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Surveillance as the Plot Demands

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Infinity Wars, Namor's war against the surface world, Spider-Geddon... The Maker can watch it all!

"Lex Luthor had cameras everywhere. It didn't matter if Jayna was on the toilet or if Superman was 3 galaxies away enjoying a bowl of cereal, Lex Luthor could put it up on the big screen if he wanted."

The bad guys have cameras everywhere. They probably also have Ominous Multiple Screens to follow all those cameras. Like some even-more-sinister version of Big Brother, they always know exactly where the heroes are and what they're doing, even if there's no possible reason for them to be able to. It doesn't matter if they're three galaxies away or five thousand years in the past: the villains can still find them. They can put anything that they want up on the big screen, making you wonder why they don't give up on the bizarre plans for world domination and just surreptitiously blackmail every government in the world without the good guys ever finding out. Or at least, you would if you weren't so busy trying to puzzle out exactly how Luthor managed to get a live feed of the Super Friends repairing satellites in outer space.

The Omniscient Council of Vagueness will often make heavy use of this trope — this trope is primarliy used to keep the villains and their Plan up-to-date on the situation. Heroes or antagonists savvy to this will give them a Poke in the Third Eye to escape detection.

Incidentally, magical versions of this trope (Crystal Balls, Magic Mirrors, etc.) are a little more sensible, being one of those tropes that's so unlikely that A Wizard Did It becomes the most plausible explanation.

See also Big Brother Is Watching for the dystopian version. Not to be confused with Magical Security Cam, which is when the surveillance footage is recycled from elsewhere in the show. May lead to Two-Way Tapping. Also compare Convenient Photograph, which is a case where something specific gets caught, often improbably, in a picture, but it may or may not be as a result of this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The series Am I Actually the Strongest? has a heroic version of this. Haruto takes absolutely no chances with the safety of his family, his friends or himself and places surveillance barriers in as many locations as possible.
  • Death Note: L likes constant surveillance, as do Mello and Near. L is often seen watching Ominous Multiple Screens. At one point he put 64 cameras in his suspect's room only to take them out again later.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: The Digimon Kaiser. One of the standby jokes in any Crack Fic involved him being caught aiming the camera in odd directions...
  • Dragon Quest: Legend of the Hero Abel: Baramos monitors the heroes' progress through magic, using the eyes of his many minions.
  • Get Backers: MakubeX, while inside his tower.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Tymilph has a wall of screens, displaying various things. Including one camera aimed directly at Kiyoh's breasts.
  • Powerpuff Girls Z: Professor Utonium has a screen in his lab that can show any spot in the city, no matter how little sense it makes for him to view anything there. Mojo Jojo, unlike in the original, does not.
  • Soul Eater has Arachne using her spiders as spies to track enemy movement. Even to the point of semi-omniscience, which she demonstrates by telling Maka & Soul that Soul is the one who burnt their curry the previous night, because he left it on too long. So, apparently, she's either an excellent multitasker, or she just likes watching people do mundane things.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Battle Tendency: The Nazis are apparently aware of everything that goes on with Joseph through their spy network. However, this also happens to be towards the benefit of the protagonists, as they are able to stop the Red Stone of Aja from being delivered to Kars when Suzi Q, possessed by Esidisi's disembodied brain, sends it to him.
    • Stardust Crusaders: Joseph's Hermit Purple Stand can summon pictures of where a person is by destroying a camera, and can read the future by adjusting a television set (it manifests as people on random TV channels saying words that link into a proper sentence). Dio Brando has the same power due to having the body of Jonathan Joestar (Joseph's grandfather).
    • Stone Ocean: Pucci uses the constant surveillance by the prison guards to look for any suspicious move from Jolyne's part.
    • Steel Ball Run: Funny Valentine watches over the heroes by using the observation balloons that are normally used to watch over the racers, but comments that balloons aren't fit for constantly watching over them.
  • SD Gundam Force: Clips from past episodes are used as in-universe footage of those events. No explanation is made of this. The Zako Soldiers are the biggest offenders, as they had clips from episodes where there were nowhere to be found.
  • One Piece:
    • Zigzagged, due to the heavy amounts of Schizo Tech in its worldbuilding. It began as a Wooden Ships and Iron Men setting with letters and newspapers as the highest form of communication, but whenever the plot calls for it, the Marines/World Government will have a media network comparable to those of the 21st century - especially in the Marineford Arc, where the big war is broadcast to the people of nearby Saobaody through what can only be described as a jumbotron tree.
    • How the marines can get such clear photos of the Straw Hats (and other, decidedly less friendly pirates) so quickly is usually glossed over; Oda eventually invented a joke character to explain it, and took it one step beyond by showing that no, he's nowhere near infallible.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: In the Japanese version of Sinister Secrets - Part 1, Leon relates how he gained an interest in Duel Monsters by watching Yami Yugi's duels in Duelist Kingdom and Battle City. Cut from the dub most likely after the dubbers realized that there weren't camera crews at those locations in the episodes.

    Audio Play 
  • Jan Tenner: Big Bad Zweistein has listening devices installed EVERYWHERE. Whether it's Futura's lab, the Silbervogel or Forbett's headquarters, he always knows what is going on and what the heroes are saying and planning. Despite their best efforts, neither the heroes nor Forbett's soldiers ever manage to find them. However, it doesn't save him from being defeated as the heroes simply write their plan down rather than talking about it.
    Zweistein: Zweistein knows all.note 

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In Volume 1, the Pre-Crisis Amazons had a scrying device with which Hippolyta could view anything on earth, or elsewhere in the cosmos, with ease if she so desired. She mostly used it to keep an eye on her daughter's exploits.
    • In Judgment In Infinity, the Adjudicator uses a luminous scrying ball to watch the battles between the Earth's champions and his agents across different dimensions.
  • Played with in an issue of The Flash, where the Mirror Master finds a Pocket Dimension in which he can see through all the mirrors in the world. However, with millions of mirrors to choose from, he can't find the one he's looking for. This turns out to be not quite right, though; the woman he's seeking has removed all reflective surfaces from her house.
  • The Inventor from Ms. Marvel (2014). At least in the sewers he seems to have cameras everywhere.
  • New Gods: In keeping with his theme of knowing everything, Metron has been shown to have a corridor full of "datalinks" (which are really just TV screens) showing information from all across the universe. Even Highfather is shocked by the things he sees Metron is able to spy on.
  • Agents of Atlas: Justified. The titular group's opponent has a video link to their robot team member, allowing him to always have a camera where they are.
  • Warheads: Initially averted and later justified. In early issues, their superiors are completely unable to monitor the squad when they jump through a wormhole. Later, they integrate a dead Warhead's brain into a scrying device and start monitoring the team without their knowledge.
  • In the graphic novel Lucifer the title character once flies to the "Aleph Point" which seems to serve this exact function. Given the Norse mythological overtones the series has later on it's not unlikely the reference to Hlidskjalf is intentional.
  • In a Swamp Thing story, Metron attempts to breach the Source Wall, and sees thousands of events simultaneously across the universe. He later learns that this was actually an "Aleph Point".
  • New Avengers (2015): The Maker infects the team with nanocameras when they first run into some his super-science experiments. Since they breed, he becomes able to spy on the team any time he wishes (except when they're on the toilet. He has minions for that). Then it gets turned on its head when Roberto reveals AIM had known all along thanks to POD's powers.
  • In Civil War II, Captain Marvel and Gamora discuss keeping Thanos prisoner on Earth, and some random dude films it on his cell phone and shares it. Somehow, Annihilus intercepts that (despite being some galaxies away), and starts to make related plans with the Brood queen.
  • All-New Ultimates: Issue 8 ends with a figure watching and following the Ultimates with several screens.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: When bored, Magica De Spell spends her free time spying on Scrooge McDuck in her crystal ball. Scrooge too has detectives who keep Magica under surveillance.
  • Supergirl:
    • At the beginning of Crucible, Lys Amata, preceptor of the titular space academy, is watching Kara going through her day; and in the second-to-last issue, Lys Amata can be seen watching footage of the battle between her students and Roho's villainous squad on Earth. It's never explained how she got real-time records of events happening in a faraway world.
    • In The Unknown Supergirl, Lesla-Lar's spying devices can see everything Supergirl does, anywhere and at any time, despite Lesla being stuck in Kandor, the Shrunken Bottle City.
    • The Killers of Krypton: As Supergirl and the Omega Men fight an army of Kryptonian clones, Harry Hokum watches the battle while inside his starship, which is standing by out of the planet.
    • In Strangers at the Heart's Core, the camera devices of a criminal alien trio called The Visitors' can somehow keep watch over Supergirl wherever she goes, even when she flies into the Fortress of Solitude and shrinks herself to go into the Bottle City of Kandor.
    • Downplayed in The Hunt for Reactron. Project 7734's monitoring systems can track Kara and her companions down in Metropolis and other cities, but they cannot find the trio when they fly out of US territory.
    • In The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Lesla-Lar's devices can monitorize both Linda Danvers and Lena Thorul at once, no matter where they go.
    • Supergirl (1984): Selena can spy on people in other dimensions thanks to a door-sized magic mirror.
    • In Girl Power, Batman uses satellites to monitor Kara's activities across the world. However, Kara notices them during one mission, and she goes to the Batcave to tell him personally how she feels about that invasion of privacy.
    • "The Super-Steed of Steel": Vostar's camera labs can track and monitor Comet wherever he goes.
    • "Supergirl's Big Brother": Biff Rigger gets a dying Kara away from some Kryptonite rocks and out of the ocean before dying. Right after that, Lori, Jerro and other Atlanteans arrive at the scene, explaining their monitor screens picked up that Kara was in danger. It must be noted that Kara was nowhere near from the sunken city, and still their monitoring systems instantly noticed and reported her plight.
    • Supergirl (Wednesday Comics): Dr. Mid-Nite's monitors are able to spot an alien vessel hovering around the Sun.
  • Superman:
    • In The Coming of Atlas, Lana Lang uses LexCorp's flying drones to monitor the battle between the Science Police and a giant monster, and later the fight between Superman and Atlas.
    • In Superman's Return to Krypton, Jor-El's telescopic viewer, equipped with a language translator device, allows him to watch people on distant planets. As looking for a place where Kryptonians can survive, he finds Earth and starts observing a certain couple from a little USA town called Smallville who have caught his attention.
    • In Superman vs. Shazam!, Karmang's devices let him track Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel as they fly between dimensions, and watch the battle between Superman and Captain Marvel from his Martian castle. Since Karmang is both a Mad Scientist and an Evil Sorcerer, readers are left to guess his machines' nature.
    • In The Super-Revenge of Lex Luthor, the eponymous villain proves his surveillance systems can monitor his wife Ardora, who lives on another planet, whenever he wants (in his defense, he switched on his monitor because he was concerned about her).
    • In Batman/Superman: World's Finest: Niles Caulder's remote cameras show hero vs villain battles happening simultaneously in three different cities.
    • The Death of Lightning Lad: It is not explained how the Legion of Super-Heroes' space monitor can show events ranging from a Sun-Eater plunging into the Sun to monsters rampaging on random planets.
    • The Legion of Super-Heroes!: When Cosmic Boy turns off the Legion's Television Trouble-finder, the monitor automatically displays images of a scavenging ship. Cosmic Boy never explains how the Trouble-finder finds, records and broadcasts random catastrophes.
    • The Earthwar Saga: The Legion's computers can simultaneously monitor the Khund's invasion, Wildfire's mission on Weber's World, and Superboy and his friends streaking through the space.
    • The Planet Eater Trilogy: When controlled by Brainiac, the cameras of his mechanical planet-weapon can display images of different catastrophes happening simultaneously in different planets.
    • In Superman/Masters of the Universe crossover "From Eternia— With Death!", Sorceress uses a magic spell to monitor Skeletor's attack on Castle Grayskull from the distant Cavern of Power.
  • Ultron Unlimited: Played for laughs. Ultron is watching the activities of the Avengers... and, in turn, Alkhema is watching Ultron.
  • The Judas Contract provides an exaggerated example. Exaggerated. Deathstroke watches the Titans though the camera in Terra's lens, and in turn, he's being watched by Adeline.
  • Venom (Donny Cates): In Issue #8, the Maker — an evil version of Reed Richards — is shown to have a series of CCTVs showing events ranging from Thanos' death to Namor's war on the surface world to the events of Spider-Geddon.

    Fan Works 
  • Nobody Dies: Yui knows everything that happens in Tokyo-3. Everything.
    Shinji: Mom, please tell me you don't have cameras in Misato's bathroom.
    Yui: I have cameras everywhere.
  • Humorously invoked in Hogyoku ex Machina, where Unohana is particularly disturbed to learn that Mayuri installed surveillance devices in Ichigo's hospital room long before his arrival in Soul Society, claiming that it was a "necessary precaution".
  • In The Stars Ascendant, Luna and Celestia use the images in the starry realm of ascension to review Twilight Sparkle's battle with Tirek.
  • Supper Smash Bros: Mishonh From God gives this to Sara, thanks to the villains holding the Idiot Ball. Basically, the villains main hideout has security cameras in it, and the camera feed is conveniently located in the Smash Mansion for Sara to watch, and learn their plans. Later on, we see Sara's ally Tiffany using the Home Depot website during an assault on one Home Depot store. The website apparently functions as a radar, since it's said to have a map of that particular store, as well as tracking the location of Sara, and showing which way the 'lesbans' are coming from.
  • Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!:
    • While the Japanese government doesn't have Midoriya under constant watch, it generally keeps tabs on him after he nearly killed Bakugou when they were children. This lets Alexis Luthor obtain Midoriya's life story with her connections, thoroughly unnerving Midoriya when they finally meet.
    • As per canon, the testing sites for the U.A. Entrance Exam are littered with cameras for the proctors to observe the students with.
  • With this Ring... (Green Lantern): The Green Lantern trio is watched during their adventure by the Guardians of the Universe, who certainly possess the means to observe anyone at anywhere and at any time.
  • In Here There Be Monsters, the old wizard Shazam! uses his magic to observe the Marvel Family from afar.
    In a room on the Rock of Eternity, the old wizard sat, and stared at a conjuring of Earth.
    The image of the world on which he had been born hung in a flickering vision-screen before him, the stone wall of his cottage visible beyond it.[...]
    Old Shazam's forefinger flickered out, bringing various parts of the globe into closer focus. The viewpoint zoomed in, as if held by a cameraman with a powerful lens. He homed in on the presences of the three he knew and loved best.
  • In Ashikabi of Thunder and Lightning, Matsu has hacked Shinto Teito's computer systems so that she can spot attacks being made against Minato before they can reach him. This has saved him multiple times.
  • Justified in Power Rangers Take Flight, where the Rangers are equipped with camera drones called "Hoverbirds" that can automatically sense trouble. Unfortunately, the villains have access to the Hoverbird feeds; it leads to the Rangers' apartment building being turned into a monster and the Rangers have to destroy their own home.

    Film — Animated 
  • Aladdin: Jafar is shown watching Aladdin in some sort of crystal ball.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Ursula uses a crystal ball to keep an eye on Ariel and her friends. Interestingly, the crystal ball specifically seems to somehow be connected to the eyes of her minions Flotsam and Jetsam, allowing her to see what they see when they secretly spy on Ariel.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven: The high whippet, Annabelle, can appear on surfaces like glass and liquids such as puddles.
  • Toy Story 3: Sunnyside Daycare has more surveillance cameras than a super-villain's mansion.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Blazing Saddles, where the villain goes into a movie theater to escape the hero, sits down, and sees the hero coming into the theater on the screen.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum. Combined with Everything Is Online, this takes things to ridiculous levels.
  • Casino: Justified, Las Vegas is a watchful territory at first, but Nicky draws so much heat that he manages to attract many kinds of surveillance; wiretapping, lip reading, electronic bugs, car chases, aerial vigilance. Nicky is smart and gets away implementing anti-surveillance devices and tactics for a while, but he is bested when the Feds put a wire inside an adjacent wall.
  • The skeksis of The Dark Crystal have spying creatures called crystal bats, whose bodies appear to be lenses; the images picked up by these lenses can be seen through the eponymous crystal.
  • The Dark Knight: Batman hacks all the cell phones in the city to act as sonar-esque devices which all report to a central hub, giving him real-time, 3D, audio and video of nearly all of Gotham City.
  • Batman & Robin: Incriminating speeches made by the villains is sometimes replayed using the same shot that was used earlier in the movie, surveillance-free.
  • The main villain of Eagle Eye apparently has the ability to spy on anyone she cares to, including closely monitoring our heroes to ensure that they enact her plans. As it turns out, she's a super-computer that the government has built for spying, and her hijacking of various cameras was justified by the DHS having forced the companies to include back doors.
  • Victor von Doom apparently has surveillance of the Baxter Building in Fantastic Four (2005). It's never explained how.
  • Other Halves: It's pretty lucky there were surveillance cameras in the locker room, or Elle might not have figured out who The Peeping Tom was.
  • Parodied in Spaceballs, where the bad guys track down the heroes using a VHS tape of the film itself.
  • In You Only Live Twice, two scenes where James Bond follows the action through TV screens might bring Fridge Logic. In one, the car television shows a helicopter throwing a car in the middle of the sea - from above - and Blofeld's ship engulfing the American one in space.
  • Enemy of the State zig-zags with it like crazy. Satellite surveillance needs time to get in position and cannot record the face of a man that isn't looking straight up (even after the film had showcased some pretty impressive uses of the Enhance Button earlier) in one scene, on one that follows shortly afterwards it takes many men to maintain constant line of sight of a conversation that the villains want to overhear, and later on a satellite just happens to apparently always be orbiting over Philadelphia and is able to perfectly play back the travel of a single vehicle from someplace in the suburbs to an industrial park a great many miles away, information that is as easy to recall as giving the computer the coordinates and time from which the vehicle started to move.
  • Mean Guns: Vincent Moon has eyes throughout the prison by looking through the security camera feeds, but the action is often shown from implausible angles.

  • Ai no Kusabi: Iason has surveillance cameras all over Eos watching Riki where ever he goes.
  • Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident: Opal Koboi has concealed cameras set up throughout Haven City to engineer the plan to unleash a goblin rebellion.
  • The Dark Tower: Stephen King's epic Dark Tower universe includes thirteen different-hued crystal balls of "the Wizard's Rainbow"—they can be used as typical crystal balls are, but each has a certain psychotic bent.
  • Discworld:
    • Some of the wizards at Unseen University own small pocket crystal balls that can be used to observe a specific location, although sometimes reception is bad. And lampshaded: An Omniscope, one of the most powerful magical devices, can technically show anything anywhere in the universe; the tricky problem is getting it to show you the specific thing at the correct place and correct time that you want (it's easier now that Hex, the magical computer at Unseen University, can crunch the numbers for you). Some wizards just set the lens of the Omniscope to the dark of infinite space and use it as a shaving mirror. In Going Postal, two omniscopes were successfully linked for long-distance "video conference" communication purposes.
    • This is the result of an accidental discovery Ponder Stibbons makes in The Last Hero, where his clumsiness reveals that one half of a broken omniscope automatically sees out the other half's POV.
    • In Witches Abroad, the villain, an evil Fairy Godmother, has a Magic Mirror room that allows her to scry through any reflective surface on the disc. It's a bit Awesome, but Impractical, though, since she has no magical ability to locate what she wants to look at, so she has to essentially scroll through every reflective surface in a given area to find what she's looking for.
  • The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. The whole book is about the invention of a device that allows the user to look anywhere in the world they want; later on, the technology is discovered to be able to directly view events in the past. The main focus of the novel is on how the world adapts to the fact that "privacy" literally has no meaning anymore, since you can be watched at any point in your life (and even things you've done in the past).
  • Robert Ludlum's The Prometheus Deception has a villain with this modus operandi.
  • The Star Trek novel The Starship Trap involves the use of a dimensional vergence (a construct that touches every point in every universe simultaneously) as a weapon to eliminate starships, and thus war, from the galaxy. The crew uses surveillance of the vergence to spy on an alternate-universe Klingon ship to bluff it into leaving them alone while they try to use the vergence to return to their own universe.
  • In Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Some of the Valar have vast surveillance assets. When upon the holy mountain Taniquetil beside his spouse Varda, Manwë Súlimo could see anywhere in the world; likewise, when Varda was similarly situated, she could hear anywhere in the world.
    • The Children of Húrin: Melkor/Morgoth had a rather nasty variant; he set a chair atop the peak of Thangorodrim where he imprisoned Húrin, just so Húrin could see all of Morgoth's victories and the ruin of Húrin's own nation and family.
    • Oddly, the Palantíri themselves seem to subvert this trope — they were primarily designed for communication between the owners of the stones. However, they are not purely communication devices. Tolkien elaborates on how they can be used in one of the chapters in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth and The Fall of Númenor. They have limited range, cannot see through things, and cannot look everywhere at once, but they can be used to view things in locations other than the rooms where other stones are kept.
      • Due to their limitations, Frodo famously slipped through the surveillance net to get into Mordor. Sauron has to resort to more "mundane" methods of info gathering such as via his flying Nazgûl.
      • Additionally, one is actually used against Sauron: Aragorn uses the Palantír taken from Isengard to show Sauron that Isildur's heir is alive and challenging him. However, this is all just a ploy to keep Sauron's attention (and Palantír) pointed elsewhere while Sam and Frodo slip into Mordor.
      • Another was used by Denethor, who was apparently unaware of the limitations and had Sauron manipulating what he saw through it. This drove him to madness and almost led to the loss of Gondor.
      • The Numenoreans built a similar "Seat of Seeing" on the hilltop of Amon Hen. Frodo was able to see all the way to Minas Tirith and into Mordor from the stone seat there.
  • Momo: Master Hora can watch anybody and anything from his house whevener he wants thanks to his magic Omnivision glasses.
  • Villains by Necessity: Mizzamir plays the Palantir Ploy throughout the book. It seems to work perfectly at first, but the presence of both Kaylana and Valeriana in the group causes it to only give him some vague glimpses of the villains' progress (Arcie also damaged his scrying font while prying gemstones out of it, thus reducing the font's power). Later, the protagonists get ahold of a magic mirror which allows them to remotely view Mizzamir, conveniently revealing that Robin is his spy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Slim Goodbody: This is a rare case where the heroes actually have access to this! Body Control has a Surveill-o-scope in it that lets the heroes spy on the villains if they know where the villains are. Justified in that [a] Magic from Technology exists in this setting, and [b] Body Control is heavily implied to be a government-funded operation.
  • Averted by Battlestar Galactica (2003). They have cameras and TVs but the existence of an internal security camera system on the Galactica would have solved many problems before they could expand into episode-length plots. The aversion is justified since the colonials are downright (and considering the Robot War very properly) paranoid about any computer networks. The more modern Pegasus has security cameras, making this one more way in which the Galactica shows just how old it is.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Trio has cameras where they need them. How they pulled off planting that gnome in Buffy's lawn is a question for the ages.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Army of Ghosts": Torchwood London is able to detect the Doctor messing with a ghost, find a public camera nearby and pipe the picture from it to a screen at their headquarters just in time to see the TARDIS dematerialize.
    • In "The Sound of Drums", the Master observes the Doctor, Jack and Martha on a public CCTV camera, while speaking to the Doctor on a mobile phone. While the camera's existence is perfectly plausible, the Master's ability to quickly gain access to the exact one our heroes are standing in front of is not, even if he is the Prime Minister. Barring Fourth Tier Time Lord technology, of course, though the episode doesn't say that.
    • Not to mention, both Sarah Jane Smith and Harriet Jones both had their own secret global communications network (in "Journey's End"). Or the "magical" cell phones the Doctor is handing out to his companions these days, that use the TARDIS as a transtemporal relay station. Communications technology is the new plot shortcut.
    • "Sleep No More" has it look like this trope for quite some time, only for it to turn out to be very important that what we thought was surveillance footage comes from angles where there couldn't possibly have been actual cameras.
    • In "Spyfall", a tech CEO is able to track down the Doctor's companions through their phones, data mining, and having "cameras everywhere."
  • Granted, she's not a council, but disregarding that Gossip Girl fits this trope to a T.
  • On Henry Danger. When Henry is blamed for causing Debbie to fall off of a roof of a building, he shows three high-quality pictures that proves he's innocent and Piper did it by accident.
  • In Kyle XY, Latnok apparently installs cameras in places like a diner in the middle of nowhere.
  • Lost's "Others" seem to know the Losties' every move for the first few seasons. This is eventually explained (mostly) by the presence of spies in their camps and cameras all over the island.
  • On The Mentalist this becomes a crucial point during an investigation of a murder in a high school. The school's principal is able to obtain information about events he could not have witnessed and was not told about. It turns out that he secretly installed security cameras in the bathrooms.
  • Justified and then averted in Person of Interest where the Machine is fed data from millions of cameras already installed all over the country. It can thus track individual people everywhere in the county and determine if they are pose a threat. However, the Machine was specifically designed to deny its human operators access to its inner workings and thus they cannot just tell the Machine to track a specific person. The Machine outputs a Social Security number of a Person of Interest and the humans have to track that person down through other means.
  • Nearly every Power Rangers team from the beginning to the present has improbable surveillance, good guys and bad guys alike able to observe any plot-relevant event no matter where it took place and at angles that make you wonder if they've got an invisible camera crew (though it's not always footage we've just seen in reality). In some seasons, surveillance devices are literally magical ("Observe the viewing globe!") but in others... apparently, the entire world (and in some seasons, the galaxy) is filled with never-seen hovering security cameras for both sides.
    • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Rita and Zedd have their telescope and visor respectively, and both are X-Ray Vision capable... but you'd expect them to only be able to look from above. They get impossible camera angles with those things!
    • In Power Rangers Turbo, the periscope of Divatox's sub can appear from any body of water... even a glass of water on a table across the room from the Rangers. It resizes to match, being bigger when it's in a lake than when it's in a coffee cup.
    • Handwaved occasionally; Power Rangers Ninja Storm makes a mention of a security drone, and Power Rangers Jungle Fury mentioned a citywide surveillance system - the show's first (and to date, only) attempts to justify this.
    • Played with in Power Rangers Samurai: the city is rigged with sensors like the ones in Ninja Storm and Jungle Fury allegedly are, but not cameras - the alarms are accompanied by maps showing the monster's location but no video feed of the monster itself. This often leaves them unprepared for the monster's attack - most teams get to witness the monster's means of tormenting the populace before facing it themselves, but this one doesn't.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Steel lets us know how the villains do it - the Rangers' battles are being broadcast galaxy-wide as Deadly Games, using insect-sized 'buzzcams' that can fly anywhere to film the action. As for the Rangers, they've got a magic viewing globe-like device again (in the form of the MacGuffin that gave them their powers) but no all-knowing mentor to give explanations: they often don't understand what they're being shown or why.
  • In Pretty Little Liars, it seems that "A" knows what each of the protagonists is doing almost all of the time. "A" uses this to intimidate, threaten and blackmail them.
  • Played straight and subverted in The Prisoner (1967) where part of Number Six's problem is that the Village is rife with spies and hidden surveillance. As the show progresses, he learns first to hide intentions from their gaze, and eventually to twist these measures to manipulate his jailers.
  • Implied (though benevolently) by the contents of Ziggy the supercomputer's database in Quantum Leap - for example, in the episode "Another Mother", when a teenager mocks another for being a virgin, Al confidently states that the bully is a virgin himself "and you will be for another six years." Rule of Funny is in play, and Ziggy's omniscience is very much dictated by the demands of the plot.
  • Lampshaded in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "The Menagerie", when Spock shows footage from his days with Capt. Pike (using footage from "The Cage") and when it gets so detailed, Kirk objects, noting that no security footage could be like that. It turns out it is images sent from the Masters of Illusion from Talos IV instead.
  • Tales of the Tinkerdee: Taminella Grinderfall, witchiest witch of them all, is capable of clairvoyance with a particular magic potion and spell, at least for a limited amount of time. She uses this to spy on a conversation between the prime minister and the king, and finds out that the king has zero intention of sending her an invitation, even though nearly everyone in the kingdom, poor and rich alike, got an invitation.

  • In the song "Wolverton Mountain", in the chorus the singer claims "the bears and the birds" tell the father of the girl he loves if a stranger comes on the mountain where the father and the daughter live.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Norse Mythology: Odin is said to possess a high seat called "Hlidskjalf" which enables him (and anyone else who sits on it, at least if they are gods) to see everything that occurs in the nine worlds. He also has his two ravens, Hugin ("Thought") and Munin ("Memory") who fly out at dawn each day from Odin's hall across the three worlds and upon their return whisper in his ears the news of everything they've seen.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition: The cover illustration of the fourth edition Dungeon Masters Guide is a dragon spying on adventurers (from the cover of the Player's Handbook) via a crystal ball in Palantir Ploy fashion.
  • This is a mainstay of Paranoia. In just about any campaign, ever-present surveillance cameras are a staple of Alpha Complex. However, between poor maintenance, collateral damage, sabotage by Secret Societies, sabotage by High Programmers, sabotage by Commie Mutant Traitor scum, and random acts of Friend Computer, no one knows just who is watching what and where.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, this is a favorite tactic of the Seers of the Throne: they build libraries of people's stray hairs and personal effects as Sympathetic Magic foci for scrying spells, create ghostly servant "Grigori" to observe and trace the Fate lines of people's acquaintances and relationships, form pacts with spirits that can stalk targets unseen, and so on.

    Video Games 
  • In Alpha Protocol, you can buy maps of all of the various locations from a surveillance company, even those of extremely secure facilities. Including those which your highly powerful government agency can't get accurate data for.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: While making her way through The Consortium's underground facility, Ann comes across a surveillance room and discovers the organization has been monitoring her and Ayane at specific locations ever since they started closing in.
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, Gruntilda seems able to see what you're doing at all times, and will frequently comment on your progress or mock you when you make a mistake.
  • Chrono Cross: The save points also acted as subtle mind-control devices for FATE.
  • Partway through Control protagonist Jesse Faden comes across a room that has numerous pictures of her at various times and places, and comes the realization that the FBC has been following and spying on her ever since the Ordinary incident, evaluating her as a candidate for becoming Director.
  • Disney's Hades Challenge has a heroic example with Phil, who uses the Fates' other eye to watch your progress and communicate with you.
  • Hades: The Olympian Gods are able to track Zagreus' escape attempts through Hades, but they can't speak to him directly, listen in on Zagreus' conversations, or see what happens fully within either the House of Hades or the surface, as Nyx is blocking them.
  • The Legendary Starfy: In Densetsu no Stafy 4, The Evil Degil uses the Mon Amor Stone to oversee the Star/Starfish Kid Heroes Player Character's Prince Starfy and Princess Starly of the Pufftop Kingdom and how far they progressed in the Ami Kingdom, and she sends her strongest and most loyal minions to try to assassinate them, as you defeat the bosses that have been sent to murder you and get further in the Ami Kingdom, Degil gets visibly and verbally more frustrated that Starfy and Starly are still alive and getting ever so closer to fighting and defeating her in her lair.
  • The Combine of Half-Life 2. It makes more sense than most though, as they've conquered the entire planet.
  • A character limit caused this to apparently happen in the English versions of the first two generations of Pokémon from a kind, loving mentor. Whenever you tried to use an item improperly, the game would all of a sudden have Professor Oak speak to you, saying that this isn't the correct time to use that. Nintendo Power explained that Oak had set up a complex series of cameras across Kanto and Johto expressly for this purpose. By the time the games moved to a 32-bit system, there was more room for text, and thus they could explain that it was simply the character imagining what his mentor would say in that situation.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • In Kingdom Hearts the Council of Disney villains lead by Maleficent is shown viewing Sora's actions in some of the cutscenes.
    • Chain of Memories had Axel, Larxene, Marluxia, and Naminé watching Sora's every move from that one room, through a crystal ball. Downstairs, Zexion, Lexaeus, and Vexen were doing the same thing to Riku, though Vexen switches to upstairs once the Riku Replica is finished. Justified, considering that the entire game takes place in one castle.
    • In the climax of Sora's story in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], it is revealed that the Recusant's Sigil - you know, that nondescript unimportant X right on his shirt? - was being used as a tracker making sure he was kept in place during his time in the Sleeping Worlds.
  • Played straight in Mega Man X2, replete with villains in the shadows. They exchange words about their master, but anyone who's even a little well versed in the series' trend of recurring final bosses already knows this "master" is Sigma.
  • In Rayman, Mr. Dark spends most the game spying on the eponymous hero. Doesn't matter if Rayman's inside a cave or atop a mountain; Mr. Dark is always watching from that hill.
  • Not for Broadcast: In the route where both Alan and Jeremy are dead, and you play Boseman's video in the final level, a dictator somehow had multiple security cameras recording her state-secret conversations inside her own office.
  • Vermintide II has a positive version: Olesya the Grey Wizard uses magic to spy on the invasion force, gathering intelligence to plan the heroes' missions. When she has to go into the field, she loans a Crystal Ball to Franz Lohner so he can supervise the heroes as Mission Control.
  • Xenogears: Combines this with one of the most brilliant aversions of Gameplay and Story Segregation to date when it's found out that the bad guys had been tracking the heroes through the Save Point network.

    Web Comics 
  • The non-Canon spy spoof arc of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures shows some increasingly-improbable surveillance, then lampshades it in this strip.
  • In Holiday Wars, The Bunny teams up with The Forgotten which allows him to keep track of the story's protagonist. You can check it out here.
  • In Jenny and the Multiverse, a mysterious new villain is introduced on Chapter 2 Page 2 watching a live image of Jenny in the middle of an open field to which she teleported randomly. Justified by the visal implication that the device he's using is actually an interdimensional scanner of some kind, used to directly observe dimensions, rather than an ordinary camera feed (given its clear resemblance to Laura's Triangular Bisector which opened portals to other dimensions as seen in Chapter 1).
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Xykon makes heavy use of his crystal ball. It features picture-in-picture (for viewing multiple groups of heroes at once), widescreen, and a "TeeVo" to record actions the heroes take while he's busy with something else.
    • The Three Fiends also have a TV that lets them watch whatever they're interested in, complete with a mode to see invisible things.
  • Sinfest has Satan's "Drone Cams" apparently see everything and collect data for soul audits. Except they fail half of the time. Not resistant even to bedeviling, so upon annoying a Fire Succubus become <Bomf!> -skeet. And the Zombie Guy simply punched one out. And pestering Buddha got these things "enlightened" by him. Once self-aware, they turned Big D's wall of screens into non-stop nature show and became afraid of his employees.
    Cambug: Emotional state: Irritable, hostile.
    Cambug: Abilities: Fireball, pitchfork.
    Cambug: Conclusion: AVOID.
    • After enough of this hilarity, DeviltechTM developed another version, but it's really lame.
  • Tower of God: The Regulars on Evankhell's Floor have little to no privacy and don't even know they're being watched.

    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • The Cheat Commandos Thanksgiving episode featured a scene where hero Gunhaver was spying on evil Blue Laser's Thanksgiving dinner on the "main screen." In the words of the Blue Laser commander, "I'm not thankful for that guy with the camera!"
    • Lampshaded in "Best Caper Ever". Strong Bad and The Cheat have satellite video feed of Homestar stranded at the Arctic Ocean, but they have no idea how they even got said feed.
  • According to Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Seto Kaiba has cameras all over Tokyo to stay aware of his enemy's every move. He is adamant that this includes shower rooms.
  • A more low-key example, The Nostalgia Chick surreptitiously sets up cameras in her BFF Nella's parents' house. On the other side of the country. In Nella's bedroom. Without Nella's knowledge or consent. Repeatedly. Poked fun at, in that Nella is every bit as indignant about this as you'd expect.
  • Somewhat averted at Whateley Academy, where no one party (even Security) can claim to even come close to knowing everything that goes on on campus. On the other, at a school full of espers, wizards, gadgeteers, devisors, people who can talk to animals or computers, and not to forget good old-fashioned cameras and eyewitnesses it's kind of hard for anything to go completely unnoticed.
    • The issues of surveillance, both by security and by other students, crops up often, most importantly in "The Riddle of Sappho" where an attempt to frame Pejuta by using the school's ID system against her backfires - due to the killers using a hidden camera to further blackmail her into silence about her alibi, but not securing the transmission well enough to prevent an unrelated student from hacking it.
    • In "Diamonds are a Vamp's Best Friend", the Spy Kidz eventually push their own compulsive electronic monitoring of the Bad Seeds and others (including teachers) too far, and nearly lose their club's standing because of it.
  • Lex Luthor in The Randomverse. Lampshaded by Stark and Osborn.
    Stark: How many cameras do you have?
    Osborn: What, did you buy out Google Earth?
  • Sursum Ursa from Stuff You Like seems to have cameras in the houses of many of her fellow reviewers.
    Cheapus: …did you break into my house?
  • 17776 is a benign version. The main characters are space probes who awakened to intelligence and who have a near-limitless ability to watch over life on earth, from web broadcasts right down to a hermit hiding in a cave. However, they're just Intrigued by Humanity and do it because they're fond of people. And, in Juice's case, because he likes to monitor every Rake Take on the planet.
    Juice: and 0.2248257% of the time they'd step on the teeth and itd push up and hit em in the face like BLAAAPP. rarest of jewels.
  • TailsTube: Tails usually has a cutscene, gameplay footage, or something related to an event on-hand that happened on his adventures with Sonic he will bring up when he's illustrating his point or referring to a past event. How Tails got all that footage from these Sonic games, including one that was wiped from the timeline, will forever be a mystery.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: In "The Vengers", the Vengers recorded the fight between them and Ben without any of them carrying any sort of recording device. The footage shown takes clips from the episode, rather than from an angle a camera would be viewing.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Obake has this coupled with Ominous Multiple Screens. Liv Amara notably averts this, preferring to hear the explanation verbally or just check the news.
  • In Captain N: The Game Master, Mother Brain's "Metroid Mirror," which is a computer monitor, can be used to show anything going on in Videoland. In the second episode, Mother Brain uses it to show her footage of Kevin playing a video game in his bedroom, from before he came to Videoland.
  • Plasmius by Season 3 of Danny Phantom has taken to using numerous, tiny, bug-shaped, Spider-Man-esque cameras. But not that tiny.
  • Disenchantment: Cloyd and the Enchantress are able to watch the series' proceedings from the comfort of their dark chairs, through a magic fire. It's hinted that they're seeing Luci's point of view, since when he's asleep the fire only shows static, but on other occasions they've been able to change "channel" as it were.
  • In the Donkey Kong Country episode "To The Moon, Baboon" Cranky's contribution to the time capsule is a film of K. Rool's past defeats. Said film consists of clips from past episodes, set in sepia tones. It's unclear how Cranky was able to accomplish this, although he does have unlimited access to the wish-granting Crystal Coconut. On a lesser, but more frequent note is that King K. Rool is able to have video conferences with Klump anywhere. Klump even manages to interrupt one of K. Rool's games in "Buried Treasure." Season 2 explained this slightly by showing K. Rool communicating with Klump via walky-talky...although the video part is never understood.
  • Robot Santa in Futurama has a screen where he spies on people being naughty. Which, due to a glitch in his programming, is everyone.note  "Don't you ever knock? Who knows what naughty things I could be watching? I get New Orleans on this thing, you know!"
  • The Duke's Viewing Stone provides this in Gawayn.
  • Get Ace: The villains seem to have eyes on Ace at all times where ever he is, even explicitly placing hidden cams inside the protagonist's house. One episode reveals they kept tabs on him and his family while on vacation.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: The Gamesmaster's screens showed the inside of Cobra's base, Lady Jaye changing her clothes, and the Baroness taking a bath. Serious Paranoia Fuel.
  • It is shown in Hazbin Hotel that Vox has drones everywhere in Hell, enabling him to spy on whatever he wants from his command center. Especially Alastor.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): He-Man's nemesis Skeletor had (at least in the Ladybird books) a 'mystic viewscreen' which let him see absolutely anywhere, including inside Castle Grayskull. When you can watch the heroes' every movement and still lose every time, you're obviously doing something wrong.
    • In the 2002 remake, Tri-Klops uses a series of small floating CG devices to spy on everyone. The heroes completely fail to notice them flying around their palace... most of the time. There are at least two cases of animals chasing them, and a minor villain finds one and uses it as an excuse to get inside Skeletor's base.
  • Inspector Gadget:
    • Dr. Claw has cameras everywhere. Apparently his minions carry them around everywhere, but sometimes they pop up in weird places, like ancient pyramids, the police stations, and Gadget's own house!
    • Subverted with Gadget's dog, Brain, who communicates with Gadget's niece, Penny, by means of micro-transmitters in his collar. When they're retracted, Penny can't speak with or see Brain. How Brain can talk is unrevealed.
  • In the "Abducted" episode of Invader Zim:
    • The duo of aliens that abducted Zim somehow have recorded video of Zim lying about being human, made even more implausible in this case since these aliens are so stupid that it'd be a stretch to think they'd even know how to use a camera.
    • Maybe they somehow hacked into the one Ms. Bitters used to record Zim saying he would attend Parent-Teacher Night. In that case, Zim lampshades:
      Zim: Why would you record that...?
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Lucius seems to be able to pull up anything going on in Miseryville on his big screen. This is probably a side effect of his Reality Warper powers.
  • Kim Possible: This is lampshaded when Kim points out to Team Go the obvious security risks of the bad guy having a direct video link into the hero's base. Somehow, the heroes fail to see any problem with this. Aside from Kim and Shego, who exasperatedly comments that such idiocy is the reason the Dark Action Girl left.
  • Lady Lovely Locks had both a heroic and villainous example.
    • Duchess Ravenwaves' spyglass let her spy on Lady no matter where she was.
    • Lady Lovely Locks' Looking Room let her see what was going on in the kingdom and acted as a conduit for her Fisher King powers, letting her repair damage done to it.
  • Dr. Wily in the Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) cartoon had what some fans call the 'Anywhere Screen', letting him see live feed of just about anywhere.
  • Lampshaded in Moonbeam City when Rad confesses to a scam on TV:
    Rad: [while blubbering like a child] I tried to stop the punks... but I got scared and I ran away... and tripped on the rack of sunglasses and all the sunglasses fell on me. I got up and ran into the street, but I couldn't see, so I fell down an open manhole. HOW IS THERE FOOTAGE OF THIS PART?!
    Vex: Sewer-cam.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Magical Mystery Cure", princess Celestia reveals that she's been watching Twilight Sparkle since the very beginning. On several magic screens suspended in a supernatural void. Which not only show her adventures in Ponyville, but also scenes from her childhood and one of her imagine spots. Feel free to worry about the implications of Celestia monitoring her student's thoughts.
    • It did save the day in one episode where Twilight went nuts from stress and managed to drag the whole town down with her using magic. Given that the first thing Celestia saw her do was lose control of her powers and nearly destroy the capital, surveillance is probably warranted.
    • The origin of the screens isn't mentioned, so given the unusual nature of the place they're shown in, it's possible they represent something else, such as moments pulled from Twilight's memories, and her talk about watching Twilight grow was more in a figurative weay.
    • Her surveillance doesn't end there. In "Twilight's Kingdom", when Tirek attacks a random pony, both Celestia and Luna experience it as a vision.
  • The Phineas and Ferb Clip Show claims that most of the clips shown were things Irving had recorded over the summer. Some of these clips were from an episode that was All Just a Dream Within A Dream.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): Lampshaded in "Monkey See, Doggie Two", when Mojo Jojo steals the Anubis head for the second time and replays clips from the last episode of the effects of the head's magic in countries around the globe.
    Blossom: Hey, who filmed this, anyway? What, do you have cameras set up all over the world?
    Mojo Jojo: YES! Now shut up!
  • Robotboy: Kamikazi seems to have cameras installed everywhere Tommy goes, especially in the first season. The cameras are usually hidden inside random things in the background.
  • On Samurai Jack:
    • The Big Bad Aku has a crystal ball that allows him to see whatever Jack is doing. Why he doesn't try more often to send his flunkies right to Jack is anyone's guess.
    • It has been demonstrated at least once that it can be "jammed", causing it to display only static (Aku treats it like a faulty TV, but hitting it doesn't help much). Also, it probably does a great job of tracking people once the user has found them, but might not be so hot at actually finding them in the first place.
    • Still, even if Jack keeps winning, you'd think he would just send staggered waves of weak or competent enemies to tire and infuriate Jack before he delivers a finishing blow. At least part of this plan has actually happened in series.
    • He has space-capabilities as well, if he knows where Jack is, how about an orbital weapon? Or just a Colony Drop (not like that kind of collateral damage is Out of Character for Aku, the living embodiment of darkness and evil).
    • During the comics Aku checked in on Jack frequently, and within hours of Jack's magic sword being broken saw this and sent minions. "Time passes" though and Jack's seen disguised, with Aku's minions searching again and Aku himself waiting for word. These are not in continuity with Season Five, where Jack's sword is gone and Aku has no idea, apparently having long given up on watching him.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Averted for the most part or at least rarely ever brought up, just like in most of other Star Wars media. Played with in one episode. Agent Kallus turns off the surveillance to Ezra's cell so that they can talk about why what Ezra is doing is putting Kallus's spywork at risk. Later, the other villains notice that the surveillance has been shut off, tipping them off that there's something special about the prisoner (unaware that it is Ezra) and that there's an inside man, but Kallus is able to set it up as Lyste's doing.
  • Star Wars Resistance: Like its predecessor series and many other Star Wars stories, surveillance only exists for purposes of the plot. In one episode, Tam sees live security cam footage of Kaz and Neeku infiltrating the same First Order facility she's in, but in another episode, there's apparently no surveillance in the brig since she is able to talk to a prisoner without either of them worrying about it.
  • Superfriends abused this heavily. One episode had the Legion of Doom getting real-time footage of events 75 million years in the past. (Wrap your head around that one.) Lex Luthor had cameras everywhere, including Earth orbit...and near the Earth's core.
  • Mumm-Ra from ThunderCats (1985) does this. Only partially justified, based on how much you want to believe that he really is confined to his pyramid in any given episode. Lion-O's Sword Of Omens can do this too.
  • Shredder was a huge offender of this trope in the '80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons.
  • Total Drama is (in-universe) a reality show. Okay. But some of the things that Chris and Chef manage to record is just ridiculous—like, for example, Owen's dreams. And how did they pull off the TDWT penultimate episode? Did they put cameras all along the pathway between Alberta and Tijuana, despite not even having planned that challenge before Sierra blew up the plane?
  • WOOHP, the Heroes "R" Us of Totally Spies! can not only record everything everywhere in the world but can find and summon the girls from anywhere: at school, at the mall, in the Middle Ages, even from their bedroom or from in the shower!
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers is crawling with hidden cameras, from both the Decepticons and the Autobots. Oddly enough, even when they're supposedly connecting with the 'visual sensors' of another bot, there's always some sort of angled camera view instead.
    • Megatron has full view of the Autobots via Sumdac Tower's security cams after being dismembered during the first season of Transformers: Animated.
    • In a case of the good guys using this, in Transformers: Rescue Bots the Rescue Team has cameras all over town.
  • Defied in the Season 3 première of The Venture Bros.:
    The Monarch: Yeah, yeah, roll the clip...
    Councilman 1: Unfortunately, we have no visual records of your time in college.
    The Monarch: ...Really? So we're not going to have to sit through hours of me abusing myself to Markie Post?
    Councilman 2: Of course not! How could we have video of you from that long ago? That's crazy!
    Councilman 3: We're the Council of Thirteen, not magic angel babies.
    Councilman 2: We don't have like a... magic window into the past—
    The Monarch: Okay, okay, I get it.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Palantir Ploy


The Vees React to the Battle

(SPOILER WARNING) The Vees provide a running commentary on the battle as they watch a broadcast of it from their tower.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / GreekChorus

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