • Alicia Lohmeyer is this to Nunnally, as she tries to go behind her back on multiple occasions and take a much more hardline approach, as she cares nothing for the Japanese.
    • Diethard is another extremist among Lelouch's company. When Suzaku is made Euphemia's Knight, Diethard calls for him to be assassinated. Lelouch suspects that he talked Kallen into trying to kill Suzaku at a party for him at the Ashford Academy and warns him not to interfere with the military.
    • V. V. is a Poisonous Brother to Charles. He is so devoted to their goal of "a world without lies", he murders Charles' most beloved consort, Marianne (which has the side effect of setting the events of the series in motion), among other things done behind his brother's back. None of this is lost on Charles, who, fed up with V. V.'s lies after a series of failures, takes his code and leaves him to die.
  • Fiore from the Sailor Moon R movie is a textbook example; obsessed with his friendship with Mamoru to the point that he'll destroy Earth for his sake, even though that's not at all what Mamoru wants.
  • Yubel from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, one of Judai's Duel Monsters, whom he apparently sent into outer space when they started killing anyone who defeated or upset him. They now hold a homicidal grudge against Johan because of his friendship with Judai. They get better after they and Judai fuse their souls.
  • The Chessmaster Kyoya Ohtori (and, to a degree, all other male members of the Ouran High School Host Club) is utterly devoted to the idealistic and naive club founder Tamaki Suou and is not above using dirty tricks and threats to cover up for his blunders from the shadows, which Tamaki generally fails to notice. This is most evident in episode 14 ("Covering the Famous Host Club").
  • An especially absurd example would be Legato from Trigun, who decides to torture and kill Vash while Knives, the Big Bad, is recovering from his last encounter with Vash, knowing that Knives will kill him when he wakes up.
  • Yuno from Future Diary is Yukiteru's creepy stalker-for-a-girlfriend. She'll gladly risk her own life to protect Yuki, and she won't think twice about slaughtering anyone who dares to harm him. She's also extremely jealous, and Yuki finds himself struggling to convince her not to kill his friends.
  • Johan of Monster served as Anna Liebert's Poisonous Brother, murdering anyone their pursuers might have possibly used to pinpoint their location before she finally caught on and shot him in the head. He got better. Johan also helps Tenma's promotional woes. By killing off all his superiors that were keeping him down.
  • Alucard of the Hellsing Organization clearly qualifies as Sir Integra's anti-conscience by the way he is able to stir Sir Integra into giving him the most ruthless orders so he can indulge his bloodlust as well as succeed in whatever mission he is sent to.
  • Shizuru of My-HiME could be seen as being one of these to Natsuki; the latter seems pretty horrified when she sees that Shizuru has destroyed First District Headquarters, and her defeating Yukino and Nao and by proxy killing their loved ones- Haruka, and Nao's mother in the name of 'protecting her'.
  • Paul von Oberstein plays this to Reinhard in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, purposefully delaying the information that a faction opposing Reinhard was carpet bombing a planet with nukes and later intentionally or unintentionally causing the death of Reinhard's moral compass Kircheis.
    • Walter von Schenkopp occasionally plays this role for Yang Wenli, often suggesting that Yang should consider seizing power for himself, forming his own nation, or killing Reinhard after being ordered to surrender just as he has the latter dead in his sights. This is mostly because Schenkopp honestly feels Yang would do better than the pack of Ungrateful Bastards they've been working for who have alternately ignored intelligence or advice from people smarter than them, and (consequently found themselves staring down the barrels of Imperial particle-beam cannons) or screwed Yang over and/or the Alliance over even after Yang just got through saving their asses. One of the prime differences between Reinhard and Yang is that Reinhard listens to Oberstein, while Yang usually rejects Schenkopp's suggestions due to his moral code and general lack of ambition.
      • Another is the fact that Oberstein is a brilliant strategist where Schenkopp is a bruiser. The former's advice is somewhat better thought out and presented.
  • Black Cat: In the anime, Creed Diskenth takes this to creepy extremes. He has such a constant hard-on for Train that at one point he ruthlessly butchers three intelligence officers for referring to Train as 'that guy'. The kicker is that he does this just after Train, once a heartless assassin, reforms and abandons the life of a killer, deciding to never take another life. Train pays little attention to the fact that Creed goes on a killing spree anytime Train's honour is insulted.
  • PandoraHearts:
    • Gilbert is utterly dedicated to his master Oz and will do anything to protect him. Although he hasn't yet killed anyone (onscreen, anyway) for Oz's safety and well-being, he's tried, without any hesitation - despite being the gentlest, sweetest, most pathetic character of the series. However, his backstory flashbacks show that he cold-bloodedly allowed himself to be adopted by an 'enemy house' to become nobility and to steal their secret family weapon (the Chain called Raven), and then became an assassin, all in order to gain the power to save Oz. It gets very, very worrying when poor Gilbert starts experiencing a nearly overwhelming compulsion to kill Alice, despite the fact that Oz adores her.
    • Oz himself has had a scary unnatural breakdown in which he wanted to do this for Alice, to stop her from suffering by killing her.
    • And let's not even get into the absolute Yandere mess that is Jack. Basically, it's safe to say that nearly everyone in the cast is a Poisonous Friend to someone else.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Pouf has become this to the Big Bad Chimera Ant King Meryem. After Netero's suicide attack nearly killed Meryem and left him an amnesiac, Meryem forgot his Morality Pet Komugi along with his near Heel–Face Turn. A Heel–Face Turn that Pouf disliked. Pouf is determined to kill Komugi to keep said Heel–Face Turn from happening again.
    • Killua Zoldyk knows all about sneaking behind friends' backs to get a morally questionable, if logically justifiable, job done. Unlike most of the rest of his family, however, he tends to keep the body count fairly low and the collateral damage to his relationships as minimal as he can.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's:
  • Kino's Journey: Kino meets a woman traveling with the intent of spreading peace, but the man she is traveling with is a highly skilled gunman. He kills people trying to attack the woman and she is none the wiser.
  • Conrad Weller in Kyo Kara Maoh! quite frankly states that he is this to Yuuri in relation to both Greta and Hube, who respectively tried to kill Yuuri to please her racist guardians and to get Conrad to kill him, and who Yuuri wants to save and protect when they're disabled afterward. Conrad's first priority will always be Yuuri's safety, no matter how cruel he has to act.
  • In Naruto Danzo is revealed to be one to his Rival, The Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi. In an effort to keep the village safe, and prevent the idealistic Hiruzen from having to tarnish his image Danzo created Root, a Black Ops organisation that has been involved in all sorts of unpleasant business over the years, all, at least in his mind, for the good of the village.
  • A lot of characters follow this pattern in Durarara!!:
    • Izaya is revealed to be this to Shinra. How bad is Izaya willing to protect Shinra? Well it all started in middle school when a student named Nakura tried to stab Izaya after trying to bet on him and losing the money because Izaya purposely didn't succeed. Izaya didn't expect anyone to protect him because he was technically getting what he deserved which is why he panicked when Shinra jumps in the way of the knife. Izaya swears that Nakura will regret this for the rest of his life. After that, he stalks Nakura after that incident and continues to keep in touch with him in order to destroy his life when the time is right. He frames him for two major incidents at the end of the novel and outright tells him that those bosses will get him.
    • Mikado, Kida, and Anri are all willing to be this for the naive, nice people they believe the others to be.
    • Walker and Erika are this for Kadota, though he has some idea about what they're doing while he averts his eyes.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Seemingly played straight with Homura to Madoka, but subverted. It appears as though she attempts to kill Sayaka for causing Madoka grief as she slowly positions a glowing hand near her chest. However, since Homura fights and kills quickly and efficiently with handguns or explosives (especially since her offensive ability with magic is incredibly weak or nonexistent), and she doesn't go for Sayaka's Soul Gem (which had been on the ground at the time and even when she's transformed, it's on her bellybutton), an act that would actually kill her, it appeared to be an intimidation tactic in order to scare Sayaka into using a Grief Seed. She also tries to kill Kyubey for her sake, but in a previous timeline, Madoka had asked her to keep Kyubey from tricking her.
    • In Rebellion, however, Homura becomes an extreme example of the trope. Homura literally hijacks Madoka's goddess powers and imprisons her in a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • In Rebuild World, Alpha offers her assistance to Akira in exchange for helping her achieve her goals. It's blatantly clear that she's preying on Akira's naivety and sense of gratitude to manipulate him, but it's unclear what exactly she wants from the relic she wants him to track down. She's also frustrated by his growing number of relationships, as it means that she can't manipulate him as easily.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: While Malty/Myne is definitely fit for this category and SOOO much more, the one that manages to really sink their racism-laced fangs longest is Mald from Itsuki's party. Even his appearance alone is more than enough to tip one off of his uncaring, muscle-headed self, always taking strides of abusing Itsuki's less-experienced party member's without a shred of remorse and, like the rest of those shitty nobles in Melromarc, always hates demi-humans and anything related to them just for being viewed as "scum" as well as always viewing the Shield Hero as a useless, inferior speck of dirt, despite the MASSIVE amount of evidence to the contrary. Yeah... That's a real gem of a party member you've got there Itsuki...
  • In The Legend of the Legendary Heroes, Miran Froaude is this to King Sion Astal.
  • In the Ace Attorney Investigations manga, Marco Swindell, who is extorting money out of the head doctor of the Jiffy Clinic, is found dead of poisoning. The culprit turns out to be a patient, Clive Fortuna, who decided to kill him to free Dr. Jiffy of him. Dr. Jiffy tells the culprit that he finds his devotion touching, but that his crime must be punished.
  • Sensui of YuYu Hakusho is an odd subversion: due to his Black-and-White Insanity, he developed a new split personality each time he needed to do something he considered evil, leaving his central persona pure.
  • In her Deathbed Confession, Baron Hisamichi in Ōoku: The Inner Chambers admitted that she poisoned Yoshimune's older sisters (and a rival claimant to the throne) to ensure that Yoshimune would become shogun. She was twelve when she poisoned Yoshimune's sisters. It's not entirely clear what Yoshimune's thoughts on this were, but their parting was amicable enough.
  • Christopher Shouldered serves as this to Firo in the Baccano! Light Novels. Thanks to Firo's uncanny lunatic magnetism, the flippant, Axe-Crazy Christopher decided that they were friends almost immediately upon crossing paths with him. His first order of business is helping Firo find the (not actually) kidnapped Ennis, committing copious amounts of murder along the way. Firo gets a brief reprieve from Christopher when he winds up in Alcatraz and Chris goes to Chicago... only to find himself saddled with another self-appointed Poisonous Friend, Ladd Russo.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, Jiren is this to Universe 11's Pride Troopers. Pride Troopers all gravitated to him because of his power and they all consider him their friend, but Jiren absolutely refuses to do anything with them, seeing them as stepping stones to his goals.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is in large part the story of what happens when you get a pair of these as friends to each other. Mika is obsessively devoted to carrying out Orga's goals and will gladly ruin his body to achieve whatever Orga wants, while Orga has a crippling fear that he'll lose everything and make Mika's sacrifices all for nothing if he ever stops moving forward. The result is that each of them is constantly pushing the other to take bigger and stupider risks, inevitably leading to the Total Party Kill ending.

    Comic Books 
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: NNY meets a fan who idolizes and copycats his work because he thinks it's just that cool. NNY is outraged because he doesn't kill for the fun of it — he does it because he needs the outlet to survive his role as a "Flusher" for the world's negativity. (NNY then proceeds to do to the copycat what he does to everyone.)
    • Also, oddly enough, this becomes an example of Even Evil Has Standards as well. It is implied by NNY's killing rant that the impostor raped a woman, and that NNY would "never do...that". (Though, this may be more because NNY loathes physical contact than anything else.)
  • Depending on who is writing, Batman is this to the Justice League, and the superhero community at large. Hard not to be when your teammates stumble across detailed plans on how to kill each and every one of them in case they go rogue and have to be put down.
    • He's this especially to Superman.
    • Although Batman did at one point say that he trusted the Justice League to be the ones to take him down, should he ever go rogue.
    • Professor Xavier had similar plans at one point. Given the number of times a hero's gotten Brainwashed or hypnotised or had some other Enemy Exchange Program weirdness happen to them, that probably isn't such a bad idea. The fact that he included one for taking himself down probably mitigated any hard feelings.
    • In one J. Michael Straczynski-penned Spider-Man issue, Spidey defeats the villain-of-the-month using a modified version of a plan he had to take down the Hulk, and mentions that most of the Marvel Universe's heroes have plans for taking each other down, although it isn't something they like to talk about.
  • DC Comics' controversial Identity Crisis storyline turned a small group of lesser Justice League members into this for the League at large. While the Big Three heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman went about living and acting on their ideals, lesser members would do necessary "clean-up" jobs to preserve the League's secrets, primarily by having Zatanna wipe minds and reprogram someone's personality. Used as a Retcon to explain away events where the villains learned (or should have learned) the identities of various heroes, but never acted on them.
    • Especially applied to the odd devolution of Doctor Light from a physics genius able to make light waves sit up, roll over and otherwise do basically impossible things (i.e. turning afterimages into explosive holograms) who could convincingly take on the whole Justice League into a Butt-Monkey with a ray gun that was basically a suped-up flashlight, who regularly lost to the Teen Titans. What happened to him caused many villains, and heroes, to look at the Justice League as having crossed a Moral Event Horizon.
  • DC Hero team, The Outsiders. The Outsiders have had three different incarnations over the years. They were founded by Batman, whose ties to the League had become strained. He has stated his intent to use the team as a black ops version of the Justice League, able to take the proverbial "fall" in public opinion where the League cannot.
  • One of the interpretations of Captain America's sidekick Bucky was as the guy who did the backstabbing Cap was too moral to do.
    • Another is that Cap wasn't too moral for that kind of work, but that his public image could not be so sullied. There are several instances where Cap is portrayed as accepting, even approving, of Bucky's "extracurricular activities," although there are quite a few where he is not.
    • Averted in the Ultimate universe, where Cap fights the way a real soldier would.
  • In Nexus, Kreed was a super-strong alien called a Quatro who had lived all his life as a member of an assassin's guild. Killing was the only thing he knew how to do, but he had come to find it pointless. When he learned of Nexus, he came to revere him as a man who had learned how to use those skills in a worthwhile cause, and he followed Nexus unquestioningly like a loyal puppy, even at times when Nexus himself was showing terrible judgment, and Kreed would threaten terrible violence to anyone who he perceived as a threat to his hero. When Nexus finally decided he trusted Kreed enough to send him on a mission — to hunt down and execute a list of murderers for the Merk, a task Nexus himself had always despised — Kreed and his fellow Quatro Sinclair went mad with bloodlust, going on a wild killing spree that Nexus was only able to halt after countless innocent people had been already killed.
  • Huntress was this to Black Canary in pre-reboot Birds of Prey. She was extremely loyal to the Canary personally, but there was no question that she remained one of, if not the, darkest antiheroes in the DC universe. Interestingly, however, she did moderate her behavior so that Canary would be comfortable working with her; Canary did not really see Huntress' dark side until Huntress was about to throw Yasemin off a building and Canary had to talk her out of it. Canary made her final decision to leave the group directly after this incident, which seems not to have been a coincidence.

    Fan Works 
  • The reformed Terminator Arnold Davis in The Chronicles of Utopia becomes the protagonist's right-hand man when the two begin their business venture and when the main character becomes embroiled in the politics of Oerth. While the main character Asher has a fairly idealistic and positive view of people in general, Davis is far more cynical and mistrusting of mankind and plays the devil's advocate to Asher on many occasions, asking the tough questions. When Asher forms his own empire in The Chronicles of Utopia Volume II he becomes the kingdom's spymaster and head of security.
  • In Child of the Storm, Loki and Natasha, and occasionally Clint, generally serve as this to the Avengers, (and in Loki's case, more specifically, to Thor), doing the dirtier jobs behind the scenes that the Avengers as a whole can't do publicly because of their public image.
    • Doctor Strange serves as this to the heroes, and particularly Harry, being the biggest Manipulative Bastard in a setting full of them, willing to use extraordinarily ruthless and downright amoral means to remove threats and potential threats to them and to the timeline as a whole. As he bluntly informs Harry in the sequel, the corpses of those he's murdered to protect Harry would, if piled up, make a small mountain... or perhaps a rather large hill. This does not make him the most popular person around, though even the heroes who like him the least grudgingly admit that he's useful. Villains, by contrast, are scared witless of him, and with good reason.
  • Takashi in the Deva Series is one to Hayate, using underhanded means to protect her interests, including killing the leaders of the Circles after finding out about their plan to nuke her school.
  • Connie Poirier is this to Elly Patterson in The New Retcons, enabling her to blame everyone but herself for her misfortunes, lie about having a baby out of wedlock and putting it up for adoption, and not telling Michael John's not his biological father. She is furious when Elly starts to snap out of it and realize that Connie's a Poisonous Friend, and that, combined with Woman Scorned, caused her to kill Elly.
  • The BLU ponies in Waking Nightmares are trained killers with all sorts of mental hangups (Medic proudly admits to being a dedicated sadist, Sniper and Spy bring up their skills at assassination with pride, and Pyro... well.) but they are wholly dedicated to protecting their new Ponyville friends, and their dangerous skills are needed against the growing threats. It still makes the others a bit uncomfortable when they're reminded.
  • In Necessary to Win, Maho defies this trope. Miho's happiness is her primary motivation, and to fulfill this, she chooses to be Nishizumi heiress so that Miho will not have to. However, she is unwilling to use any tactics that Miho would not approve of, especially those that involve putting others at risk of harm.
  • Lila is this to Marinette in Liar's New BFF. She genuinely cares for Marinette as a friend and nurses an obsessive crush on her after she offered Lila friendship, despite Lila being the school pariah. Since every other relationship she's ever had involved either her or the other person being a False Friend, Lila desires to monopolize Marinette's affections by exaggerating the flaws of their classmates and turn Marinette against them.
  • In Born From Flames, Aria Blaze is this for an amnesiac Sunset Shimmer (or rather, Dawn Fire), serving as her roommate and only friend. Though Aria actually starts out as trying to use Dawn as a pawn in her own schemes, Aria later abandons said plans after growing fond and protective of her new friend, deciding to use her siren abilities to quietly help her instead. Dawn does quickly realize Aria is this trope once she regains memories of her past (and thus her and Aria's real first meeting), but she enjoys Aria's company far too much to actually remain angry at her whenever she notices this behavior, letting her off with brief admonishment.
  • In Equestria Girls: A Fairly Odd Friendship, Gilda and her crew act like a pact of Jerkass delinquents who even Rainbow finds abhorrent. However, Gilda does feel genuine sympathy for Timmy's plight and takes it upon herself to not only teach him how to fight but act as his (incognito) bodyguard along with her friends. However, she and her cronies are far more ruthless than the Rainbooms.
    • They subject Crocker to a nasty prank after one of his schemes destroys a cake they bought.
    • Later, Gilda gives Crocker a vicious beating after he harms Timmy with one of his schemes and her cronies pummel Gary and Betty for idiotically hurting him.
    • They also humiliated the Dazzlings after their first defeat, and they came very close to brutalizing them after all the horrible things they did and planned to do to Timmy.
    • And Gilda herself is not afraid to be rough with Timmy to get him in shape.
  • Aunt Salem: Ren, Nora, and Pyrrha are, due to being Salem cultists, fanatically devoted to Jaune and his well-being. Their attempts to aid and defend him are more than a bit extreme: from (non-lethally) poisoning Team CDRL to blackmailing Weiss so that Jaune can have a girlfriend.

    Films — Animation 
  • Pete in A Goofy Movie. Whereas in Goof Troop, Pete was just a heartless jerkass who only cared about himself, the film version of Pete legitimately wants to help Goofy raise Max better. The problem is that Pete is very cynical and condescending, especially towards children of any age, so Pete just assumes Max is a bad kid and works from there. He insists that trying to have an honest conversation is pointless, and that Goofy should be authoritative and punish Max until he learns to never talk back. For his part, Goofy disagrees, but it turns out Pete was right about Max deceiving him, which doesn't help things.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Operative in Serenity fills this role for the controlling central government. He himself observes that the purpose of his actions is to maintain an ordered society for people unlike him. In the end he finds out that the government has terribly failed to uphold its ideals, so he ceases to work for it.
    Operative: I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.
    Malcolm: So me and mine gotta lay down and die so you can live in your better world?
    Operative: I'm not going to live there. There's No Place for Me There... any more than there is for you. Malcolm, I'm a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it but it must be done.
  • Tyler Durden very much fits this trope in Fight Club.
    Tyler Durden: I'll bring us through this. As always. I'll carry you, kicking and screaming, and in the end, you'll thank me.
  • Nicky Santoro in Casino is the source of all of Sam "Ace" Rothstein's problems. Rothstein was a powerful, rich, and successful casino manager and lost it all due to the attention the mobster Nicky kept drawing to him. Casino is actually based on a true story though names were changed for the film.
  • Sean Penn's character (a lawyer turned gangster) was the poisonous friend to Al Pacino (a former gangster trying to go straight) in Carlito's Way.
  • Mean Streets: Johnny Boy is this to Charlie.
  • Rounders has Worm, who constantly gets his poker-playing buddy Mike in trouble by cheating- for example, at a game full of off-duty cops, or another one with a couple of Russian mobsters- which Mike is good enough to win anyway.
  • Another MSTed movie, The Beatniks, has Mooney, who absolutely refuses to let Eddy break away from the gang to start a singing career.
  • Withnail in Withnail & I absolutely revels in this trope.
  • Harsh Times: Jim, a Shell-Shocked Veteran with gangster ties and a self-destructive streak, is a terrible influence on his best buddy Mike, who went straight long ago and settled down with his lawyer girlfriend. Mike now finds himself jobless and susceptible to Jim's cavalier lifestyle. A great deal of the plot is dedicated to Jim convincing Mike to do reckless things against his better judgment.

  • Harry Potter:
    • Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix knows that Cornelius Fudge would never permit her to use the torturous Cruciatus Curse to get information out of Harry and his friends, but as she says, "What Cornelius doesn't know won't hurt him". Even the book synopsis on the dust cover describes Umbridge as having "a personality like poisoned honey."
    • The secret of Dumbledore's childhood: his poisonous (boy)friend Gellert Grindlewald.
    • In a more complex way, and probably not intentionally, it's Snape for Dumbledore, being the Bad Teacher for Harry (Dumbledore obviously being the good one). His constant nitpicking, bickering, and sneers served to harden Harry's spirit and supposedly not to get a swollen head. Not that it was pleasant, or remotely useful, given that Harry hated the fame from the beginning and already had to go through the traumatic experience of being a murder target almost every year.
      • Not that it was successful, either, since not only did Harry already arrive at the school detesting excessive fame and attention thanks to the Dursleys' treatment, Snape's treatment also caused Harry to constantly suspect Snape of evil through all of the books, which almost allowed Voldemort to win several times (a notable example being the first book, where Harry attempting to prove the wrong person guilty gave the real Voldemort ally too big of a lead).
    • Lily views Snape’s buddies as this while they were in school. Stoking his interest in the dark arts and pushing him away from her.
  • The Biblical figure of Joab in Second Samuel. As King David's general, he frequently performs David's dirty work including orchestrating the death of Uriah the Hittite (on David's orders) so David may marry Uriah's widow, Bathsheba, and executing David's son Absalom for rebellion, against David's orders. While Absalom's death enables David to remain king, David publicly mourns for Absalom, and eventually orders Joab to be killed.
    • Even then, David didn't technically give the order. Solomon gave the order on his behalf after yet another betrayal and David confiding in him about Joab's past actions.
    • For another poisonous friend in the Bible, try Jezebel. She led Ahab to worship false gods and had the prophets of the God of Israel killed, as well as those who worshiped the true God. After several years of perversions, lies, and murder, things eventually came to a head. Her husband (and the King of Israel), Ahab, wanted the vineyard of Naboth. Naboth refused to sell, despite good offers of money and better land elsewhere. Jezebel had Naboth killed on trumped-up charges of blasphemy against God and the King, thanks to two false witnesses she paid off.
    • God sent Elijah to talk to Ahab, as he went to take Naboth's field. Elijah cursed Ahab and Jezebel as enemies of God: both were eventually killed, Ahab in battle, and Jezebel by being tossed out of the window.
  • In Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels, the dual protagonists are frequently each other’s poisonous friend: each man has been known to aid his dearest friend’s missions by conducting hostilities in ways that are appalling to the latter’s sensibilities or morality—the swashbuckling captain Jack Aubrey with large-scale naval carnage, the surgeon/intelligence agent Stephen Maturin with cold-blooded assassination and deception.
  • The novel Shady Corners by Mathew Williams has a Poisonous Friend as the protagonist. It's every bit as creepy a read as you'd expect.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club, Ashley, who encouraged Claudia to leave the club and spend more time on her artwork. Also the "bad girls" group that Stacey falls in with later in the series.
  • In The General, Suzette, Lady Whitehall. Wife of the straightforward and honest Raj Whitehall, who survives the Byzantine machinations of the Governor's court despite his total lack of aptitude for such things... because Suzette is entirely happy to seduce and manipulate his rivals, poison his enemies, and arrange for obstructionist officials to be quietly dropped into the river with a sixty-kilo roundshot chained to their ankles. All without telling him. Disturbing because he is WELL AWARE of what she is doing and yet is on occasion preachy about the morality of doing it.
  • The whole purpose of Contact's Special Circumstances division.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Rare protagonist example: Harry Dresden to Michael Carpenter, his good friend, who is a (literal) Knight in Shining Armor and has an uncompromisable code. There are times when Harry will lie, will strike or kill someone Michael cannot harm without breaking his moral code. The first example of this happening is in Death Masks, he asks Michael to leave the room while he breaks the legs of Quintus Cassius.
    • And then Ebenezar is something of a Papa Wolf Poisonous Friend to Harry and the White Council. Ebenezar is the "Blackstaff", the assassin of the White Council who has the sole directive to protect the Council when abiding by the Laws of Magic will end them in a worse place. He has used magic to kill thousands of people. It is only because the Staff absorbs the black magic that would taint Ebenezer can he remain a good person.
    • Lasciel, one of thirty Fallen Angels trapped in a silver coin, acts like a poisonous friend to her hosts in order to corrupt them. She starts by pretending to a kind person, to ingratiate herself to the host, make herself useful, giving helpful knowledge and power, tempting them more and more until the host fully accepts her into the person.
    • Michael Carpenter believes this is the relationship of Nicodemus and Anduriel, another Fallen and captain of Lucifer's forces in his war against God. He believes Anduriel has lied to and worked to corrupt Nicodemus into the monster he is, and by the machinations of the Fallen, lead Nicodemus to kill his own daughter to open a gate to Hades' vault to gain weapons of immeasurable power. For this reason, Michael takes his duty to save the souls of the hosts of the Fallen by getting them to relinquish their coins willingly and repent.
  • Perrin's loving girlfriend and wife Faile in The Wheel of Time. Besides being a very jealous type and giving him a hard time over any woman she suspects might want him, she also indulges in all the dirty aspects of politics he considers to be wrong, including sabotage, espionage, manipulation, and assassination. Some of those things he tells her not to do, but she doesn't listen. The rest, he chooses not to ask about or think about too closely.
  • The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell gets it into his head that working as a butler constitutes abuse for Stephen Black, and decides that because he's handsome and courteous, he needs to be king of something. He even tries to get him to kill the king of England for this reason, and Stephen has to explain that it doesn't work like that.
    • There's a dark sort of Overly Long Gag late in the book where The Gentleman tells Stephen a rambling story of the lengths he went through to find Stephen's "true" name and the many people he ended up murdering directly or indirectly in the process.
  • Vimes and Vetinari in Discworld. Unusual in that the Poisonous Friend is actually the protagonist's boss.
    • Vimes's butler Willikins is this to Vimes. He has been for a long time, but as of Snuff! he identifies as such.
  • Lord Montfallcon does this for a living in Gloriana by Michael Moorcock, working behind the scenes to maintain order because he fears his queen's idealistic policies aren't enough to secure the realm's new golden age.
  • Valentinian in Belisarius Series has some aspects of this; not only is he Belisarius' bodyguard, but he is also his personal executioner and hatchet man. When Belisarius wants some shocking bit of violence done he simply says "Valentinian..." which is shorthand for Off with His Head!.
  • Monk Mayfair is just short of this to Doc Savage. Philip José Farmer theorizes that in addition to Savage needing someone who can kill (and lie, steal and seduce), Mayfair's obvious enjoyment of these gives Savage vicarious pleasure.
  • The Knight and Rogue Series has a mild example in Fisk. While Michael is so righteous that he won't even tell a white lie, and encourages Fisk to follow this example, Fisk is willing to lie or con his way out of a situation when need be-usually when Michael isn't looking. He becomes less of one by the third book, though.
  • The Corrupt Corporate Executive Cassandra Cautery is all kinds of this to Dr. Charles Neumann in Max Barry's Machine Man. She claims to have his best interests at heart but is clearly only looking out for Better Future.
  • Stephen King's thriller Thinner gives us an anti-heroic example: Protagonist Billy Halleck is cursed to die by a pack of traveling Gypsies after accidentally killing the leader's daughter. Billy's best friend, mafioso Richie Ginelli, responds by poisoning their guard dogs, shooting up their camp (without killing anyone), and assaulting the clan leader's granddaughter. The old leader takes the curse off, but Ginelli is killed by said granddaughter in the end.
  • From the novel Surrender, Finnegan is this to Gabriel.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, being Cersei Lannister's enemy is a hassle, but being her friend is, arguably, even worse. Everyone she has ever associated herself with has suffered for it. Even if Cersei means well going in (she doesn't always — just ask Sansa or Lancel), she's still at heart a narcissistic, overly-proud, entitled, overgrown Royal Brat with a tendency towards alcoholism and Black-and-White Insanity. So, even if she likes somebody, she'll wind up screwing them over with it because she just can't do healthy relationships thanks to her skewed paranoia either being a little too catching or being liable to go off at the wrong time at the wrong thing. Even with best intentions, since secret, "bold" Murder Is the Best Solution or Let's You and Him Fight actions done behind other allies' backs to help finish the problems they're all dealing with can backfire when the knock-on effects start to stack up and interact. Badly.
  • Captain Badaya would be this to Admiral Geary in later volumes of The Lost Fleet series, leading a faction of the fleet that would back him in a full-blown coup... except that Admiral Geary, who's considerably smarter than Badaya as well as Incorruptible, successfully bluffs him into thinking he's blackmailed the government into making him The Man Behind the Man instead.
  • Zadie Smith of Reconstructing Amelia is this to her best friend Dylan, who's sweeter, quieter, and has a much harder time standing up for herself — including standing up to Zadie. Zadie genuinely cares for Dylan... and this drives her to out her girlfriend Amelia, which indirectly leads to Amelia's death, for Dylan's "own good." Rather than humanizing Zadie, their friendship makes Zadie terrifying. It doesn't help that there are some undertones that imply that Zadie hates Amelia because she wants to keep Dylan all for herself.
  • Jeeves of Jeeves and Wooster. Frequently puts others, including Bertie himself, through the wringer in order to restore the status quo, and has been known to interfere in Bertie's relationships and deliberately drive away prospective fiancées—all for his own good, of course.
  • In Victoria, John Rumford becomes one to President Yancey, General Laclede, and the other Neo-Confederate leaders through his ruthless solution to the Atlanta insurrection, which he then gives them credit for.
  • No Longer Human has Horiki, who also has a convenient habit of showing up just as the protagonist Yōzō is about to recover from whatever ails him.
  • The Girl And The Ghost: Suraya tells Pink not to use his powers to hurt people, even the ones who bully her. He does it anyway, though subtly enough that he hopes she won't notice. She is not pleased when she catches on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Wire: Jimmy McNulty is a deconstruction of the Cowboy Cop who always does what he thinks is right no matter the politics or his orders. This turns his career into a train wreck, but his allies usualy get taken down with him, leaving a trail of bitter former comrades in his wake. He's also extremely self-destructive in his personal life, so he even makes his own loved ones' lives worse. All of this is unintentional, however, and he really is trying to do the right thing.
    Michael Crutchfield: Did [McNulty] fuck you?
    Bunk Moreland: He tried. But mostly he just fucks himself.
  • Bebe on Frasier was a classic example of this: the completely unscrupulous agent. Frasier was frequently warned that agreeing to anything she suggested, however favourable and seemingly innocent, was tantamount to dealing with Satan.
    Frasier: What kind of a woman are you? You seduced me, you lied to me, you nearly got me killed. You've shamelessly manipulated not only me but the station, the news media, and the entire city of Seattle. What do you have to say for yourself?
    Bebe: Aren't you glad I'm on your side?
  • Saul Tigh on Battlestar Galactica. He's best friend to Commander/Admiral Bill Adama (Galactica's resident beloved leader). He's usually the guy rooting for a good fight rather than diplomacy, and occasionally, is right in doing so. But he's a liability. Time after time after frackin' time, Adama goes out on a limb for Tigh - hiding the truth of his alcoholism, appointing him XO even though he's "not cut out for command", and whitewashing, then forgiving, most of Tigh's screwups (including shooting civilians aboard the Gideon, a military dictatorship, the use of suicide bombers on New Caprica, and showing up drunk to testify at Baltar's trial). Though he occasionally has to Shoot the Dog to keep the blood off Adama's hands (see the entire New Caprica arc and the S3 episode "Hero"), one shudders to think how far a Saul Tigh who's realized he is, in fact, the very thing he's been fighting for so long will go in the service of Bill Adama.
    • In an odd case, Tigh himself has his wife Ellen, who encourages his alcoholism and tries to get him to be more assertive and ambitious. And betrays resistance plans to the Cylons to keep him alive. However all of this is now in the past tense as he poisoned her for this last. Supposedly someone else in the resistance would have done something worse to her otherwise.
      • He is this way up until he learns that he is a Cylon. It is very likely his destructive behavior and drinking were his way of internally dealing with his "sleeper" status, and keep himself from doing something fatal to Galactica and Adama, but YMMV...
  • In Star Trek, "Section 31" performs questionable actions in (preemptive) defense of the Federation. Played with a bit, as when they first surfaced in Deep Space Nine the Federation was actively trying to shut them down; Enterprise sort-of retconned them into originally being the black-ops wing of Starfleet Intelligence, and apparently losing their budget and official status at some point seems not to have slowed them down much.
    • Garak proudly admits to being this trope in "In the Pale Moonlight":
      Garak: That's why you came to me, isn't it, Captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren't capable of doing? Well, it worked.
    • Tuvok cites this trope as his reason for secretly betraying Captain Janeway in an early episode of Star Trek: Voyager, saying that his role requires making the morally dubious choices she can't make in order to get the crew home. She doesn't take it well.
    • Section 31's official status is also listed in the non-canon Section 31 novels, where Kirk carefully reads the Starfleet Charter and locates Article 14, Section 31, which is a short clause allowing for the creation of an unspecified agency with unspecified powers to safeguard humanity.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Leela has no qualms about violently disposing of anything or anyone that threatens the Doctor, despite his many attempts to rein her in.
    • Captain Jack Harkness is willing to go quite far to protect the Doctor, using methods that the Doctor would never approve of.
    • River Song takes this trope to extremes, willing to let time itself be destroyed just to keep the Doctor alive. It frustrates him terribly.
      • On the other hand, he does admit that her methods are useful at times:
        The Doctor: Oh, and this is my friend River. Nice hair, clever, has her own gun. Oh, and unlike me, she really doesn't mind shooting people. I shouldn't like that. Kinda do, a bit.
        River: Thank you, Sweetie.
      • Neatly summarized when River faces a Dalek:
        Dalek: Records indicate you will show mercy. You are an associate of the Doctor.
        River: I'm River Song. Check your records again.
        Dalek: Mercy!
      • She gets it from her mother:
        Amy: River Song didn't get it all from you, "sweetie".
        Madame Kovarian: [death wail]
    • Missy. She's "I'b helpig" homicidally insane.
      Missy:[after chaining Clara to a wall of undead Daleks as bait, poking holes in a Dalek, then letting the undead Daleks swarm the unfortunate Dalek] Wheee!
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Giles on several occasions, in particular beating the crap out of Ethan in "Halloween", killing Ben in "The Gift", and plotting with Robin to kill Spike in "Lies My Parents Told Me". And sending Faith to kill Gigi in the Season Eight comics. He even gives a nice speech about it in "The Gift".
      Giles: No she couldn't [have killed you]. Never. And sooner or later Glory will re-emerge, and make Buffy pay for that mercy—and the world with her. Buffy even knows that, and still she couldn't take a human life. She's a hero, you see. She's not like us.
      Ben: ... Us?
      [Giles calmly suffocates Ben]
    • Believing that Buffy is compromised by her love for Angel, Xander tries to ensure his demise on two separate occasions, "Becoming, Part Two" and "Revelations", first by not telling Buffy that Willow was working on a spell to restore his soul, then by encouraging vampire Slayer Faith to kill Angel after he'd come back from the dead.
    • Really, all of the cast for both shows are this for all the others (besides Dawn, Tara, and Lorne). We've seen them all without the others (Wishverse Buffy, Dark Willow, Ripper, Angel after firing everyone, Wesley after his betrayal) and they're all much, much worse without the others. So it's like Conservation of Ninjutsu, only with evil.
    • In a subversion, in "Supersymmetry", when Fred plans to murder (or at least trap inter-dimensionally, which probably a death sentence) her old college professor, who did the same to her and at least four other people, her boyfriend Gunn kills him for her, in an attempt to fulfill this trope. Fred does not take this well at all.
  • On Charmed, Cole kills a corrupt landlord who is trying to blackmail Phoebe. This is a turning point in one of his several backslidings into evil.
  • Burn Notice plays with this trope. Michael is hardly a boy scout himself, but it's implied in several episodes that hanging out with a Handsome Lech FBI informant and Ax-Crazy arms dealer and former IRA terrorist are not exactly helping his standing with the intelligence community.
    • Conversely, Sam and Fi are portrayed as good influences compared to some of the people Michael has had to (metaphorically) get into bed with in the course of investigating the people who burned him. A particularly strong example is Larry, Michael's former mentor-turned-Psycho for Hire Professional Killer, who's always showing up trying to convince Michael to join him. In a sort of inversion, Larry thinks that Michael's true potential is being stifled by his association with his present comrades.
  • The Good Wife includes Fred Weller guest-starring as a jerkass Amoral Attorney. It's implied he acts this way in part because he believes his boss deserves someone watching his back and willing to get their hands dirty. Good thing, too, because it was the only thing giving his character depth. Too bad his boss doesn't deserve it...
  • On Luther, the eponymous Scotland Yard detective has Alice Morgan, a former Child Prodigy who brutally murdered her parents and got away with it, and has now developed a crush on the copper who investigated the case. Luther really doesn't appreciate her attempts to help him get back together with his estranged wife, which seems to involve a lot of breaking and entering and assault.
  • Walter White is this to Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. While Jesse wasn't completely innocent before getting into business with Walt, it's undeniable that his life has taken a definite turn for the worse because of Walt's influence. Walt even manages to manipulate Jesse into killing Gale in cold blood. Jesse is equally poisonous to Walt, if usually unintentionally, and in a completely different way: while his sincerity might be debatable, we continue to see Walt go to impressive lows in order to ensure Jesse's safety, despite the fact that he is an emotionally volatile wild card and a liability. Add this to the fact that Jesse is the one who gets Walt into the drug business in the first place, and you have a recipe for one of the most mutually poisonous friendships on television. One so toxic, it has a collateral death count of close to a hundred, if not in the hundreds.
  • Revenge has Nolan, who's actually an inversion of sorts: while he assists Emily Thorne in her titular revenge gladly and is significantly more cynical than she is, he also frequently points out she could easily just go off to enjoy her life and leave the people who wronged her behind.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "The Performer" has the unsub turn out to be Dante/Davies's manager using an obsessed, schizophrenic fangirl to murder other fans to get publicity for his new album. Davies is quite horrified at this.
  • In an interesting Sitcom variant, Lily from How I Met Your Mother is revealed to be this, breaking up Ted's girlfriends if she thinks that it will be better for Ted (and, by extension, herself).
  • Damon of The Vampire Diaries can sometimes fall into this role, particularly in regards to protecting Elena. He's outright stated that he will do whatever he has to do in order to keep her safe, even if she hates him for it.
  • Scandal: Pretty much the entire main cast are this to each other. Olivia and Cyrus will do horrible things to protect President Fitzgerald Grant and in turn Grant will do horrible things to protect Olivia. Melly Grant will do anything to protect her husband, even though she knows that he loves Olivia because she made it her life's mission to get Fitz elected president. Olivia's Gladiators do increasingly nastier and nastier things to protect Olivia and each other. B6-13 is an entire secret government agency that is the poisonous friend for the United States, torturing and assassinating people, and even committing acts of terrorism in order to secure the well being of the country.
  • Pretty Little Liars: Alison is a deconstruction, as her behavior actually drives the Liars away from her. Character Development makes her less of one as the series goes on, though.
  • The Flash has Harrison Wells, Barry's mentor who is helping him learn how to control his powers. He's willing to go to great lengths to keep Barry safe, including killing Simon Stagg and leaving General Eiling to the mercies of Grodd, because both of them had their own designs on the Flash.
  • Why Women Kill: Rita plans to mentor Alma in all her manipulative ways. Subverted. She did not mentor her though their feud will definitely be continued.
  • Ghostwriter: Calvin Ferguson is this to Jeffrey Baxter. More than once, Calvin ropes Jeffrey into his schemes to cause trouble for the Ghostwriter Team. However, "What's Up With Alex?" implies that Calvin is also the Cloudcuckoolander's Minder. When we finally see Jeffrey without Calvin around to tell him what to do, he causes problems for Jamal in other ways.
  • Izzy hands to Blackbeard in Our Flag Means Death.

  • "Pet" by A Perfect Circle is about this.
    Pay no mind what other voices say
    They don't care about you, like I do, like I do
    Safe from pain and truth and choice and other poison devils,
    See, they don't give a fuck about you, like I do.
    Just stay with me, safe and ignorant,
    Go back to sleep...

  • Pulp's Like a Friend laments one of these that they are unable to free themselves from, listing analogies for their relationship in the lyrics.
    You are that last drink I never should have drunk
    You are the body hidden in the trunk
    You are the habit I can't seem to kick
    You are my secrets on the front page every week
    You are the car I never should have bought
    You are the train I never should have caught
    You are the cut that makes me hide my face
    You are the party that makes me feel my age
    And like a car crash I can see but I just can't avoid
    Like a plane I've been told I never should board
    Like a film that's so bad but I gotta stay till the end
    Let me tell you now, it's lucky for you that we're friends

    Pro Wrestling 
  • BJ Whitmer has been one to many people in Ring of Honor. To Christopher Daniels, it was escalating the competition with CM Punk's Second City Saints into outright conflict when Whitmer beat up Punk's girlfriend Lucy. For Jimmy Jacobs, it was derailing Decade, who were interested younger talents like Colby Corino, due to an obsessive hatred with Colby's father Steve that saw Whitmer try to turn father and son against one another. For Kelly Klein, Whitmer's big mouth and tendency to interfere in her matches often got her in more trouble than she expected. Yet people were surprised when then-newcomer Punishment Martinez wanted nothing to do with Whitmer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Ravenloft setting for Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards can summon a familiar and paladins can summon a war horse, like in other settings. However, these companions are Always Chaotic Evil (or lawful evil or neutral evil, depending on the law/chaos alignment of the summoner) in Ravenloft. They are loyal to their master, but lack a conscience, and aren't averse to carrying out evil deeds to "help" their master behind his back. This is bad enough for wizards, but potentially devastating for a paladin, who now has to deal with a pet that constantly puts him in danger of losing his paladinhood.
  • Pretty common for basically any party in Dungeons And Dragons containing characters of varying alignments. The Lawful Good paladin may be staunchly opposed to any undertakings that would go against his moral code, but chances are the Chaotic Neutral rogue, even if he is otherwise loyal to the rest of the party and does consider them True Companions, does not have such qualms.


    Video Games 
  • Doubly-subverted, deconstructed, and mixed in with a little Psycho Supporter in Brink. The Resistance has some rather extreme followers who are willing to do ''anything'' if they think it will help Brother Chen and the Resistance. At one point, one of them says that they will do the dirty work while Brother Chen, the much more reasonable leader of the Resistance, will be able to keep his hands clean. The subversion comes when Chen mostly tolerates such soldiers since he sees them as necessary for the war effort and for his political promotion. Its deconstructed through Moekena, who looks at Chen and the radical followers and sees a vile leader who uses others so that he doesn't get his hands dirty instead of seeing a conflicted leader who has to deal with dangerously extreme but necessary followers since Moekena does not know of Chen's point of view. It's doubly subverted when Chen yells at the radical followers in rage once they attempt to cover (or succeed in covering) the Ark in nuclear fallout for him in a What-If mission, calling the radicals idiots and rebuking them for not realizing that he was bluffing.
  • Disgaea:
  • Hubert in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, plays advisor to future emperor Edelgard. He considers it his role to do whatever is necessary to ensure her success, arranging bribes and assassinations behind her back. His eagerness to make himself the bad guy doing the dirty work for her dismays Edelgard, who has already resolved to stain her hands with blood to bring about her vision of a better world.
  • Axel to Roxas and Xion in Kingdom Hearts. He seems like a pretty cool guy, and he genuinely cares about his friends, but a single playthrough of Chain of Memories is more than enough to see how wickedly treacherous he can be. This becomes even more apparent towards the end of 358/2 Days. He grows so attached to Roxas and Xion that he becomes obsessed with maintaining their friendship and keeping them safe — however, to achieve this, he lies to them, does questionable stuff behind their backs, and if they try to leave the Organization of their own free will, he attempts to bring them back by force. Things come to a terrible head when Roxas finally gets fed up with this and deserts the organization, and Xion ends up initiating a Suicide by Cop that results in her being wiped from existence. Axel does redeem himself in the end, but Redemption Equals Death. Although, since he's now Back from the Dead in the form of his original self, it's possible that he can finally make his actions speak for it.
  • Mithos is a poisonous brother of Martel in Tales of Symphonia, whose misinterpretation of Martel's wish for a discrimination-free world leads to him attempting to execute an Assimilation Plot.
  • Sodia from Tales of Vesperia. She tries to murder Yuri, whom she perceives as Flynn's poisonous friend.
    • Yuri also considers himself this to Flynn, citing it as the one thing he agrees with Sodia on. Flynn has none of it.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Makuru is one to Obadei, insisting on taking vengeance against the orcs after learning that they killed Obadei's brother.
    • In Mists of Pandaria, Wrathion is shaping up to be this. He believes the Burning Legion will eventually invade Azeroth, so the Alliance/Horde war must end so that Azeroth can put up a unified front against the threat. However, being a black dragon, Wrathion's idea of world peace involves one of the two factions conquering the other. Pretty much everyone else who meets him agrees that Wrathion should not be trusted.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • Morrigan kind of fits this, since she approves of the Warden's more ruthless actions and dislikes his/her more compassionate ones. However, if the Warden makes an effort to befriend her, she is steadfastly loyal, even deeming a female Warden to be an honorary sister of sorts.
    • A better example appears on the antagonists' side: Arl Howe to Teryn Loghain. Arl Howe does seem genuinely loyal to Loghain and his political and military support is a great boon to him as well. However, Loghain supporting him and making him Arl of Denerim will help to screw him over in the Landsmeet if you bring up some of Howe's actions like kidnapping and torturing the son of another noble.
    • It's possible for the Warden to play this role to Leliana at the end of her quest, where she is unnerved by a comment about she and her ruthless former mentor being the same. Faced with a crisis of conscience, she asks the Warden for their opinion. At this point it is possible to either assure her that she's a good person, or tell her that she's denying her true self. Choosing the latter will cause Leliana to become more individualistic and open to supporting selfish or morally questionable actions (as well as becoming more openly promiscuous and non-monogamous.)
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition turns Leliana into one, blood loyal to her allies, but utterly ruthless. Indeed, she spies on her best friend Josephine trying to resolve her family problems, before proposing going behind her back and resorting to infiltration and assassination, knowing full well it will get a What the Hell, Hero? reaction but happy to shoulder that burden if allowed.
  • Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords qualifies. She has an obsessive and controlling attitude toward your character, vehemently opposing the addition of most of your party members and any associations with NPCs who seem to threaten her hold on you. One major difference is that, rather than try to keep you pure, the lessons she imparts to you as your mentor are usually geared toward you becoming a Manipulative Bastard: in conversation, a manipulative response that takes long-term goals into consideration is usually the way to make her happy. Bonus points if you choose The Dark Side, as most of your party members who care enough about you to try to intervene attribute it to Kreia's bad influence on you.
  • Depending on how moral you want to play it, Steven Heck is this to Mike in Alpha Protocol, murdering and framing innocents to help his buddy.
  • In the first God of War, Ares honestly seems to think he did Kratos a favor when he tricked him into murdering his own family. During their final battle, Ares throws a fit and claims that Kratos had no right to turn against Ares after everything Ares did to make him stronger. In the end when Kratos has Ares at his mercy, Ares makes one last plea for his life by telling Kratos that he just wanted to make Kratos a great warrior. Unfortunately for Ares, he succeeded.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Commander Shepard is accused of being one, albeit unintentionally, by Admiral Rael'Zorah in Mass Effect 2 due to Shepard's return for the dead causing his daughter, Tali, to nearly immediately file a transfer request to join them on what is essentially a suicide mission.
    • Matriarch Aethyta gets in on this in Mass Effect 3, noting that Shepard's influence has led to Liara dealing with some severely sketchy people in the last 3 years. Considering Liara spent the past 50 years beforehand as an archaeologist working alone on dig-sites, which Liara herself noted have fewer explosions, Aethyta definitely has a point.
    • Cerberus as a whole is humanity's poisonous friend initially. Much like Section 31 described above, they too started as a black ops unit then went their own way. Some of the questionable things they are involved in - cloning rachni to act as shock troops, attempting to repurpose Thorian creepers as shock troops, even attempting to repurpose husks as shock troops, siccing thresher maws on troops to study them, injecting a human soldier with thresher maw acid to see if it will turn him into a super-soldier, kidnapping humans and aliens for horrific biotic experiments, plugging in autistic savants to an AI neural network to try to control it, and finally running an extermination camp to study Huskification with the ultimate goal of subjugating and enslaving the Reapers. All of these things were done to protect or advance humanity.
  • Introduced in Dynasty Warriors 8, Jia Chong is this to the easygoing Sima Zhao. It's made quite explicit - while Sima Zhao looks (and acts) like a Californian surfer transposed into ancient china, Jia Chong is pale as death with hair as black as night. Several soldiers refer to the two as being 'like light and shadow'. Jia Chong repeatedly takes action to benefit Sima Zhao, usually without bothering to check with him first and is particularly swift to kill off enemies that Sima Zhao seems inclined to offer mercy to. Culminating in...
    Sima Zhao: (Standing with his sword raised over the Wei Emperor) This is what you want from me, right?!
    Jia Chong: Yes... but the dirty work is my job. (Cuts down the Emperor himself)
  • Shadow Hearts gives us Arcane Olga, a sadistic witch's ghost who cackles as she drains the life out of innocent civilians. She is later recruited by the Big Bad, who is a Sophisticated as Hell Anti-Villain. She is working for him because she admires him and will reign in her sadism based on his orders, however, if he doesn't specifically order her otherwise she goes right back to hurting people for the fun of it.
  • A downplayed and rather strange example in Starcraft 2. At the conclusion of the Covert Ops mini-campaign, Nova comes to the conclusion that Valerian Mengsk is a great man and a worthy ruler, but also entirely too soft. Not only does she disobey a direct order to bring in a mutinous general alive, but she also makes it perfectly clear that she intends to go rogue and begin assassinating anyone she deems a threat to Valerian's rule.... despite Valerian explicitly ordering her not to do that.
  • The Batman: The Telltale Series has "John Doe", aka The Joker, who manages to be this to Bruce. He's a violent and unsettlingly creepy lunatic who derives cruel pleasure from fighting, mayhem, and destruction, but at the same time, he's a truly loyal friend to Bruce who genuinely cares about him, even saving his life at a couple of key points in both Seasons. He manages to be simultaneously an innocent victim of mental illness as well as scary as hell.
  • Psychonauts 2: While journeying into the mind of Bob Zannoto, Raz has to face the embodiment of Bob's alcoholism, a moth who claims to be "protecting" Bob from his traumas and self-doubt but is just making things worse by hiding him from them.

    Visual Novels 
  • Rider is Sakura's poisonous friend in the Heaven's Feel route of Fate/stay night. She's willing to let the world be destroyed or kill Shirou and Tohsaka, her sister, just to prolong her life an extra couple days if she has to, whether Sakura wants her to or not. Eventually, she realizes that Sakura just being alive isn't sufficient, and ends up fighting against her. She's still acting almost exclusively for Sakura's benefit, though.
    • Shinji, Sakura's adoptive, abusive brother is this for Shirou.
  • In Hakuouki, Hijikata Toshizo intentionally takes on the role of harsh disciplinarian and "Demon Vice-Commander" to keep order within the Shinsengumi and further Commander Kondou Isami's goals against the heavy opposition of the era's very classist society, allowing Kondou to remain as nice and brotherly and idealistic as he wants to be. It's a mild example since Kondou is aware of everything Hijikata is doing, but there are points at which Hijikata is specifically noted as "playing the villain" for Kondou's sake. In the end, it kind of backfires on both of them, as Hijikata's efforts protect Kondou from many of the harsher realities of leadership and leave him unprepared to deal with the situations the Shinsengumi face after the Boshin War begins.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend has two notable examples, both revealed in the much darker "Bad Boys' Love" route. Namely, Hitori Uzune's efforts to avenge (and later, keep the remains of) his brother Nageki Fujishiro, and the extremes to which Yuuya Sakazaki went to protect his brother Sakuya Shirogane Le Bel.

    Web Comics 
  • Firefly Cross has a fairly low-key (so far) example; Katyn's friend Micah is actually Dark, and willing to kill in order to protect her. Which he's already done, when a Well-Intentioned Extremist stole her sword.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Tarquin does seem to genuinely love Elan, but he expresses it in truly awful ways. He welcomes Elan by arranging captured slaves to spell Elan's name and then burning them alive. He wants Elan to be happy with he frames Haley's father for murder as a "test" to see whether she deserves Elan. He wants Elan to grow into the role of The Hero instead of remaining a supporting he orders his army to kill the actual Hero Roy. On the other hand, being Tarquin's enemy is even worse which Nale found out the hard way.
  • Used interestingly in Cobweb and Stripes, when Betelgeuse offers to be exactly this for Lydia. He volunteers to handle anyone at her request, so she needn't get her "sweet little hands" dirty. She's not entirely comfortable with the offer, although at the same time she sort of appreciates it.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Nioi believes that General Shade Tail is this to Lord Tedd, corrupting him with his Blood Knight tendencies.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Token Evil Teammate Regent, realizing that Sociopathic Hero Shadow Stalker isn't going to leave the Undersiders alone and will in fact keep coming after them with lethal force until she gets lucky, takes it upon himself to use his People Puppets power to utterly destroy her life and drive her out of town, refraining from killing her only because it would be more troublesome and draw more attention from the authorities.
  • In Twig, the narrator, Sylvester, becomes steadily aware that he is essentially this towards the more moral Lillian, and he worries even when they enter a romantic relationship that he isn't actually able to love her and build her up instead of tearing her down. His amorality and inbuilt Manipulative Bastard tendencies also make him worried that he'll become a poisonous influence on her future as an Academy professor.

    Web Videos 
  • In The Veronica Exclusive, Veronica's girlfriend Jane would do anything to make her happy, up to and including murder.

    Western Animation 
  • Charles "Big Time" Bigelow from Batman Beyond, towards Terry. He's the reason Terry has a juvie record (Terry didn't even know what was happening until it was too late) and he spends most of his screen time manipulating Terry, either to get away with something or to get Terry as a lackey.
  • Both Beezy J. Heinous and Heloise towards the titular Jimmy Two-Shoes. While how much they actually hate each other depends on the day, it isn't rare for them to engage in violent and combative Friend Versus Lover fights over Jimmy's attention.
  • Beetlejuice drags Lydia into all sorts of scams, schemes, and misadventures; however, he is profoundly loyal to her, and will utterly destroy anyone else who creates difficulties for her. (Or he would if she'd let him. She stops him if he goes too far.)
  • Wander over Yonder: Although there's little doubt that Lord Hater is a bad guy, his right-hand man Commander Peepers is largely responsible for channeling his unmotivated evildoing into a quest for galactic domination. He has been known to work behind his boss's back, as when he took out a series of bounty hunters hired by Hater to capture Wander and Sylvia since he wanted the credit of capturing them himself.
  • Rick from Rick and Morty, despite all the abuse, treating his family as a means to an end, and all his many many flaws, will look out for his friends and family when the chips are down and isn't even sure why he bothers. Of course, since it's Rick, he'll do it in some pretty ruthless, messed up, and heartless ways. Best example is when he passively protects Jerry of all people from a jealous alien out to kill him:
    Message One: This is Garmos! I have intercepted sexual communications between you and my new girlfriend Keara! I am coming to kill you NOW!!!
    Message Two: Yo Jerry it's the Big R. I killed that alien that was coming after ya. Looking out for you, buddy.
    Message Three: Yo Jerry it's Rick. Don't be mad I fucked your ex-girlfriend Keara.
  • Amphibia: Sasha is both this and Toxic Friend Influence: Sasha combines her controlling attitude toward Anne with a ruthless protectiveness. She used her school status to defend Anne from bullying and believes Anne would be better off if she joined Toad Tower.