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The Paragon Always Rebels

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"Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell."
Malcolm, Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 3

When the good guy leading by example rebels and does a Face–Heel Turn, and others continue to follow his example and turn to the "dark side" along with him.

The Paragon isn't just a good guy, he's the good guy. Everyone looks up to him. He's at the forefront of every battle, gives the Rousing Speeches, and has probably personally trained most of the heroes.


What happens when someone like that turns evil?

So does everyone else.

This trope is about when the brightest beacon of hope and good decides despair and evil are better options and manages to worm his way into the hearts of the men and women who look up to him, turning them to the dark side as well. This is the distinction from Fallen Hero: He's not just falling, he's making sure to take everyone else with him.

Compare Fallen Angel, Fallen Hero, Broken Pedestal. See also The Paragon. Can also be a case of Big Bad Slippage.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Gunzou Chihaya from Arpeggio of Blue Steel. He was the second in his year of JMSDF cadets, but later rebelled and took a few of his fellow best students.
  • Sosuke Aizen from Bleach was once one of the greatest and the most beloved of the Gotei 13 Captains. When he betrayed Soul Society he took two other captains with him and drove a lieutenant into a Heroic BSoD.
    • Played straight when revealed, but subverted later with flashbacks. He was evil beforehand. He cultivated the paragon persona and reputation to throw people off his trail, and one of his co-defectors only did so to stay close enough to eventually kill him.
  • Yomi from Ga-Rei -Zero-, thanks to Trauma Conga Line. The OP song is even titled "Paradise Lost".
    • Kagura on the other hand doesn't rebel as much as she cracks under pressure, taking the world with her.
  • Orochimaru in Naruto: while lacking anything regarding morality, he certainly was considered one of the brightest minds of his generation. He pulled a Face–Heel Turn prior to the start of the story. Later on, Sasuke does the same thing.
    • The anime delves a little more into Orochimaru's backstory, wherein he starts as an orphan, developing into an obsession with rebirth and a desire to overcome death. It even adds a small moment where old Orochi is there when Tsunade learns about her little brother's death.
    • Itachi could be considered an inversion - in this case, The Paragon was the only one to not rebel.
      • Itachi did, however, betray his own clan, the Uchiha, by being loyal to the Konoha government. As such, this is also an example of playing it straight, since the Uchiha considered Itachi to be their best.
      • So what you're saying is Itachi likes to play it both ways. Since he's a Paragon to both sides of the conflict... No wonder he seemed like such a troubled guy in the flashbacks.
      • And no wonder Sasuke doesn't get what he's trying to teach him...
    • Nagato was seen as a Messianic Archetype but personal tragedy transformed him into a Dark Messiah. Hidden Rain and Konan followed him.
  • Sailor Galaxia in Sailor Moon, though in the anime it's explained because she simultaneously extracted her own star seed and absorbed elemental chaos. She just got corrupted in the manga. And she cast it out to protect it from Chaos.
  • In Saint Beast, Lucifer refuses to stay as number two and takes Gabriel to hell with him. History then repeats itself with Judas and Luca, their students, whose motives are better but who also fall from the highest rank to ruling hell.
  • The plot of Tiger Mask centers around the illegal Tiger Cave that specializes in training wrestlers who are brutal even by heel standards, with the titular Tiger Mask being called as such for being their most promising student ever. And when he pulls a Heel–Face Turn, the Tiger Cave executives try to have him killed but ultimately can't stop many of the later Tiger Cave trainees from becoming baby faces too.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho: Sensui is regarded as a prodigy among Spirit Detectives; he was killing spirits before he got the job. When he shows up as a villain he recruits other spiritually powerful people by his powerful personality. He's an Evil Counterpart to Yusuke himself.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America, the most respected hero in the Marvel Universe, rebels against the US government in Civil War. Notable in that the majority of fans agreed with him and disliked his supposed Heel Realization.
  • Former Green Lantern Sinestro, the best and brightest Green Lantern who turned to evil. Where do you think the other yellow lanterns came from or why they invoke his name in their oath? Depending on the Writer he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist, with mixed results.
    • Originally applied to Hal Jordan - Green Lantern of the Silver Age - who fell from grace during the 90's when the Guardians refused to give him enough power to restore his home town (which had just been destroyed in an unrelated Superman story arc). Jordan did not take this well and went on a killing spree of his fellow Lanterns to amass enough power to do so, becoming the villain known as Parallax.
  • Pretty much the whole point of DC's Injustice: Gods Among Us video game and comic line. It's set in an alternate universe where Superman suffers a personal tragedy and takes control of the world as its tyrant, and the entire Justice League (save for Batman) goes along with it either out of sympathy for Superman or trust that he has noble goals in mind.
  • Irredeemable is all about this. And with the rise of The Survivor, it appears to be doing it again.
  • Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter: Ben is the most heroic of the main trio but becomes consumed with his need to avenge Jane in the final issues, which leads to his disappearance and assumed death. Richard falls into a depression and stops shaving or teaching lessons, Shiva disappears and is implied to have had a hand in or at least knowledge of his disappearance. This is the point at which the series was cut short, and the next time Ben sees Richard following the series he's dragging him out of an underground fighting ring where Rich has been fighting people to their deaths each night and Shiva has become a proper irredeemable villain instead of staying the the grey area she skirted for this series.
  • Secret Empire: Captain America again. In a tie-in comic, he manages to lift Mjolnir off the ground despite this being Hydra!Cap. This is the driving force behind why so many of the heroes ally with him against their better judgment, since you can't be worthy if you're not good. Even though that's not what worthiness actually means in the Thor books, and it's more about bravery than anything else. Why no one assumes Cap simply has Villainous Valor is unknown. It's revealed that this is not the actual Cap, but a version from an altered timeline where he'd always been a Hydra agent, and him lifting Mjolnir is only possible because the parties responsible for that also changed the nature of the enchantment, but he's still presented as a real Captain America and nobody knows about the change to Mjolnir until it's restored to normal, so this trope ends up subverted and played straight at the same time.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • A'Sharad Hett, a Tusken Jedi in the Republic comic series, is considered one of the greatest Jedi of his generation, though he resents the status as it conflicts with Jedi ideals. Fast forward 150-some-odd years to Legacy, and he's become Darth Krayt, the Dark Lord of the Sith.
    • Tales of the Jedi has Exar Kun, one of the most impressive Jedi students of the age, who falls to the dark side and recruits many Jedi to his own cause. He then takes over the Sith, and proceeds to go after the Republic. (Granted, he was a Jerkass to start with, but he was still highly respected.)
  • This trope is the focus of Bendis' Uncanny X-Men. Cyclops was once the leader of the X-Men, and so obsessively loyal to Xavier's dream that even the others considered him uptight. That was a long time ago, though, and now the group is split between those who despise Scott and those who followed him into rebellion. (A rebellion which began partly because Scott killed Xavier.)
  • Depending on which Retcon you choose to believe, this may have happened to Xorn of the X-Men.
    • Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch turning on Magneto seems to be a villainous version of this, since they're by far the most competent of his original Brotherhood.

    Fan Works 
  • This is pointed out as one of the big differences between RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse and Canon!MLP. Celestia's transformation into the Tyrant Sun didn't drag all of Equestria into madness with her, but what it did do was hammer into the ponies' minds that anyone could turn evil. In canon, Luna was already kind of spooky, so her fall into evil isn't too surprising. But if you can't trust Celestia, the very personification of the life-giving Sun, then you can't completely trust anyone.
  • This is what happens to Raiden after he Came Back Wrong in Mortal Kombat: Desperation. He used to be the Protector God of Earthrealm, a mentor to many of his champions and fellow Earthrealm defenders (especially Liu Kang and Kung Lao, whom he regarded as sons) and one of the few gods in Mortal Kombat who was actively willing to help them, even if he had his own individual flaws. After his Face–Heel Turn however, he becomes a Jerkass God with a bit of the He Who Fights Monsters, Knight Templar, Omnicidal Maniac and Well-Intentioned Extremist traits, and later on, becoming a straight villain with sociopathic tendencies after crossing the Moral Event Horizon by mass-zapping Sub-Zero and the Lin Kuei to a comatose state, with some of them being in their early teens.
    • Downplayed here in the fact that Scorpion and the Shirai Ryu align with him, but have a big Heel Realization when Raiden threatened Scorpion to torture Takeda (Scorpion's protege) the way he did with Cassie Cage if he betrays him. This ultimately forces Scorpion to pull off a Heel–Face Turn.
  • The unlinkable Monster Girl Encyclopedia series has this in the backstory: the Demon Lord's husband was the greatest hero of his age and was set to kill the new Demon Lord. Said hero instead harbored questions in his heart about if monsters and humans had to always be killing each other, and by some turns of events ended up marrying the recently ascended Succubus Demon Lord and helped her alter monsters into less aggressive, more Cute Monster Girl, a lot more horny forms. The Chief God was not amused, even less when the two drove her off when she personally came to smite both of them.
  • Fairies of the Shattered Moon: Both of Salem's Co-Dragons are revealed to be this, though it gets murkier due to the Gray-and-Grey Morality of the fic considering the uptake in Salem's moral character compared to canon.
    • Natsu Dragneel was once a shining example of the values Fairy Tail held dear to itself, inspired many members of said guild and others across Fiore, and saved Earthland countless times, most notably when he defeated both the Black Wizard Zeref and the Dragon King Acnologia. However, during the 100 Years Quest he was attacked and nearly fatally affected by Bane Particles from the White Mage, with Lucy only able to seal him and Happy inside a Fairy Sphere. Countless centuries later with Earthland having become Remnant, Salem found their sphere and, realizing they were in danger of dying due to the exposure, demonized both of them using Hell's Core to save their lives. In the process, however, his Super-Powered Evil Side E.N.D. has risen to take control of his body. Now he is the Ophiuchus, the most powerful and trusted member of her inner circle who has worked with her to spread her will across Remnant and conquer it through either force of arms or making others question the way the world currently works.
    • Summer Rose was once the pinnacle of what it meant to be a Huntress, being the inspiration for Ruby's desire to be one, Team STRQ's emotional anchor that made Qrow decide to throw away the life of banditry to become a true Huntsman, and the one Ozpin believed would be The Chosen One to defeat Salem. When she learned Salem had Complete Immortality, she went on a one-woman mission through the Grimmlands to reach her with the intent of sealing her in stone with her Silver Eyes and having Raven teleport them back to Ozpin to end the war. However, Salem broke free and fatally injured Summer before reviving her as an Eclipse Etherious, and upon being told the Awful Truth of Earthland/Remnant and learning (and seeing firsthand) You Can't Go Home Again because letting Ruby and Yang know she was alive at this point before they time-traveled back in time to meet Sitara/Salem would cause a Reality-Breaking Paradox, she then joined Salem's cause believing it to be the only path forward for Remnant. Now she stands as Salem's "Black Queen" and major strategist in her war with Ozpin, working tirelessly to bring the rest of the world in line up to and including becoming the virtually-unopposed monarch-in-all-but-name of Atlas and Mantle with the intent of converting them all to Salem's side.

    Films — Animation 
  • Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Lefou even calls him a "pure paragon" during his musical number. Yet despite this, he is brash, narcissistic, and cruel, and when he seeks to slay the Beast out of envy for Belle falling in love with him, he easily sways the townsfolk to join his cause (though he does use the thin guise of the Beast's repulsive appearance to convince them that he's a threat).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Apocalypse Now, remarked with awe by Willard, who keeps poring through Kurtz's file in search of some sign of madness. Willard says that before he went off the reservation, Kurtz's record was flawless — a little too flawless, for his money.
  • In the theatrical cut only, Deckard in Blade Runner is allegedly the greatest Replicant killer around but becomes a Defector from Decadence by the end.
  • In First Knight, Malagant was one of the greatest of the Knights of the Round Table, but he grew dissatisfied when he found they didn't share his beliefs that the strong can do whatever they feel like and terrorize anyone weaker than them. He gathered followers and rebelled against King Arthur's rule.
  • Happens in the movie Gabriel, which is all too appropriate considering the movie is about angels and demons. Michael betrays his fellow angels and assumes the identity of the fallen angel Sammael with the intent of making the souls in the purgatory dimension they're fighting over into his own kingdom with which to battle Heaven and Hell.
  • Interstellar: Mann was considered the greatest astronaut around, a hero, but he's the one who betrays humanity and activates his beacon so that he doesn't have to die alone on in inhospitable planet.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, a series of terrorist attacks are carried out by Commander John Harrison, one of the best agents of Starfleet Intelligence, who has rebelled for reasons unknown. Subverted, however, when it turns out that "Commander John Harrison" is an alias; his real identity is Khan Noonien Singh, who was shanghaied by Section 31, and is most definitely not a good guy.
  • In the Star Wars movies:
    • Count Dooku was Yoda's finest student and one of the greatest Jedi before his fall. As a Sith, he manipulated thousands of star systems into breaking off from the Galactic Republic, sparking the Separatist Crisis and the Clone Wars, which in turn sped the rise of the Galactic Empire. The trope is explored in the Clone Wars series, where we have sympathetic senators like Mina Bonteri who joined the Separatists for honest reasons.
    • Subverted by Palpatine's rise to Emperor. He presented himself as a humble senator, reluctantly accepting ever greater emergency powers in troubled times; he created the Galactic Empire to general approval, and even swayed public opinion against the Jedi Order. Nobody but his apprentices knew that that he was Evil All Along and a tremendously powerful Sith lord to boot.
      Padme: So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause.
  • Sunshine: Pinbacker was The Ace chosen to lead the original mission to restart the sun on the Icarus, effectively being entrusted with the very future of humanity. And then he succumbed to the Space Madness, deluded himself into believing it was God's will for the sun to go out and humans have no right to fight that, and murdered his crew and disabled his ship. When the Icarus II comes along to fulfill that mission, Pinbacker decides to stop them as well.

  • In the Deathstalker series, Finn Durandal is a literal Paragon, an elite peacekeeper granted authority by the King himself. Among the Paragons he is viewed as the best of the best and everyone expects he will be named King's Champion when his close friend Douglas ascends the throne. However, Douglas once saw something ugly and cruel lurking lurking behind Finn's eyes one time and decides to choose his other friend, Lewis, instead. In response to not getting this one ceremonial role, Finn proceeds to usurp the throne, tear about the Empire's golden age, and commit numerous atrocities both personally and by proxy.
  • Inverted in Dragon Bones: Nobleman Haverness is the most honourable man known at court, and the most loyal subject of the king. However, the king is evil. When Haverness starts a revolution, all the people who had long waited for something like that to happen, follow him.
  • Paradise Lost helped codify the tradition that Satan was God's greatest angel, but rebelled against God's authority. Milton uses common tropes of classical epics to portray Satan in the same style as an epic hero.
  • Inverted in Caro King's Seven Sorcerers. The Bogeyman Skerridge is the paragon of evil, the best bogeyman in employ of Strood, and one of the most ruthless. Then he develops second thoughts, and rebels against Strood, causing many of Strood's servants to defect as well.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen Namaran was originally a war hero, Badass Normal, and The Ace, but after his Start of Darkness, he used his 100% Adoration Rating to start a communist revolution and became an outright Evil Overlord, taking the new name Dayless the Conqueror.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien absolutely loved this trope. In The Silmarillion:
    • Melkor was the greatest of the Valar, and when he fell, he dragged a number of the Maiar with him.
    • Likewise, Mairon was the greatest Maia, and he joined Melkor in his rebellion, becoming Sauron.
    • Fëanor. The most gifted, talented and intelligent of all Noldor, who rebelled after the theft of the Silmarils, and drew the Noldor — the High Elves — with him from the Undying Lands to Beleriand, Middle-Earth, to wage war against Morgoth.
    • For a nation-wide example, both the Noldor and Númenor. The Noldor were the most gifted and talented of all Elves, and they rebelled under Fëanor against the Valar. Númenor was the greatest of the nations of Men and specifically chosen by the Elves and Valar for nurturing (because the ancestors of the Númenóreans fought for them against Morgoth). Then the Númenóreans tried to take over Valinor under the mistaken belief it would make them immortal...
    • This is something of a running theme in Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman was the leader of the wizards and widely considered the greatest among them, but was also the only known member of that order to become corrupted. He attempts to take Gandalf with him, but Gandalf sees through him; he still manages to turn his home of Isengard into a major stronghold of evil.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Mance Rayder was known as one of the greatest of the Night's Watch. He eventually grew dissatisfied with the restrictions imposed on the Black Brothers and deserted, becoming the King Beyond The Wall, the ruler of the Free Folk, who are the Night's Watch's main enemies. The Free Folk are made of many, many bickering tribes, but they chose Mance as their leader because he was able to unite them under a single cause.
    • Another historical example was Daemon Blackfyre, bastard son of Aegon the Unworthy and the causer of the so-called Blackfyre rebellion that tore Westeros in half. He was able to effectively contest for his trueborn brother Daeron's throne because he was seen as the greatest knight of his generation and given the Valyrian Steel sword Blackfyre by his father, whereas Daeron was a scholar with no warrior training.
  • Inverted with Captain John Rumford in Victoria, who is a heroic example rebelling against the corrupt system in the future United States. When we first meet him, he is clearly being groomed for greater things in the USMC, and as we later see, his intellectual, organizing and leadership abilities are in fact prodigious. However, his old-fashioned country boy values lead him to protest against feminism in the Corps, getting him cashiered. Then, after some confused floundering about, he begins his second career as a revolutionary.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hive was originally created to be the leader of the Kree's Inhuman army. He ended up leading the Inhumans into pushing the Kree off of Earth.
  • Inverted with Doctor Who: It may be surprising, but the eponymous hero of of the series was originally a member of the ruling chapter house of the Time Lords of Gallifrey, raised and trained for leadership. Great things were expected of him, and then one day he stole a Tardis and ran away.
  • In Power Rangers S.P.D., A Squad, the top team of Rangers, join with Emperor Gruumm. The only explanation given for their decision is, in Red Ranger Charlie's words, "Everyone wants to be on a winning team."
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Whom Gods Destroy", Starfleet's fleet commander, Captain Garth, was badly maimed in an unspecific "accident" and restored to health by the aliens of Antos Four who taught him how to alter the cells in his body, which also gave him the power to shapeshift. After they then rejected his offer to aid them in conquering the galaxy, he tried to destroy the planet in a rampage (his crew refused to obey), restyling himself as "Lord Garth of Izar".

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Judeo-Christian mythology, Satan is sometimes said to have been God's greatest angel, Lucifer (the Light Bringer), who sat at the right hand of God, but rebelled against Him. In some versions, it's out of jealousy over mankind.
  • Subverted with David in The Bible. When he was on the run from King Saul, he pretended to serve the Philistines but was really attacking Israel's Enemies.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Jack Pfefer in Illinois. A traveling promoter who helped launch the career of Buddy Rogers, who in turn brought an unprecedented amount of success to the Chicago territory when he was voted into an NWA World Heavyweight Championship match against Pat O'Connor in 1961. Not long after Pfefer was brought in and proceeded to run the territory in the ground by pushing poor man's versions of famous wrestlers, including what may have been a parody of one of the stars who helped the territory boom, "Bummy Rogers".
  • AJ Styles was known for his loyalty to TNA, having been one of the few constants in the ever-changing company. However, even he believed to be the ultimate company man could only take so much, as he had always said he worked for who was best for his family(read:who pays the most) and a pay cut in December of 2013 was the last straw, causing AJ Styles to depart, with no less than company founder Jeff Jarrett following him out the door, along with Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, James Storm and Eric Young left, leaving Abyss as the only TNA original, although James Storm came back, because it turned out TNA was best for his family.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Lucifer in Demon: The Fallen was canonically the most powerful and wise of the Elohim, second only to God Herself. However, in this case, his "Face–Heel Turn" was not caused by suddenly growing evil but by him shifting priorities from loving God to loving humans, just as God ordered him in the first place. Of course, this being the World of Darkness, things get worse and Lucifer remains a Hero with Bad Publicity.
  • In the Nentir Vale setting for Dungeons & Dragons, Asmodeus was the greatest angel leading the strongest army in the war between the gods and the primordials. However, after a while he stopped caring about the innocents that got between him and the enemy, and after arguing with his boss about it, was cast down. He then took a rod crafted of pure evil and struck down his master with it, but in doing so was imprisoned within his master's domain for all time, transforming it into the Nine Hells.
  • In Exalted, in a rare moment this was actually a good thing from the perspectives of most mortals. The Unconquered Sun was created by the the Ebon Dragon to be The Paragon of virtue, since the Ebon Dragon can only exist in contrast to someone else. Since he's the Anthropomorphic Personification of dickery, he needed someone utterly pure and good to exist to define himself against. Somehow, he didn't foresee the god he created to personify (among other things) valor and conviction deciding that he couldn't allow Creation to be ruled by the Ebon Dragon and his fellow Primordials. Since most of those Primordials at best considered mortals useful power sources and at worst free will a mistake to be rectified, its easy to see how the Unconquered Sun convinced most of humanity to join the rebellion.
  • The Gates of Hell and other material by Dicefreaks feature at least three examples. Apollyon, who either fell with the main group of Fallen Angels or long before, was displeased at the Heaven's half measures, and so came to view all of creation as flawed and unworthy of existence; Eblis, the strongest of angels, became too proud and now seeks the destruction of Heaven, and Beelzebub, who was always viewed as the most perfect of angels, came to believe he needs to correct all else to match his own perfection.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy, the High Elven prince Malekith. Early in his life he was a paragon of virtue, an experienced and talented warrior and general, a philosopher, and a diplomat. He had the rare distinction (so rare that it made him almost unique) of being close friends with the Dwarfs, and was admired by pretty much everybody. Then, thanks in some part to an extremely ambitious and manipulative mother, he attempted to claim the Phoenix Crown and become king of the High Elves, but was deemed unworthy by the Elven gods actually making that call, was horrifically burned in the process, and started a massive civil war over it. His followers became the Dark Elves.
    • Aaaaand later it turned out that Malekith was the rightful king all along (that little hiccup indicating he was unworthy was a fluke; if he had powered through the initial shock, everything would have been fine). When this becomes common knowledge, it's also revealed that Malekith was (sort of) keeping the High Elven faith even while leading the Dark Elves, and he manages to unite most of the Eldar (High, Dark, and Wood Elves) into a single force, and becomes their Eternity King. Meanwhile, an entirely separate and distinct paragon of the Eldar, Tyrion, the Defender of Ulthuan, who has spent his whole life fighting Malekith, rebels against the new Malekith-centric consensus. Enraged, he takes up the Widomaker, and becomes the Avatar of Khaine, uniting the hard-line militarists and Khainists among the High and Dark Elves, respectively, into the not-at-all-egotistically named Aestyrion, reigniting the civil war.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Horus was the Warmaster of the Imperium and out of all the Primarchs, he was probably the one with the closest relation to the Emperor. He's also the person after which the Horus Heresy, the cataclysmic civil war that reduced the Imperium to the Crapsack state we all know and love, was named. Technically he wasn't the first Primarch to turn to Chaos (Lorgar turned before him, and orchestrated the corruption of Horus), but he was the one that caused half of the others to turn to his side and start the war.
    • In a twist, Horus himself always considered Sanguinius to be the Paragon (and he was right). His fall was partly motivated by the feeling that he wasn't fit for the title of Warmaster with someone like that around.
    • Commander Farsight was one of the T'au Empire's greatest warriors, a brilliant Battle Suit pilot and strategist that helped spearhead many of the Empire's earliest conquests. Then a routine mission led to him discovering the Dark Secret the ruling Etherals had been hiding from the rest of the T'au: the existence of the Warp and all the nasties therein, since the T'au do not have a Warp presence (and thus can't use psychic powers) and official propaganda was that daemons were just particularly unfriendly aliens that allied themselves with humans. Farsight was outraged that the Ethereals would cover up such a massive threat and went rogue, setting up his own Renegade Splinter Faction to defend the Empire his way. Not that any of his former colleagues know this: for all they know, Farsight was their best warrior who suddenly snapped and is now a wanted traitor living on the outskirts of the Empire, disobeying the Ethereals for no real reason.

  • Makuta Teridax from BIONICLE was once the assigned protector of the island city Metru Nui, one of the most important places in his universe, a universe which he and his army once saved from ancient evil warlords. But owing to the Makuta race's powers being associated with darkness, and for doing tasks that most citizens took for granted (for example creating wildlife to preserve biodiversity, as opposed to performing heroic deeds in public), they mostly got ignored by society, though still remained respected and thought of as protectors. Teridax, being fed up with this role, then turned into the story's Big Bad himself, taking all of his brethren with him — and executing or imprisoning those Makuta that didn't choose to follow.

  • Henry "Hotspur" in Henry IV part 1. Probably the greatest fighter in England, Hotspur and his father were on Henry IV's side in Richard II, but become disillusioned sometime between the events of the two plays and rebel against the king. Notably, King Henry thought of Hotspur as the son he should have had (his own son, Hal, is a listless drunkard — although this turns out to be a massive case of Obfuscating Stupidity).

    Video Games 
  • Larry Foulke, alias Solo-Wing Pixy, in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War starts off as the Number Two in the best squadron of the entire Allied air force, but eventually grows disillusioned with the Allied strategy (his own Belkan heritage probably helps) and joins the terrorist organization A World With No Boundaries, eventually facing off against his former flight lead. Needless to say, that fight is so epic, they made an entire extra level just for the two of them.
  • Several sources cite Carmen Sandiego as one of these, having once been the best Acme agent in the world before growing bored with it and deciding becoming the criminals she was assigned to catch would be more of a challenge.
  • Dragon Age: Origins gives us Teyrn Loghain, the kings commander and Fereldens national hero for driving out the Orlesians despite being a mere peasant. He goes on to abandon his king to his fate, the son of the man he fought beside during the war against Orlais, before usurping the throne and throwing Ferelden into chaos at the worst possible time. He did, however, truly believe he was right and that his detractors were wrong.
    • A somewhat literal example lies in the story of Branka, the dwarf Paragon whose obsession with the Anvil of the Void led her to commit unforgivable atrocities. Although it is implied that she was a pretty bad person long before she found the Anvil. The Anvil just helped things along.
    • The Dwarf Noble is another example of this. Due to being more popular than their elder sibling and heir-apparent, Trian, the Dwarf Noble was heavily pipped by the Assembly to be the child of King Endrin most likely to ascend to the throne of Orzammar after his death. Due to the machinations of their younger bother Bhelen however, the Dwarf Noble is either tricked into killing Trian directly or framed for his murder, earning them exile and certain death in the Deep Roads. Even after returning to Orzammar as a Grey Warden, the Dwarf Noble is derided as a kinslayer.
  • Garland from Final Fantasy I is the top knight in Cornelia, but turns evil and kidnaps their princess.
  • Crisis Core has Angeal, Genesis and Sephiroth, the top-ranking SOLDIERs of Shinra who are famed and idolized worldwide. By the time the game is over all three of them have gone insane and betrayed the company, though Angeal's turn to darkness is a bit more complicated then Genesis or Sephiroth's.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Seymour is a high-ranking Maester in the Church of Yevon, proposes to the main heroine and is polite and helpful. He's also totally insane, wants to kill everyone in Spira, and made his entire race Always Chaotic Evil. However, turns out all of Yevon's leaders except for Kelk Ronso are corrupt, as the Church of Yevon is a Path of Inspiration.
    • Kelk Ronso was also corrupt, just to a lesser extent. After all, he did knowingly allow dead people to rule.
  • In Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, Lightning gets back to Order's Sanctuary to report that Kain is going around killing his allies off, only to find out that the Warrior of Light not only is in on Kain's plan, he tries to finish Lightning off himself. Doubly effective since his fighting style actually is "Paragon". Subverted though in that he and Kain are Well Intentioned Extremists who believe they're doing the right thing, and after a What the Hell, Hero? speech for the two of them they come to their senses.
  • The set-up for Halo 5: Guardians involves Master Chief and his Spartan Team going AWOL a personal mission against both the UNSC's and ONI's orders. ONI responds by declaring all of them traitors and sending Fireteam Osiris to arrest them. Downplayed though, as neither side is being particularly malicious (though ONI is, as usual, morally grey at best) and it's more that Chief doesn't trust anyone but himself to handle the Guardian threat especially since Cortana is behind it.
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us apparently Superman turning evil is the only thing it takes to make most significant DC heroes follow him; Batman being the only exception.
  • In the Back Story of Knights of the Old Republic, Revan was an immensely gifted and charismatic Jedi, who (along with his sidekick Alek who would face the same fate) inspired a number of others to join him in fighting the Mandalorians against the wishes of the Jedi Council. That was still rebellious action for a good cause, but the next thing you know, he had turned to the Dark Side, reforming the Sith order and trying to take over the Republic.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the Exile, a Magnetic Hero if ever there were one, can become a Sith Lord. Depending on the strength of her relationships, she will drag her companions' alignment down too.
    • The canonical light-sided Exile plays even more heavily with this trope. Despite breaking away from the Jedi to join Revan in fighting the Mandalorians and being responsible for ending the war by detonating a superweapon over Malachor V, they remained on the light-side and were the only one to return to face punishment from the Jedi Council after the end of the war. Furthermore, while the Exile accepted responsibility for disobeying the Council and being sentenced to exile, they refused to accept that they were wrong to stop the Mandalorians from taking over the galaxy and when asked to turn over their lightsaber, defiantly buried it into the stone in the middle of the Council Chambers before storming out.
    • This trope has been so common in the Republic's early history that the Disciple comments that the Jedi teachings must have some kind of fundamental flaw, because it keeps happening. Remember that this is barely half a century after Exar Kun's war.
  • Mass Effect
    • Saren Arterius in Mass Effect was considered one of the best Spectres before his Face–Heel Turn, and ends up dragging an asari Matriarch, her commando team, and a large collection of corporate assets and various mercenary bands with him to help an abusive precursor destroy galactic society. It also makes the council and the other Spectres very reluctant to chase him down. At the same time, however, he was implied to have also been a terrible person (an ancillary book starring him and Captain Anderson supports this), as he was ruthless on the job, even fully willing to cause hundreds of deaths to get his target.
    • In Mass Effect 2, while Commander Shepard can still be the Paragon, during the two years they were dead, they were subject to a massive smear campaign by the Council. Without being able to count on any official support to thwart the Collector's attacks, Shepard is forced to work with Cerberus, which unfortunately only solidifies the growing belief that they've gone rogue.
    • Further compounded in the Arrival DLC, where Shepard is forced to detonate a Mass Relay and wipe out an inhabited star system to prevent the Reapers from gaining a beachhead. This leads to Shepard starting Mass Effect 3 in custody and about to be put on trial for war crimes against the batarians, when the Reapers finally invade Earth. Suffice to say, Shepard is quickly exonerated of their crimes and pressed back into service.
  • This seems to be a running theme in the Mega Man meta-series:
    • The original series has Dr. Albert Wily, a genius roboticist. Appropriately enough, his own greatest creation in this series, Bass, rebels against him. Quite a bit, in fact.
    • Mega Man X has Sigma, once the greatest Maverick Hunter and protector of humanity. However, despite the atrocities he commits, his inclusion here is debatable; he's as much a victim of The Virus as a willful rebel.
    • Commander Elpizo in Mega Man Zero 2 goes from being the champion of the free Reploids to opposing them when he becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist out to utterly destroy Neo Arcadia and everyone in it.
  • Big Boss is the Deconstructor Fleet version of this and numerous other tropes. A few of the games' other antagonists probably count as well, at least the ones who weren't always acting as The Mole.
  • In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, this is one of the reasons CIA wants to snuff out The Boss. Actually subverted or even averted with herself, since her defection is means as duty for her homeland, and in the end, she died for her homeland.
  • In Starcraft, Aldaris accuses Tassadar of being that. Of course, toward the end even he was forced to admit a mistake.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, this happens with Havoc Squad. It can also happen to Republic player characters who turn to the dark side.
    • Republic players on Nar Shaddaa are sent into Shadow Town, an Imperial prison for war criminals, to free a legendary Jedi by the name of Ako Domi. Guess what they find.
  • Bian Zoldark from Super Robot Wars Original Generation, originally one of The Federation best researchers and leaders, went rogue along with many of their best pilots to form the Divine Crusaders and attempted a take-over. As it turns out though, he was actually more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Villain who wanted to make sure Humanity had capable protectors against the Alien Invaders, whether it was his own team or anyone who managed to beat them. However, after he was killed by the Steel Dragon Battalion, most of his subordinates that don't join the Heroes suffer severe Motive Decay, forming the Neo-Divine Crusaders and later the Gaia Sabers and have remained a long-standing problem for the Heroes ever since.
  • Garret from Thief was seen as the most promising Keeper acolyte of his generation. Naturally, he decided he'd rather use those skills for his own sake rather than the balance. Despite this he remains a (very reluctant) ally of the Keepers, which means they permit his freelance life because he keeps preserving the balance (unwillingly) at the cost of some nobles losing some gold every now and again. However, when interpreter Caduca is murdered in Deadly Shadows and Garret is pinned with the blame, the Keeper organisation essentially tears itself into pieces because so many within the organisation refuse to believe he did it. Ironically, he becomes the last true Keeper after he destroys Glyph magic.
  • Garrosh Hellscream in World of Warcraft was viewed as the epitome of what a true Orc warchief should be: Cunning, brutal, aggressive, but not needlessly cruel. He loved the Horde and hated their enemies, but over time he began to believe that the Horde's purpose had been corrupted by the other races and Thrall's peace-making. When he descended into villainy many Orcs followed because they believed he still embodied those traits they admired.
    • In the same universe, Arthas Menethil, former Prince of Lordaeron, fits this for the Alliance races. A handsome, charismatic, and well-spoken ruler who was an excellent warrior and leader to boot, Arthas had great things expected of him. However, the corruption of both the Scourge and the Burning Legion wore on his sanity until, in order to "save" his kingdom from the undead plague, he became the Lich King, resulting in the near-extinction of at least one race and the downfall of his kingdom, all of which is chronicled in Warcraft 3.
    • Sargeras was once the leader of the Pantheon before being corrupted by the Burning Legion and turning on all the worlds he once protected.

    Western Animation 
  • Kyodai Ken in Batman: The Animated Series.
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh 274 was The Ace of the organization. Then he frames our heroes (because Growing Up Sucks for the KND, and he's trying to hide the news of his thirteenth birthday) and very quickly becomes a recurring villain once the Revealing Cover-Up blows up in his face. Until it's revealed near the end that he was The Mole. However, he still plays this trope straight to an extent in that he genuinely hated Numbuh 1 because he was the better fighter.
  • Inverted in Ever After High. The main conflict is initiated when Raven (one of the few genuinely feared 'villains', who is destined to become an Evil Sorceress of unparalleled power) decides not to follow her destiny. After she proclaims this publicly, about half the student body note  follow her lead. The Headmaster's greatest concern is not that Raven is talking rebellion, but that people are listening to her.
  • Green Lantern: First Flight: Sinestro, who is seen by the Guardians of the Universe as the greatest Green Lantern they ever produced, rebels against them because they aren't doing a good enough job imposing order on the universe.
  • Parodied in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness where it turns out that, in each incarnation of the Furious Five, the strongest member has ALWAYS turned evil. This causes Po to worry that he's going to turn evil; and leaving to prevent himself from hurting anyone. Then he remembers he's not actually one of the Furious Five, and jokingly suggests that everyone should be more worried about Tigress instead.
  • From The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, there was Kai Yee. Kai Yee was said to be the greatest Te Xuan Ze who ever lived and was renowned for his unparalleled skill and sense of duty towards maintaining the balance of magic. As a result of a seemingly endless life of battle, he decided to attempt to become a Magical Elder to control magic itself in order to better combat its forces. For his insubordination, he was sealed away in stone until he was later released and sealed away again by one of his successors, Juniper Lee.
  • Alpha in the Men in Black Animated Series was once The Men in Black's greatest agent, but went bad when he started adding alien parts to his body in a bid for power and immortality.
  • Deconstructed in ThunderCats (2011) with the character of Grune, who always wanted to rebel and become his kingdom's usurper due to his limitless ambition, and realized that becoming a paragon by rapidly working his way up the military ladder to General was the best way to succeed.


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