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Small Role, Big Impact

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"It seemed that my lot in life was to either have big parts in small films or small parts in big films."
Bruce Campbell, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor

Small Role, Big Impact is when a minor character — an "Under-Five" (lines) player, as they used to say — who, through their actions or words, has an impact on the story far, far beyond what such a minor character ought to have normally. Note the difference between this and a One-Scene Wonder, a character who has limited screen time but their actions or words have a huge impact on the audience.

This can occasionally overlap with Unwitting Instigator of Doom, One-Scene Wonder, One-Shot Character, Posthumous Character, The Ghost, Spear Carrier. Also see Plot-Triggering Death, where this person's end is the beginning of the story. An Unknown Character takes this trope to its logical conclusion by not having them appear at all.

Compare Chekhov's Gunman, someone who looks insignificant who turns out to have some significance to the plot.

Contrast with Minor Major Character, which is an important character in-universe who has little if any plot relevancy, or very little screentime.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Film — Animation 
  • Meta-example in Howard Ashman. The only two films he completed note  both won the Academy Award for Best Song Score (as it was then known) and the Academy Award for Best Original Song, became critically-acclaimed and highly successful, and eventually conferred with "classic" status from both fans and Disney.
  • Despicable Me:
    • At the beginning of Despicable Me, minor character Justin falls onto an inflatable replica of the Pyramid of Giza, revealing that Vector stole the real pyramid. Gru decides to do better and steal the moon.
    • If it weren't for Gru's nosy neighbor Jillian setting him up on a terrible blind date in Despicable Me 2, Gru would not have realized that he has feelings for Lucy.
  • The Disney Animated Canon:
    • Rafiki in The Lion King (1994) and especially in the 2019 remake. For the first two-thirds of the film he's seen mostly sticking to himself with the occasional chuckle and saying of Simba's name. In the penultimate act, upon realizing Simba is alive, he finds him to deliver the lesson that just running away from his past and his problems may help at avoiding pain, but only by returning and confronting them can he actually move past it.
    • Sleeping Beauty took a creative twist by making the good fairies the main characters instead of the titular princess; as such, Aurora herself only has eighteen lines in a movie whose entire plot revolves around her.
    • The anonymous sentry on the Great Wall in Mulan. Facing down Shan Yu, he defiantly lights the signal beacon on his tower that alerts the others that they're under attack. Without that, it might have taken a lot longer for the army to realize the Huns had invaded.
    • Susan Hegarty the rescue lady in Lilo & Stitch. She was the person who oversaw Lilo's legal adoption of Stitch. The rest of the film and its franchise would have turned out very differently if she denied the adoption.
    • Frozen
      • Anna and Elsa's parents are only alive for the first 15 minutes. Yet their isolation of the sisters causes the entire plot of the movie.
      • The Trolls. They have just as much screen time as the parents, yet they contribute just as equally. Specifically the scene where Grand Pabbie alters Anna's memory — giving her amnesia and forgetting Elsa's ice magic — is what results in her completely unaware why her sister is constantly avoiding her and why she won't come home with her when they reunite.
    • King Runeard from Frozen II only appear in a flashback during A Minor Kidroduction along with a recreation during Elsa's ice figure representation but it's his attempt at oppresing the citizens of Northuldra that not only led to the cursed mist blocking it but also what led to Elsa getting her ice powers in the first place as an indirect consequence of his actions.
    • Emmitt Otterton from Zootopia only appears a few times and doesn't even say a single word onscreen (Only Mrs. Otterton does all the talking), but it's his disappearance that causes Judy to become involved in the investigation that drives much of the story, and he's also inadvertently the cause of her meeting Nick to begin with.
  • Green Arrow in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns shows up very late into the comic book (and animated adaptation), but shoots a Kryptonite-tipped arrow which is central to weakening Superman before the end of his fight with Batman.
  • The plot of most of the Ice Age films is usually kicked off by Scrat's acorn-related antics, which often indirectly affect the story.
  • The fisherman in The Iron Giant only appears in the first few scenes of the film, but it's these scenes that set the plot in motion. After crashing into the eponymous Giant in a storm, he tells the government and some friends at a diner about his encounter. While no one seems to believe his story, it's enough to lead agent Kent Mansley and curious child Hogarth Hughes, respectively, to investigate the strange happenings in Rockwell and discover the true nature of the "invader from Mars".
  • In the Kung Fu Panda trilogy, the unnamed parents of Lord Shen only appear during one brief flashback at the beginning of Kung Fu Panda 2. However, had they not asked the Soothsayer to predict their son's future, the events of the trilogy would have been very different. Indeed, because of this prophecy, Shen tried to exterminate all pandas, which ultimately resulted in Po being found and adopted by Mr. Ping and growing up near the Jade Palace, becoming the Dragon Warrior years later. Had Shen's parents not asked for this prophecy, Po may have still lived with his parents in their village far from the Jade Palace and never have become the Dragon Warrior.
  • In Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, Captain America only appears for a minute at the end of the movie, but he indirectly helped form the team.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) would have been really short if it weren't for Derpy shoving Twilight out of the way of Tempest Shadow's petrification grenade early on, saving Equestria by giving Twilight a chance to escape.
  • Pixar:
    • For the first three films in the Toy Story film series: Andy. He doesn't do much as a character, but the main characters' entire lives and motivations revolve around him. Meanwhile, the Little Green Aliens becomes this in Toy Story 3, upon rescuing the toys from the incinerator.
      • Andy's Mother also accidentally kickstarts the events of the first three films: In the first, she buys Buzz Lightyear for Andy's birthday. In the second, she grabs Wheezy off the self and into the yard sale box and in the third, she throws out the toys who were inside the trash bag thinking they were trash and it also gives them the belief that Andy doesn't want them for much of the film.
    • Finding Nemo has the Barracuda. Throughout the entire film, he appears exactly once: in the opening scene, where he kills Marlin's wife, Coral, and all of their babies save one. This directly creates Marlin's Fatal Flaw: he becomes overprotective to said surviving baby, Nemo, whose attempt at rebelling years later causes him to be captured by Dr. Sherman, starting Marlin's frantic search and the film's main plot. Said search, by the way, also brings Marlin and Dory together, thus without the Barracuda, the events of Finding Dory wouldn't happen, either.
      • Coral herself also counts, as her death led to Marlin's overprotectiveness of Nemo, which started the main plot.
    • The Incredibles has two.
      • Bomb Voyage. He's the one who throws the bomb onto Buddy, which causes the train crash, which helps lead to the Super Registration Act, and is part of Buddy's impetus for turning into Syndrome.
      • Oliver Sansweet. This man only has two scenes, but his attempted suicide and lawsuit against Mr. Incredible once he stops him and injures him in the process open the floodgates for the lawsuits that become the reason for the Registration Act. Better yet, when Mr. Incredible attempts to stop his suicide, he tackles Sansweet into the bank that is being robbed by... Bomb Voyage.
    • Cars has the four tuners — Boost, DJ, Wingo, and Snot Rod — who decide to mess with Mack after he has trouble staying awake. Had they chosen not to bother him, Lightning would not have fallen out of him and wound up in Radiator Springs. They do later show up in a post credits scene where they get arrested by Sheriff for speeding and continue to appear in other media around the movie, so this is downplayed.
    • Ratatouille has Solene LeClaire, the food critic who inadvertently tries Remy's soup. She only appears in one scene where she says one word and never interacts with Remy or Linguini, but her rave review of Remy's soup convinces Skinner not to fire Linguini and kickstarts Remy and Linguini's friendship.
    • Ellie in Up, whose death is responsible for Carl's attitude for most of the film, and the construction worker Steve whose being (accidentally) assaulted by Carl caused Carl to be committed to Shady Oaks Retirement Community, which was the triggering event that caused Carl to float his house to Paradise Falls.
    • "Frightening" Frank McCay in Monsters University only shows up in the beginning of the film but he is the one who encouraged Mike to become a scarer in the first place, thus setting off the plot of this film and the previous one.
    • The Good Dinosaur: Forrest Woodbrush briefly shows up to try to adopt Spot and that's what prompts Arlo to name the "critter".
    • Mama Coco gets somewhere around 5-10 minutes of screentime, yet there's a reason she's the title character, and not Miguel or Hector. Her memories of her late father is the only thing keeping Hector alive in the Spirit World, since nobody else cares about him. Without her, Hector would have suffered the Final Death before the movie even started, and nobody would ever know the truth about him and Ernesto.
    • In Turning Red, Meilin Lee's schoolmate Stacy appears on screen for a grand total of less than two minutes. But her reaction to Mei's red panda form is what gives Mei and her friends the idea to profit off of it, essentially kickstarting the events of the second and third acts of the film.
  • The homeless man in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is responsible for taking Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny into the R rated movie they wanted to see (at the boys' own behest). Them swearing in class leads to their parents led by Sheila to declare war on Canada.
  • The Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is demoted from his usual Big Bad status, instead being portrayed as one of the Kingpin's lackeys. However, he's the one who beats down the Peter Parker of Miles' universe enough that Kingpin can finish him off, which pushes Miles into becoming Spider-Man, and shoving Parker into Kingpin's supercollider is what drags all the other Spiders into Miles' universe, kick-starting the rest of the plot.

  • Xiao Meng like most of the Handicapped Warriors/Crippled Legion in Ravages of Time has a small role relative to the canon cast, the major chain of events in Ravages begins with Xiao Meng sacrificing himself (non-fatally) during a mission: The group's leader Liaoyuan Huo was so distraught by this as to leave the Handicapped Warriors and go freelance, with one of his contracts being an assassination attempt against Cao Caonote , the thwarting of which was immediately followed by a retaliatory purge of the Sima clannote , spurring both Sima Yi's revenge-motivated political ambition and Xiao Meng's participation in Lu Bu's war with Cao Caonote , the former of which coalesced into Sima Yi's long-term plan and the latter of which culminates in one final assassination attempt against Cao Cao, the failure of which endangered Sima Yi's climb to the top so he sold out Xiao Meng to lynching... which both led to Huo's wrecking Yuan Tan's army while searching for Meng's corpsenote , permanently damaging Tan's standing in the Yuan clannote , and to the split between Huo and Yi that led to Huo permanently taking up his cover identity: Zhao Yun.
    • Assuming that the dream that opens the first chapter and is referenced multiple times after is actually the canon ending of Ravages, then the chain of events begun with Xiao Meng's self-sacrifice ends with Zhao Yun killing Sima Yi over fifty years after Meng's death.
  • In My Wife Is a Demon Queen, the Demon Tribe's High Priest only appears in the first chapter, and is killed off before Chapter 4. Yet, if it hadn't been for her, Xiang Ye would never have been summoned to serve as Isabella's champion, and Isabella would have been captured and likely executed by the Regent.

    Multiple Media 
    • Annona was an ancient Eldritch Abomination who lived within the planet Spherus Magna and caused genocides by eating the dreams of entire races. Her attempt to feed on the dreams of the planet's leaders, the Great Beings lead to the Great Beings gaining access to her mind, developing wild fantasies and turning their backs on their world to devote themselves to science. This negligence lead to the Core War over the mysterious substance Energized Protodermis, which tore Spherus Magna into three planets. The Great Beings did mad experiments and created the Matoran Universe in the body of Mata Nui, the main setting and driving force of the story. Meaning Annona arguably is the most important character for unwittingly being the instigator for most of the franchise. Yet, she only briefly shows up in a negligible side story near the very end of the franchise and is immediately defeated by being locked in a dream-dimension. She never meets any important characters and the rest of the world never learn about her.
    • The two unnamed Ice Tribe Agori villagers who first discovered Energized Protodermis, one of them dying by touching it and the other reporting it to the Element Lord of Ice. This lead to the Core War and Spherus Magna becoming three separate planets, necessitating the creation of Mata Nui to fix the planet and study other worlds to avoid more wars. While the Agori only appear on a couple of comic panels and are never named, the Lord of Ice does make another brief appearance in an online side story serial and was meant to have a role in the never made 5th movie.
  • MonsterVerse: Several of the one-shot Kaiju antagonists:
    • The MUTOs (Hokmuto and Femuto) in Godzilla (2014), die at the movie's end, but their rampage is directly responsible for The Unmasqued World in all MonsterVerse instalments set afterward, which in turn is what instigates the actions of the human antagonists of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and Godzilla vs. Kong and sets off those movie's plots.
    • In the 2014 movie's prequel graphic novel Godzilla: Awakening, it's revealed that the franchise's Team organization Monarch was founded not because of Godzilla's emergence, but because of the rampage of Shinomura, who died at the novel's end. Monarch didn't become aware of Godzilla's existence until later.
    • In the Godzilla vs. Kong prequel Kingdom Kong, the main antagonist is Camazotz. Although this is Camazotz' only in-the-flesh appearance thus far, it's revealed here that he's responsible for the destruction of the franchise-central Eldritch Location Skull Island before the start of the movie, which in turn forces Kong to find a new home in the Hollow Earth.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Eris in Classical Mythology's Trojan War cycle. All the other gods were invited to a wedding, but as the goddess of chaos, she was excluded. She responded by sneaking up to the reception and throwing in a golden apple that read "For the Fairest." Three goddesses fought over it, and chose Paris, the prince of Troy, to judge their beauty contest. He chose Aphrodite, but only because she bribed him with the love of the World's Most Beautiful Woman, Helen. Unfortunately, Helen was already married, and when she and Paris ran off, her husband Menelaus led all of Greece to war against Troy. The end result? Ten years of fighting, Troy being razed, and even many of the victors dying or suffering on the journey back home.
    • For that matter, Helen herself; she only has a few scenes in The Iliad, and mostly just lounged around in Troy while everyone fought over her. Even Paris wasn't the city's main fighter; his brother Hector was the protagonist of the Trojans' side.
    • The Odyssey:
      • The Laestrygonians are only around for about four paragraphs and are never mentioned before or again. However, they have by far the largest impact on Odysseus's followers of any of the threats he faces, reducing Odysseus's fleet down to a single ship; it's this massive turn of events that causes Odysseus to seek the land of the dead.
      • Helios only appears for one scene, but ends up being responsible for the destruction of Odysseus's last ship, and his exile on the island of Calypso.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Retail:
    • Regional manager Lara Silver only appears in two story arcs (and one of them was only via telephone) but her presence leads to the two biggest changes to the status quo at Grumbel's: Marla's promotion to store manager (and Stuart's to district manager), and the beginning of the end of Grumbel's when announcing the first wave of store closures.
    • Kate, the store manager at another Grumbel's, only appears via phone in a few strips, but her asking Marla if she heard the rumors about Grumbel's closing some stores is what kicks off that storyline.
    • An unnamed store manager appears in literally one strip, but him inadvertenly revealing that a store that has less volume than Marla's has a stockroom supervisor leads to a chain of events that lead to Cooper being promoted to stockroom supervisor.

  • Nikolai Darius was a small time supervillain of the Red Panda Adventures known as Doctor Bumblebee. He was one of the first supervillains the Red Panda faced in the series' backstory, and only made one appearance in-person as Monster of the Week in the episode "Flight of the Bumblebee". However, his impact on the series as a whole can not be understated. The exoskeleton he invented and used in his first run as Doctor Bumblebee was taken by the Red Panda and its technology used to create many of his own crime fighting gadgets, such as his trademark static shoes which let him and the Flying Squirrel climb sheer surfaces and do Roofhopping. In his appearance in the show, he's created a Super Serum that eliminates hunger and even gives superpowers. This serum is co-opted by the Canadian military to try and create super soldiers for World War II. It creates the Monster of the Week in "Barbarian at the Gates," as well as the superheroes Mr. Amazing and the Black Eagle, the latter of whom would succeed the Red Panda as the protector of Toronto.
  • Despite being a seemingly-random person whose sole contributions to the plot were visions of the future, racking up a huge gambling debt, and ill-advised thefts, John Peters of Pretending to Be People sets off a sizable chunk of the show's subplots.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Ric Flair is responsible for one of, if not the biggest feud in WCCW history: The Von Erichs vs. The Fabulous Freebirds. In a steel cage match between himself and Kerry Von Erich for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship with Michael "PS" Hayes and Terry Gordy serving as the special guest referee and enforcer respectively, Hayes got into an altercation with Flair, which lead to the latter being knocked out by the former. Hayes urged Von Erich to pin Flair, but he refused, not wanting to win the championship that way. After an argument, Gordy convinced Hayes to just leave him. However, Flair would attack Von Erich from behind, inadvertently knocking Hayes out of the cage. Believing that Von Erich deliberately pushed his friend out of the cage, Gordy slammed the door in his face, resulting in Flair retaining his championship and the Freebirds and the Von Erichs becoming bitter enemies.
  • Two related to The Nation of Domination:
  • WWE is, by its own nature, a male-centered show, with the Divas usually not having a major impact on the main-event storylines. However...
    • Did you enjoy watching Monday Night Raw between 2002 and 2005? Well, you have Stacy Keibler to thank for a small part of that. In 2002, Keibler came to Thursday Night SmackDown as General Manager Stephanie McMahon's executive assistant. But what no one knew at the time was that Keibler had actually been signed to Raw, and was only on SmackDown as Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff's corporate spy. While in Stephanie's office, Stacy forged a number of documents that made it appear as if certain SmackDown Superstars had, like her, actually contracted with Raw; fatefully, two of these Superstars were Batista and Randy Orton. This didn't result in anything huge at first, as Batista became a "Deacon" and one of Keibler's allies in The Dudley Boys faction, while Orton was injured soon after his debut and had his career sidelined for the rest of the year. But in early 2003, Triple H and Ric Flair introduced both of these men as the junior members of their new Evolution stable. Batista and Orton proved quite useful to HHH, to say the least: they helped him retain his World Heavyweight Championship for far longer than he deserved, and against the likes of Scott Steiner, Booker T and Goldberg. They also played a crucial role in causing Kane to lose the match whose stipulation was that he would have to unmask, costing Kane what last shreds of his sanity remained so that he turned against his brother and former ally The Undertaker and buried him alive — causing 'Taker to be resurrected as his "Deadman" persona once again in 2004 after having been a biker character for the past four years. And of course, Evolution would set the stage for the titanic power struggle between HHH and Orton, which started in 2004 and continued off and on for nearly five whole years after that! (The two wouldn't bury the hatchet permanently until 2013, when they joined forces as members of The Authority.)
    • Alicia Fox killed Edge in 2008. Well, indirectly, and only temporarily. It was the videotape of her being romanced by the Rated-R Superstar on the day of his wedding to then-General Manager of SmackDown Vickie Guerrero (leaked by Triple H during the ceremony) that caused Vickie to turn vindictively on her fiancé and rehire the Undertaker (who had been permanently banished from WWE about a month earlier), whom she then pitted against Edge in a main event Hell in a Cell Match at that year's SummerSlam. In that match, the Undertaker chokeslammed Edge right through the ring that created a hole, and then caused flames to erupt from it, the implication being that Edge had literally been sent to Hell. But bringing 'Taker back was the worst possible thing that Vickie could have done, since the "Deadman" turned his wrath on her as well as Edge (he having much more reason to hate her, after all). His attempt to choke Vickie's soul out of her body resulted in The Big Show turning heel to save her, which, in turn, resulted in Big Show becoming Vickie's new boyfriend, until Edge returned. This sparked a bitter feud between Undertaker and Big Show that lasted for the rest of the year and continued into 2009 before Vickie and Edge got back together.
    • A.J. Lee has perhaps exerted the greatest direct influence on WWE of any Diva in history:
      An inadvertent blow to the neck from The Big Show nearly crippled her, turned boyfriend Daniel Bryan into an overprotective and possessive jerk, and ultimately caused Bryan to lash out at Lee for nearly everything she did, including his losing the World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania, thus leading Bryan to virulently dump AJ on the following week's episode of WWE SmackDown. Daniel's cruelty apparently caused AJ's mind to snap, resulting in her behavior becoming ever more erratic and her profile on television to rise, as airtime was steadily eaten up by her bizarre antics. Indeed, AJ was transformed into such an outrageous scene stealer that Vince McMahon appointed her as General Manager of WWE Raw later that summer — much to the chagrin of Daniel Bryan, who had assumed that she had agreed to marry him in the ring when in fact she had accepted the GM position.
      This cruel prank, in turn, caused Bryan to lose his mind, which in turn led to him having to seek psychological group therapy along with Kane... which culminated in the two of them forming a comedic tag team called Team Hell No that turned both characters face again. This marked the beginning of Daniel Bryan's true rocket to stardom in WWE, making him so popular that not only did he go on to win the WWE Championship three times, but when he was respectively excluded from and (relatively) quickly eliminated in the 2014 and 2015 Royal Rumble matches, fan disillusionment ran so deep that the WWE Universe turned virulently on the men who did win those matches: Batista and Roman Reigns. While Batista turned this situation into heel heat for what eventually led to Bryan's title win at WrestleMania 30, Reigns never regained the adoration he had during his days with The Shield, was still heavily booed despite being a face, and has had to acknowledge that fact within kayfabe. Reigns would only escape X-Pac Heat years later after a 2020 heel turn.
      Also affected by AJ-mania? Dolph Ziggler, whose popularity was heavily propelled by AJ becoming his manager in December of 2012, leading him to his first true World Heavyweight Championship reign. Also, The New Day, an enormously popular trio that might have not existed if Big E. Langston was never given the role he got in the Ziggler/Lee faction. Not to mention, the breakup and solo success of the members of The Shield, as without the formation of The Authority and the return of Evolution, which can respectively be attributed to Bryan's rise to popularity and the outcry over Batista winning the Rumble (which as previously mentioned was largely because of Bryan’s absence from the match), their arc would not have played out the same.
    • Paige's actions as Smackdown Live!'s General Manager played a huge role in the creation of "The Man". She booked a Triple Threat match where the champion Carmella would face Becky and Charlotte Flair for Summerslam 2018. At the end of said match, with Charlotte stealing the victory and the championship from her hands at the last minutes of the match, and feeling that everything she worked for has been stolen again, Becky turned heel on Charlotte, and their friendship was destroyed. This, in turn, would lead to the revamp of Becky as a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin-like character (with the audience refusing to boo her), a series of well-received matches against Charlotte (including a four-and-three-quarter-star-rated Last Man Standing match at WWE Evolution), the Twitter feud with Ronda Rousey, Becky being injured by Nia Jax in the Raw go-home episode for Survivor Series 2018 (and the resulting injury from Nia's botch making Becky look like a warrior), Becky being left out of SS due to said injury, and the main event of WrestleMania 35 being changed from Ronda vs. Charlotte into a Triple Threat match with Becky inserted as a challenger between the two champions in a "Winner Takes All" match... which she won, resulting in Becky being the first Women's Champion holding both the Raw and Smackdown Women's titles at the same time and becoming the new face of the WWE's "New Era". Oh, and if that wasn't enough, in Real Life, her new persona being called "The Man" led to a series of Twitter quips with Seth Rollins, who also called himself "The Man"... and who eventually became her boyfriend, the father of her child, and finally her husband.
      • Carmella herself is arguably a better example of this, as the reason why the triple threat match happened in the first place was that Paige booked her in a match with Charlotte where the latter would've been added to Carmella's match against Becky Lynch had she won as a response for Carmella taunting that Paige would never win Smackdown Women's Championship due to her Career-Ending Injury. Essentially, the creation of "The Man" was a result of Carmella's Kick the Dog moment.
  • The Big Show heel turn mentioned above had another bit player besides Alicia Fox. Brian Kendrick won a match to qualify for a WWE championship shot against Triple H. Big Show thought he won, so he stepped out of the ring over the top rope and walked back to the locker room. Little did he know Kendrick was being hoisted on his bodyguard Ezekiel Jackson’s shoulders. After Show left ringside, Kendrick was rolled back into the ring to claim victory. Frustration over this loss ultimately may have caused Show to snap that fateful night.
  • A random guy on Twitter doing a question to Dave Meltzer led to a bet with Cody Rhodes which also involved The Young Bucks. A year later this strange chain of events led to the creation of All In, the biggest indie PPV, and half a year later, it ended up in the creation of All Elite Wrestling, the first serious competitor to the WWE ever since the end of WCW.
  • Despite his run with Bullet Club lasting less than a year before he left NJPW for WWE, Fergal Devitt (WWE's Finn Bálor) influence on the course of the stable's and the company's history can be felt nearly five years following his departure:
    • The foundation he created for Bullet Club with its The Kliq-style covenant motif enabled AJ Styles to seamlessly step into the front seat the same night he departed and complete the dream of BC winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on its official one-year anniversary. The camaraderie, cool T-shirt, and general badass antics of the Club, all of which were established by Devitt and his friends, combined with the high-profile presence of Styles in his stead, made them a worldwide phenomenon so powerful that taking the name of Bullet Club as a cash cow became a central part of Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks' "world-changing" agenda when it was time for Styles and The Good Brothers to leave; and even after The Elite's antics became too much to be sustainable within the group's core values, rather than dying out or letting them fully absorb the title of Bullet Club, the core members he started with were able to band together and hatch a successful plan to take The Club back.
    • The biggest seed of Devitt's influence, however, would come where Jay White, the young man who tagged with Devitt once in the United Kingdom and impressed him so much that The Prince got Jay in touch with Bad Luck Fale to bring him into NJPW, would step forward and take his place at the front of Bullet Club as the culmination of both the BCOG/Firing Squad scheme and White's personal mission to sabotage rival faction CHAOS. White would then bring the same IWGP Heavyweight Championship back to Bullet Club in short order, winning it from Hiroshi Tanahashi just over a month after Tanahashi claimed the title from a departing Omega, validating his ascent as The Club's true weapon of choice to succeed Devitt after Styles. And Devitt responded by Tweeting his name and wearing the same color ring gear as him. This has only strengthened with the addition of KENTA at the end of the 2019 G1 tour.
    • And if all of the above aren't enough, The Elite being ousted from the stable (and later New Japan itself, though this was because the Elite decided to let their contracts with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor run out and not re-sign) also led to the creation of All Elite Wrestling. A WWE superstar created the stable that would, in turn, create the first serious rival for the WWE ever since the folding of WCW.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons: The masked martial artist Ouyang Lin. She finds and frees the Sacred Dragon Bone Sword, and convinces Yeh Hsiao-chai to forgive Su Huan-chen.

  • Jasper in Deadland:
    • Jasper and Agnes talk about their parents in scenes that are vital to the plot and/or their character development; when Cerberus demands to know what it means to be human, Jasper describes his parents as proof that Humans Are Bastards. When Ammut makes Jasper confess his greatest misdeeds, he admits he fears he could have stopped his mother leaving and helped his father's drug addiction if he had tried. When Agnes regains her memories, she remembers that her father was abusive after her mother's death, and tells Jasper that they should stay in Deadland. Despite this, all of their parents combined have approximately a minute of time on stage.
    • Ammut is but one of many mythological characters Jasper meets and only appears in one scene, but her tearing out Jasper's heart to weigh it, and then crushing it out of spite, factors heavily into the climax.
  • King Lear:
    • Cordelia appears in just four scenes but she's Lear's clear favourite daughter, and his disinheriting her kicks off the whole plot.
    • Regan's husband Cornwall gets killed off at the end of Act III but not after he's gouged Gloucester's eyes out, among other villainous acts.
  • During "At the End of the Day," a song in Les Misérables, a nameless factory worker snatches a letter from Fantine for no particular reason and reads it aloud to taunt her. The letter reveals that Fantine has an illegitimate daughter, which in turn gets her fired, which in turn forces her into prostitution, which in turn prompts Valjean to pity her, which in turn makes him on the scene to save a man from a runaway cart, which in turn makes Inspector Javert reveal that a man he thinks is Valjean has been arrested, which in turn makes Valjean decide to turn himself in and promise to care for the dying Fantine's daughter, which in know what, it's probably easier to simply say that the Nameless Factory Worker is the most important character in the show.
    • Then there's the Bishop, who sets Valjean on a path of righteousness for the entirety of the play. Without him Valjean would likely have continued his self-destructive spiral until rejailed or killed, Fantine would have been arrested and died in prison, Cosette would have stayed with the Thenardiers, causing her to never meet Marius, who would more zealously assist the revolutionaries and die among them. Curiously, Eponine might have survived the show, not ever reaching the Despair Event Horizon caused by Marius and Cosette's relationship. In any case, the Bishop is onstage for around three minutes, tops.
    • And General Lamarque, Les Amis de'l ABC's only ally in the military. He never appears onstage, is dying when we first here of him, and yet, his death is what spurs Enjolras into starting the revolution.
  • In The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night only appears in three scenes (and the opera counts them in the "French scenes" way). Two of them consist entirely of an extravagant coloratura aria (and many people only remember the second one). The third is a small part of the second act finale in which she gets in only a few lines before her final defeat.
  • Jessica, daughter to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, has very few lines, but the whole play hinges on her elopement and her conversion to Christianity, which drive her dad over the edge. Whether she's seen as a "good" or "bad" character is a key decision when staging the play, and directors tend to give her plenty of extra stage time to pray in Hebrew or look tragic. Lorenzo could also be seen this way — besides being the boy who steals Jessica, he has one of the play's best soliloquies ("How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank...")
  • The titular character in The Phantom of the Opera thoroughly dominates the musical — and yet is only onstage for 30-40 minutes of a two and a half hour production.
    • Also, Joseph Buquet really doesn't do much while he's alive besides loom about the place, tell the corps de ballet scary stories about the Phantom and set up the Chekhov's Gun of the Punjab lasso — but his shocking death is the final nail in the coffin of Christine deciding the Phantom is bad news and choosing Raoul; all (further) hell breaks loose from there.
  • It's easy to forget that Tybalt from Romeo and Juliet is only in about 3 scenes in the play. But as Isaac Asimov pointed out succinctly in his analysis of the play, without Tybalt, the rest of the play's events would never have happened.
    • Remember that there was more than one friar? Of course not, because Friar John is in one scene and has about five lines. But because he fails to deliver a letter to Romeo, the tragedy of the climax is allowed to unfold.
      • Not to mention the apothecary, who provides the reason Romeo is dead.
  • Joe in Show Boat. It helps that he has one of the best Broadway songs ever written, "Ol' Man River."
  • In both the play and film versions of Six Degrees of Separation, Trent Conway appears in only one scene, but it's because of his information that Paul is able to insinuate himself in the other characters' lives.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: A frequent consequence of reducing the roles of some characters compared to the source material:
    • Lancel Lannister is given all the credit for actually killing Robert, but only gets a brief mention in "Plot Development".
    • Tyrion mentions his life getting saved by his squire near the end of "The Siege of King's Landing". The squire in question isn't heard of before nor after the fact.
    • Robb's wife isn't seen at all, but the fact that she isn't a Frey has a huge impact on the Stark storyline.
  • In The Winter's Tale, Antigonus was supposed to kill a small baby, but, unable to do so, he left it in the wilderness instead (mostly because he was eaten by a bear before he could do anything else). That baby ends up being the hero of the story.

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    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The murderer of Mia Fey, Redd White, is an example of a character's role being relatively small because of their large impact. You wouldn't want to spoil the ending of one of the first cases in the series for people playing out of order, would you? In any case, Redd White's trial introduces Maya Fey, Detective Gumshoe, and Miles Edgeworth, instigates Edgeworth's character development (and case 1-4) by breaking his perfect record, and serves as the first time Phoenix has to stand alone in court.
    • Doug Swallow from Trials and Tribulations. He's a victim of a tutorial case in the third game with just a few seconds of screentime. But it's his death at the hands of Dahlia Hawthorne (and Dahlia subsequently framing Phoenix) that introduces Phoenix to Mia Fey (resulting in her taking him as her apprentice) and allows Mia to make Dahlia's Karma Houdini Warranty expire.
    • Yutaka Kazami (Dane Gustavia in the Fan Translation) from Ace Attorney Investigations 2. Looking at just that game, abandoning his son was the first step in his son's transformation to a sociopath and the Big Bad of the game. He's also one of the few characters from the Investigations duology to have a major impact on the franchise as a whole: He was the murderer in Gregory Edgeworth's final case, which led to Manfred von Karma getting a penalty and killing Edgeworth for revenge. This was the starting point of the franchise, with every major character from the original trilogy being motivated by von Karma's actions in some way.
      • His victim, Isaku Hyoudou (Isaac Dover in the fan translation) has an even smaller role, but a slightly bigger impact. We never see him alive in the present, but his betrayal and attempted blackmail of Gustavia is what made him commit murder, kickstarting the events of the plot of the whole series, and his kidnapping of Dover's son is what causes the events of Investigations 2 to happen.
    • With Bansai Ichiyanagi (Blaise Debeste in the fan translation) being who he is, namely the chairman of the PIC, it's hard to think of a point in the entire series that didn't play out the way it did because of him; for example, he's the one who created the false evidence that got Manfred von Karma penalized, and he's also the one who shielded von Karma from getting outright disbarred. However, he never actually appears in the main series.
    • Grimesby Roylott/Nikolina Pavlova only appears in one case of The Great Ace Attorney, but has a great impact on the course of the story. She accidentally pushes Kazuma and seemingly kills him, resulting in Ryunosuke taking his place as a defense attorney. This would seem like a large enough impact, but it later turns out that Kazuma had agreed to come to Japan in order to assassinate Inspector Gregson, and the fact that Ryunosuke had no knowledge of the plan, let alone the willingness to carry it out, forced Seishiro Jigoku to personally kill Gregson in the final case, resulting in Ryunosuke exposing Jigoku as a murderer and unraveling the Reaper conspiracy.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has Chihiro Fujisaki. While he quickly dies, becoming the victim of the second case, effectively the 4th death of the game, it turns out that he used the old laptop the group found in the library to create an AI of his image that can hack and collect information inside the network of the school, eventually saving Makoto's life from his execution and helping the group to get out of the school. By the second game, it turns out he was the one that developed the Neo World Program, as well as setting up the basis for the AI Chiaki that helped Hinata.
    • There is also Sayaka Maizono, who is the first victim of the game and dies in the first chapter, whose story acts as the thematic and narrative Establishing Series Moment for the entire franchise. Their death after being given much narrative buildup establishes that Anyone Can Die, plus the series' habit of killing someone who is played up as a main character. Their sweet demeanor combined with being a Stepford Smiler and Sayaka suddenly snapping and breaking down establishes that anyone could become a murderer if their buttons were pushed hard enough. Finally, their last act of hesitance to kill her intended victim and her dying message to identify her murderer to help Makoto establishes that very few murderers are actually bad people, just ordinary teenagers who are driven to extremes in a desperate and emotionally taxing situation.
  • In Shining Song Starnova, the creepy stalker Reon appears for a single scene halfway through Julie’s route, where he attempts to murder her in broad daylight during a public handshake event. While the police promptly arrest him, his actions leave Julie with physical and psychological scars and Starnova in dire financial straights for the remainder of the route.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, Yuri's only role is as the tutorial boss, and she doesn't get much development beyond her bond with Ami and Kaoru — however, it's that bond that causes Ami, and by extension, the protagonist Akira, to get involved with Kakuya's game.
  • Umineko: When They Cry has Beatrice Castiglioni; she only appears in Kinzo's flashbacks during the seventh arc, but Kinzo's relationship with her and her later Death by Childbirth have a huge impact on the plot.

  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Blaike Raven appears in only three strips of the entire comic, 14 years into its run, but his death is the reason Pandora did not reset for centuries and stayed close to her elf son both of which is highly unusual for an Immortal who typically reset every couple centuries and relatively quickly forget they even have descendants. He is also responsible for the existence of Adrian Raven, a major supporting character.
    • The original Grace Sciuridae appears in one panel but is responsible through her Plot-Triggering Death for the existence of the main universe's Grace being what she is instead of a hulking male like General Shade Tail.
  • The Muse of Time/Mysterious Entity from Girl Genius. In her first appearance she spooked Agatha, causing her to run into the alley where her locket was stolen, kicking off the plot.
  • Feferi of Homestuck. In the alpha timeline, she doesn't get up to much, aside from establishing the dreambubbles by using her connection with the Noble Circle of Horrorterrors. The Feferis from other timelines are implied to have had a much bigger impact on their timelines, with one even ascending to God Tier, but aside from that, she's a minor character.
  • Nebula: Ceres appears for only two comics and has no intelligible dialog at all, but through their actions ends up changing the status quo massively enough that afterwards Nothing Is the Same Anymore.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Fyron Pucebuckle (and his son?). Technically, Roy is trying to avenge his/their death(s), despite having never met him/them. Fyron was his father Eugene's mentor before being killed by Xykon; Eugene swore a Blood Oath of Vengeance, and after he died (of natural causes), Roy took up the duty to continue it. The thing is, in the process he discovered that Xykon is threatening the whole cosmos, so by now Fyron's death is sort of an afterthought. (Fyron himself only gets any characterization in Xykon's origin story.)
    • There's also Kraagor, one of the members of The Order of the Scribble. He has had only three lines and three appearances within the story. However, his death contributed to The Order of the Scribble falling apart, and the making of the Gates.
    • There's also the Black Dragon teenager, who guarded the cave that contained the starmetal. While he only appears for a few strips in what seems like a relatively minor story arc, his mother comes back to avenge him by attempting to kill Vaarsuvius' children. Vaarsuvius' actions from that point onward have very drastic consequences.
    • Fenris is responsible for the creation of the goblinoid races in the first place, making him one of the most important gods in the entire comic's backstory, yet his only appearances in the story are when his High Priest summons him at the Godsmoot and when Thor casts a brief illusion of him.
    • Dvalin isn't in the comic much, but his decision not to vote without the advice of the Dwarven clans changes Hel and the Order's plans and sets up the final confrontation between the High Priest of Hel and the Order.
    • Jiminy, Haley's cousin, only makes two very brief appearances, but it's only because Geoff exchanged both his and Ian's freedom in exchange for Jiminy's that Ian and Geoff have been stuck in the Empire of Blood's prison for so long, instead of having to fight in the arena.
  • In Spring Trapped, the Fazbear's Fright Guard. He is never seen, and only figures into the first page and a flashback, but he's the one who destroyed Springtrap for good when he burnt down the Fright, which sent the Purple Guy into his afterlife (Five Nights at Freddy's World), which is where the story proper takes place.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent:
    • A couple of troll-inflicted injuries have a long-term impact on the story, while the trolls that inflicted them were killed within a chapter of being introduced.
    • Torbjörn's boss, who only appeared in a flash-back. He's the one who informed Torbjörn of just how valuable Old World books were, and made him realize how much money he could make by getting his hands on some and selling them.
    • Ensi Hotakainen, in Adventure I. To quote Onni during Lalli's My Greatest Failure flash-back:
      Onni: Grandma made one mistake, and see where that got us.
  • Weak Hero:
    • Hugo Yoon is less than a two-bit thug, but he's also the one responsible for the hero's iconic "White Mamba" title, which in turn leads the Yeongdeungpo Union to take him seriously — a fact that Hugo is quick to brag about.
    • Though Kenny only has prominence in a single flashback, his actions in the past proved very important to the establishment of the Yeongdeungpo Union. He tried to leave the Manwol Gang to protect his brother, which in turn caused the Manwol to inflict a Career-Ending Injury on him. This spurs his brother Jake to seek revenge, which in turn causes him to join the Union, which in turn gives Donald the excuse he needs to obliterate the Manwol and establish the Union as the strongest gang in the city.

    Web Videos 
  • The second campaign of Critical Role kills off Mollymauk surprisingly early; but his presence is felt for the rest of the story, from changing some of the team's morals to having his backstory play a huge part in the final arc.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Dr. Gero's son only appears in a video recorded before his death, but it was the fact that he died during Goku's attack on the Red Ribbon Army many years ago that motivates Dr. Gero to create the androids to kill Goku in the first place.
  • Helluva Boss: Deerie only gets a small amount of screentime during a scene near the very end of episode 4, but said scene provides strong implications that Heaven isn't much better than Hell in this universe, which has major potential ramifications for not just this series, but also the very plot of Hazbin Hotel.
  • Minilife TV: In "That's So Gay!", two particularly rude characters who only have a few seconds of screentime make homophobic remarks about Chris and Ian's gay friend, Todd, which drive Chris and Ian to turn the titular phrase into a positive statement.
  • Red vs. Blue has Sigma. He only appears in a few flashbacks in Season 10 (and died at the end of Season 6), but he's The Man Behind the Man for the Meta, who is ultimately the reason the plot got anywhere outside of Blood Gulch.
    • There's also Captain Butch Flowers. He appears in a couple scenes in The Blood Gulch Chronicles and gets killed off pretty quickly, but he's the actual commander of the Blues, and his pre-series death is the reason why Church is in charge (and why Tucker has cyan armor — it was once his). And he's Agent Florida, who was set to watch over the Alpha AI, and he accidentally allowed the entire series to happen by scrambling the list of people who were to be sent in his place if he died. This is what sent Caboose, Donut, and (later on) Sister to Blood Gulch, which resulted in Tex showing up, and with her O'Malley, which lead to the entire plot of The Blood Gulch Chronicles.
  • Skawo's Playthrough of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is the first appearance of the Orly?! Counter. While it was intended to be a one off, it just stuck, while the playthrough itself did not, and now it appears in almost every playthrough.
  • In the SuperMarioLogan series, both regular Show Within a Shows, Charleyyy and Friends and Doofy the Dragon are responsible for a few major plot elements. Such examples include "Black Yoshi's Job", where Bowser thinks he has chicken pox after seeing a Charleyyy and Friends episode where Charleyyy has the aforementioned disease, and "Bowser's House Fire", where Bowser Junior sees a Doofy episode where Doofy lights himself on fire. This causes Junior to think it would cool to start a fire, and light a candle. When he, Bowser, and Chef Pee Pee get back from McDonald's, they find out their house has burned down, and the candle was the cause of the fire.


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Alternative Title(s): Minor Role Major Impact


The Hobo

The Hobo who takes the boys into the theater only appears at the beginning, but he accidentally kickstarts the entire film's story off.

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5 (2 votes)

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Main / SmallRoleBigImpact

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