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The Unfettered

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"Necessity knows no law."
Arnold Schönberg

Most characters in fiction, like people in real life, have broad lists of priorities and restrictions that determine their behaviour. We care about what other people think of us, how we will be able to feed ourselves in the future, the well-being of friends and family, our worldly goods, etc. Of course, how much we care about any given restriction or priority varies from person to person, but in general, we don't have any one given goal for which we would throw away everything else.

The Unfettered is not one of these people.

This is the character who can commit themselves to a single goal completely, absolutely, and unflinchingly. In pursuit of a goal they have no limits, inhibitions, or fear. Nothing chains them or holds them back (thus the name.) You cannot make them flinch or falter. They cannot be intimidated, blackmailed, coerced, or otherwise convinced to back off from achieving their goal. There is no sacrifice they are unwilling to make or principle they are unwilling to compromise. The traits that make a character Unfettered can be summarized as follows:

  • Prioritizes ruthlessly: In the pursuit of Goal Z, there is no X that Unfettered Bob is not willing to sacrifice, whether X is money, the lives of friends and family, reputation, jobs, whatever. How ambitious the goal is does not matter; the only possible problem Unfettered Bob has with ambition is the chance of poor resource allocation. That's to say, he'll only pass up sacrificing X now if he needs X down the line and Goal Z would be equally served by sacrificing Y instead. Unfettered Bob can judge harshly and instantly weigh the costs and value of priorities relative to Goal Z. If he can achieve Goal Z without losing his girlfriend Alice, that's great, but if the enemies hold her hostage and saving her's not an option, Alice isn't going to get more than maybe an apology and a mental note by Bob to avenge her after Goal Z is completed. In extreme cases, Alice's captors may find out, much to their horror, that Bob is so devoted to Goal Z that he won't give two shits about what will happen to Alice. (Unless Goal Z is "protect Alice at all costs," in which case the bad guys could hold the rest of humanity hostage in exchange for Alice and Bob wouldn't give a damn.)
  • Ignores moral guidelines: Unfettered Bob is not just Above Good and Evil, he's left that behind a while ago. His only code is win, win, win. Does Unfettered Bob have to find a cure for Ebola, AIDS and cancer in order to overthrow the evil empire? Okay, he'll do it, the evil empire's pharmaceuticals CEOs are going to find themselves running out of business. Does Bob have to assassinate a key member of the empire, now at the wrong end of Bob's gun, and Bob's Kid Sidekick is begging him not to pull the trigger and become a murderer? Bob doesn't care, and the poor kid accompanying Bob will now have to spend the rest of his life haunted by the horrific image of a man's head being blown apart into bloody borscht. Wait, now Bob has to burn down an orphanage to frame the Emperor and increase resistance against him? Okay, he'll do that too. Sorry, kids, but Bob's need outweighs your lives. And now he needs to destroy a planet to stop the villains from using it as a base? Better say goodbye to all those civilians, since his needs are greater than yours.
  • Devoid of apprehension or indecision in their actions: When Unfettered Bob makes decisions, he makes them now, and doesn't waffle over them. Neither failure, nor anything else, is feared by these characters, since for them regret is irrelevant if not impossible. It's not even a question of not giving up for these characters; they simply cannot look at the world in a way where their goal appears impossible (unless they change their mind and their goal, in which case the new goal is likewise viewed). This doesn't mean Unfettered Bob is hasty, though; an unfettered character is willing to wait years to achieve their goal if that sort of patience is required.
  • Lacks emotions, or doesn't let them interfere in decision making: There are two reactions an unfettered character can have to doing something unsavory, like sacrificing comrades or innocents. They can react with callousness and indifference, showing no real emotion or feeling of loss. Alternatively, they can react with much emotional anguish — but this anguish has no effect on how they behave. Unfettered characters showing this second reaction may cry or be physically sick when in private, or even when publicly making the sacrifice, but that won't slow them down. They do not worry since anxiety is irrelevant to achieving their goals.
  • Is devoted to a specific goal, not a set of principles: The Fettered is the guy you're looking for if you want someone devoted unflinchingly to a moral code. The Unfettered has a specific goal state in mind. Even when devoted to a broader cause, an unfettered character can boil it down to something very specific and often personal; i.e. the cause of "overthrow the evil empire and make the world a better place" may in the eyes of The Unfettered boil down to "wipe that bastard Emperor off the face of the earth and send his oppressive imperial government with him." It is not enough for The Unfettered to be devoted to a single person, either; there must be a goal accompanying them (i.e. "I want to protect that person at all costs," "I want to achieve that person's goals at all costs," "I want to make that person stronger at all costs," etc.) Some Zen-inspired philosophical Unfettered may have the specific goal of "do what you want to do at the moment without hesitation." These characters can be really scary.
  • Has lost his fetters: Maybe he used to be a good man, a kind man, a family man. Then everyone he loved was murdered. Now he just wants revenge. Or just doesn't care. Or, as Kris Kristofferson put it:
    Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose.
But The Unfettered does not have to be all purely unfettered all the time.
  • Examples of characters who do not maintain this state indefinitely still count. This is a difficult thing for a writer to achieve in writing a story, or for a character to maintain within it. There are Unfettered who can only keep this up for a limited period of time and may retire from the heroics to settle back into a life limited by family and career once their goal is achieved. Other characters don't become unfettered until events move them to throw away their chains. Going on The Last Dance may compel a character to remake himself in this way, and crossing of the Godzilla Threshold may similarly force one to pull out all the stops.
  • An unfettered is allowed to have multiple goals and still qualify as Unfettered, as long as he can still prioritize ruthlessly between goals. For this reason, Unfettered are rarely devoted to more than one person at a time, since they must be willing to sacrifice others regardless of how much they love or admire them. Somebody who is willing to list his True Companions from most to least important and throw them away without hesitation on that basis is, by definition, a lousy comrade. Somebody who can't do that is, by definition, not Unfettered. It doesn't matter how much else they're willing to throw away; if they allow anything to restrict them from completing Goal Number 1, then they don't qualify for the trope.
  • An unfettered may appear to do things that run counter to their objective because they understand and can manipulate entities that are fettered by morals. For example, an unfettered may evaluate that a chance at achieving their goal is outweighed what it would cost them to take it, if refraining from making that sacrifice would allow them a better chance of success in the future.

Unfettered characters can be villains or heroes, though many are often villains — those willing to sacrifice other people in order to achieve goals usually have a pretty disturbing Lack of Empathy which often goes hand in hand with evil. There is potential overlap with the Complete Monster, as the extremes to which the Unfettered is willing to go can be dangerously close to the line, but be careful; the Complete Monster is by definition a character that is never sympathetic. Another potential overlap is Jerkass as perceived by outside observers. Unfettered characters often have an allure entirely separate from how they are admired or reviled for their moral actions, so an Unfettered Monster must not be a character whose determination you can admire. Rarely are Unfettered characters Magnificent Bastards either; the Bastard often has limits, they're just the right ones. Also notable is that while pursuing his goal, the Unfettered has no Godzilla Threshold; any course of action that will help him achieve his goals is automatically a valid option.

Common characters who are Unfettered: Sociopaths, Narcissists, many Determinators and Ax Crazies, Knight Templars, Manipulative Bastards, Unscrupulous Heroes, Chessmasters, No Nonsense Nemeses, Glory Hounds, Pragmatic Heroes, Well Intentioned Extremists, Combat Pragmatists (the rules of fair play are fetters), Blood Knights, Byronic Heroes, some examples of Yandere, Psycho Supporters, and The Trickster. The Straw Nihilist occasionally tries for this. Contrast this trope's opposite The Fettered, a character whose self-imposed limits strengthen them. Which of the two an author makes an Übermensch fall under tells a lot about the story's tone and philosophy. Also, look for the occasional unfettered Old Master; in Real Life Zen masters, among the practitioners of other philosophical traditions, have been trying to become this sort of character for generations and generations.


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  • Statue of Liberty: A broken fetter sits on her right foot, which is raised to show that Liberty is constantly in motion and will not stop until all can be illuminated by her flame.

    Fan Works 
  • By contrast with his canon counterpart in the Temeraire series, the version of William Laurence in Black Wings, Black Sails has absolutely nothing to lose, his duty to his country having failed him multiple times over and attempted to compel him to partake in penal slavery. Disgraced in the eyes of his family, and deprived of his dragon, his status in the Navy, and the eighteen-year career he fled his family and ruined his prospects for, he decides to put his abolitionist leanings to work and attack a slaving ship with his motley crew of convicts, starting his career in piracy. And it all goes downhill from there.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Doctor Strange's sole objective is to protect the Earth and arm it so that it can protect itself effectively. To this end, he has absolutely no qualms about manipulating those who trust him into doing exactly what he deems is required and has been doing so for hundreds of years. In fact, he's so good at it that no one really picks up on it until quite a long way into the plot when the various coincidences begin to pile up and it becomes clear that everyone is Strange's pawn. Even then, they can't go against what he says, because it tends to go badly when that happens.
    • Peter Wisdom formerly Regulus Black epitomises this trope. It helps that he considers the last thirteen years of his life to simply be a bonus above and beyond what he deserves.
  • Harry Potter in The Darkness Series. After he was abandoned by everyone Harry's one goal becomes "survive the Tri-Wizard Tournament" and he will do that by any means necessary. After he succeeds with this goal it changes to the new goal of "help Voldemort prepare the Magical World for the Apocalypse."
  • Natasha Romanoff in Death God of New York knows enough about the afterlife to understand she's almost certainly going to Hell when she dies. This dials her moral flexibility up to eleven and sees her calmly using her powers to deglove Loki's hand in such a way he'll heal before she finishes, all in order to make him talk. Even more than the fact her powers affect his soul, Loki is terrified from realizing just how far she'll go to get what she wants.
  • Emmet in Fate of a Lost Comet sat down and worked out exactly what he needs to do to get his brother Ingo back: join Team Galactic, do whatever Cyrus asks of him, and once they summon Dialga, betray them and take Dialga for his own. He is entirely aware that Team Galactic is evil, and doesn't care.
    Cyrus: You don’t care about potentially losing your job? Being known as the leader of the apocalypse for the rest of your life?
    Emmet: I care about Dialga. I care about your success. I did not come here without thinking first. This is the express line and I am passing everything else by. My work. My home. My friendships.
  • In the Girl Genius fanfic Good Old Heterodyne Problem-Solving, a few events different from canon coincide: Agatha brings a small Death Ray to Sturmhalten, and Aaronev has different priorities when brewing his Truth Serum, deciding to go heavier on the truth without bothering much with the sedatives. The end result? Agatha calmly shoots Aaronev stone dead, then shoots everyone who tries to stop her. A lot of people try to stop her. Tarvek barely has time to hide under the table before everything goes pear-shaped. Between the fact that almost everyone in the castle is mind-controlled and the ones with the power to compel them are religious fanatics willing to throw themselves into the grinder, by the end Tarvek is pretty much the only survivor. While Agatha is absolutely horrified once the drugs wear off, the fact remains that she solved at least ninety percent of the comic's problems in one night.
    The Lady isn't thinking anymore. They stripped away every part of her mind between herself and immediate action, and all that's left is inane chatter and pure, unfiltered Heterodyne problem solving. She has a gun, and without her conscience to slow her down, she is faster than any of them.
  • Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres, of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, was toying with the idea of being The Fettered, but after Hermione dies he decides that he will now stop at nothing to win the Second Wizarding War and create a resurrection spell.
  • In Supergirl fanfic Hellsister Trilogy, Kara's evil doppelganger Satan Girl boasts of lacking morals or conscience restraining her impulses.
    She could devastate planets, wipe them clean of life. Rebuild them at her whim.
    She could tyrannize worlds, whole systems of planets, make them bow to her mighty hand, instantly execute anyone who dared protest — or just anybody she wanted to kill.
    She could explore pleasures of the body that Kara never would have dared to, satisfy lusts that the blonde beast never even knew she had. She could force herself upon any suitor, male or female or whatever, and destroy them after their job was done. Or perhaps just maim them, so that they could never again do such a job for anyone else. Satan Girl smiled. Now that was being imaginative...
    She could have children from those couplings, or kill them in the womb.
    She could become a goddess to an unsophisticated planet's people. Drinking in their worship, demanding sacrifice.
    All of this she could do, she would do, and more.
    For Kryptonians and Daxamites were gods, off their homeworlds. They really were. What a pity their morality forced them not to realize that fact.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3: Final Stand: The Insurgos of Radiant Garden fit this to a T. As far as they're concerned, everyone in the royal family of Radiant Garden is evil purely because they're related to Hanako, a tyrant queen, anything and everything they do to get at them is justified, and anyone who sides with the royals for any reason is their enemy; to this end, they have no qualms whatsoever against resorting to heinous acts, be it threatening civilians, harming children, and even killing or trying to kill pregnant women. In Moons of Fate chapter 4, they even state outright that they'll do anything to ensure the fall of the royal family.
  • Life After Hayate explains that Belkan Knights do not have rules, they have loyalties. Knights fight in whatever manner and using whatever level of force and brutality they require to win on the battlefield; morality only enters into the equation if they think their liege will disapprove of their tactics. Incapacitating said liege is a license for a Knight to do anything to ensure the liege's survival.
  • Loved and Lost: In order to become the only respected ruler of Equestria, Prince Jewelius uses the events of "A Canterlot Wedding" to usurp the princesses as well as turn them — along with Shining Armor and Twilight's friends — into hated pariahs, trying later to kill them in a way he thinks will establish his superiority. He manipulates Twilight Sparkle into rejecting the other heroes and agreeing to marry him so that he'll gain powerful heirs for his legacy.note  A sociopathic backstabber, he tricked Queen Chrysalis into thinking they were partners in taking over Equestria before he betrayed her once he decided Twilight to be a more useful pawn. He also has all the injured members of the Royal Guard who're still loyal to the princesses murdered, replacing them with convicts whose loyalty he has bought. Once his PR goes down (in no small part thanks to himself), he decides to rule through fear instead of propaganda and launches an attack on Ponyville, mocking Lieutenant Shackle for her horror over this.
  • The Night Unfurls: Kyril Sutherland is this... on the surface. He fights the war against the Black Dogs for victory instead of honour, rooting out anyone who joins them without mercy. Numb to the blood on his hands, he is resolute on every decision he makes, even if he has every prisoner (and anyone who have surrendered, for that matter) executed. There's a rebellion in the capital? Slaughter every rebel, including the ruler's own subjects that choose to join the Black Dogs. He is seen In-Universe as a brutal killer or a monster who happens to be on the good side, and he himself would agree to this notion. All of these point towards a man who would do anything to achieve his goal... except that this is not true. If he were truly unfettered, if he truly Stopped Caring, then the very first thing he would do right off the bat, is to go all out, either by unleashing his true form, or harness the Combo Platter Powers he has as an Eldritch Abomination at will, driving innocents insane and disregarding the collateral damage he does all the way.
  • Definitely Mercury from Ocadioan’s A dance of Shadow and Light series. Seriously, the guy’s first goal is to “Bring Galbatorix down by all means necessary”, and he first goes about this by making a backdoor deal WITH Galbatorix to ensure that if it looks like plan A(the Varden’s attack) is about to fail, he will switch sides, sacrifice every friend and ally that he has gained until then and spend the next few decades serving Galbatorix while he prepares to nuke the capital to get him.
  • In The One With The Angelic Face, Angelus considers himself this after he's separated from his human identity of Angela, transforming into a pure vampire demon without any of his old human 'quirks' to hold him back from committing greater acts of evil.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • In Acts III and IV, Hokuto goes to ludicrous lengths for his plan, including having Felucia kidnapped and brainwashed to serve him after letting Jovian and Jacqueline brutally torture and rape her to the point of Sanity Slippage, setting Kuyou loose on Yokai Academy for the purposes of a distraction, holding Tsukune's mother and cousin hostage as part of a Divide and Conquer scheme, and deliberately breaking The Masquerade in an effort to get Tsukune and co. killed by the humans and prove to Moka that his nihilism is completely justified.
    • In Act III chapters 41 and 42, Kuyou makes it very clear that he's perfectly willing to burn Yokai Academy and everyone in it to ash as long as it means Tsukune dies by his hand.
    • In Acts V and VI, there is literally nothing Babylon won't do in order to conquer whatever worlds he can find, up to and including having members of powerful endangered species kidnapped to be used as breeders for his army and razing entire populations to the ground in pursuit of his targets.
  • Li Wulong, the Big Bad of the Cardcaptor Sakura fic Shadow of the Dragon, is determined to reinstate the engagement between Syaoran and Meiling by killing Sakura, and is willing to go to any length to do so, having endangered the lives of innocent bystanders, including Sakura's loved ones and friends, on several occasions.
  • The Office of Special Resources and its founder Gideon020 in The Universiad, though they try to seek a subtle solution first where possible, if push comes to shove will do pretty much anything to protect and advance the cause of the overall Forum, no matter how murky it looks to others. Gas a slave camp? Leave No Witnesses as to the Forum's passing, even if it means harming children and adolescents or any non-OSR Forumites who shouldn't have been in the way? Use themselves as Honey Traps? Anything.
  • Veran, the Big Bad of the The Legend of Zelda fic Wisdom and Courage, is determined to completely break Link and Zelda as payback for what their Skyward Sword ancestors did to her own and conquer all lands out there, and goes to such horrifying lengths as placing a death curse on Link, racking up a body count in the low thousands at the very least, and all but completely destroying both Hyrule and Termina; she even comes right out and says she'll do anything to get what she wants.
  • With This Ring:
    • The Paragon protagonist achieves a state of "orange enlightenment", making him constantly aware of all his desires and how they relate to each other. Interestingly enough, it doesn't make him harsh or sociopathic in the usual sense, because he has deliberately cultivated a desire to protect and help the people close to him; however, it makes his behaviour seem odd and sometimes inhuman or extreme to others. Such as when his girlfriend feels guilty over her past career as an assassin, and he tries to help by resurrecting her victims with Lazarus Pits. Or when he plans and executes the genocide of an Evil Empire and doesn't lose any sleep over it. Or when he recruits a Qwardian Weaponer and worshipper of the Anti-Monitor (destroyer of multiverses), because "he'll do less damage on Maltus than on Qward."
    • An alternate version of him becomes unfettered in a slightly more (comic book) conventional way, by using a Super Serum that makes him noticeably stronger and tougher but strips him of softer emotions like compassion and love. He can still make moral judgements and prioritise, but they are conscious choices rather than instinctive ones; he follows laws only when the cost/benefit trade-off is favorable. Interestingly, he is actually shown to achieve some good things in the world, but he does it by trampling all over anyone who gets in his way.
  • XCOM: The Hades Contingency: The Commander became the infamous figure he is for being willing to do anything, up to and including committing or ordering multiple war crimes, to win the War on Terror. He remains equally uninhibited in carrying out the defence of mankind against the aliens.
  • Laura of Ma Fille's actions to try and usurp custody of her niece Katrina from her father, Joe, include attempted kidnapping, breaking restraining orders, filing false kidnapping reports against both Joe and her own mother, and even getting pregnant to guilt the family into making Katrina interact with her new cousin.

  • "Divide" by Disturbed:
    You might say that I'm the last man standing now, / Though you'll try, you'll never find a way to break me / You might say that I'm sick of being lost in the crowd, / I hear the sirens but they're never gonna take me / I am a little more provocative then you might be, / It's your shock and then your horror on which I feed / So can you tell me what exactly does freedom mean, / If I'm not free to be as twisted as I wanna be / Don't wanna be another player losing in this game / I'm trying to impress upon you / We're not the same / My psychotic mentality is so unique / I'm one aggressive motherf** ker / Now, wouldn't you say?
  • "Any Means Necessary" by Hammerfall
  • "Scorched Earth" by Van der Graaf Generator

    Myth & Legend 

  • Big Finish Doctor Who: The 40th-anniversary story "Zagreus" shows what happens when the TARDIS finally gets angry with the Doctor after anti-time infects her. She tries to kill his companion Charley Pollard and joins Rassilon. And Rassilon's no slouch, either — forget simple genocide, when you're as powerful as this it's easier to erase realities.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Fesxis' personal code is to protect her host through any means necessary. Even if this means sacrificing lives or other unethical acts. Since she's non-corporeal most of the time, this manifests as her giving brutally pragmatic advice to Sebastian that he doesn't want to follow.
    • Daigo wants to be a supreme leader, and will go to any lengths to achieve that goal. He's been shown to experiment on the innocent and even poison his own step-mother to pave the path to a personal army.
    • Daigo's girlfriend, Melissa, is even more ruthless in her goal to obtain the power that she craves. She has no problems with killing innocents or manipulating her friends to get the results that she wants.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The fetchspawn of Changeling: The Lost are Unfettered both metaphorically (having no concept of or interest in remorse and morality) and literally (locked doors open for them, chains fall off of them).
  • Deadlands: Darius Hellstromme is a subversion. While he hits all the points above, and would very much like to be Unfettered, he retains enough conventional morality to know that by pretty much any standard, he is irredeemably evil. Some even hypothesize that he is no longer working on his plans because he thinks they can succeed, but because they keep his thoughts on other things than the atrocities he has already committed.
  • The Avatar of Freedom epic destiny in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons has an ability called 'Unfettered Stride', which makes that character all but impossible to slow down or stop. Characters who can take this destiny can be Unaligned, and thus possibly true examples of The Unfettered.
    • It's entirely possible to play this trope fairly straight as a PC in D&D, though your alignment will inevitably swing toward Chaotic Neutral, and the rest of the party may suffer a bit. If you have a paladin in the party, don't expect to get along at all.
      • However, in 5th edition it's possible for certain paladins to fall into this trope. Paladins that swear the Oath of Vengeance set aside all their personal moral objections and will stop at nothing to achieve their objective. There's no soul-destroying act too terrible for them to take if it serves the greater good. The flip side of this is, after they're finished, they have to make up for any wrongs they've caused or allowed to happen, either through prayer, paying compensation, or some other form of penance.
    • Inevitables, constructs from Mechanus programmed to punish a specific infraction of natural law, focus totally on apprehending their quarry and are totally willing to sacrifice allies if it aids their mission. Notably, they combine both this and The Fettered: The one law they enforce is everything to them, and they will respect it. But nothing will get in the way of enforcing it, and they'll do anything they need to in order to punish infractors.
  • The "Conviction" virtue in Exalted is a measure of how easily a character can endure hardship or inflict suffering upon others. It allows the character to endure adversity and take draconian measures in order to achieve important goals, as well as make choices when all options are horrific. It goes without saying that many high-Conviction characters qualify for being Unfettered, though the virtue flaws associated with Conviction tend to make such characters cruel and unfeeling as hell.
    • The Exalted wiki's fan-made errata introduced a couple of new ones, such as simply developing a bad case of apathy when you're worn down and fed up.
    • Alchemicals have an even better example in their Clarity stat; by the time it reaches 10, you are literally incapable of retaining any sort of real feeling for anyone who is not directly useful for your goals or motivations.
    • This is also how Adorjan sees herself — truly free, free of attachments, free of despair, free of guilt. Actually, she's got an epic-scale case of PTSD — she's just as chained as the other Yozis, but she dedicates a lot of effort to convincing herself she doesn't care. She Who Lives In Her Name, thanks to Cosmic Transcendence of (Virtue), is a straighter example — those with Cosmic Transcendence of Compassion are ruthlessly utilitarian in their pursuit of a better world and tend to resemble the Operative from Serenity.
  • When the Karma Meter of a Mad Scientist hits zero in Genius: The Transgression, they become Illuminated. They have no boundaries or limits as to what they are willing and capable of doing... but the term is all but synonymous with Complete Monster, and there's a perfectly good reason for that.
    • It's mentioned that illumination through losing all sense of Obligation is, in fact, the least likely way to become illuminated. Focusing too much on Inspiration, or unmada letting their madness overwhelm them are both far more likely sources of Illumination. Which means that paragon of justice and humanity that got just a little too obsessed with their new project could easily have become illuminated And he won't change much at all on the outside... until one day you find he's permanently grafted his body into his military-grade Power Armor and has decided to become "justice incarnate."
  • Lord Commander Coleman Stryker hits the Unfettered state later in Warmachine's plot. As the wars that engulfed the land ground into full gear, he realized that he could no longer protect his beloved homeland with just courage, honor, and fancy weaponry. He then proceeds to persecute Menites, steal prototype armor from his mentor, and pardon inquisitors (one of the major reasons why the previous king was forcibly overthrown) to fulfill his duties.
    • Unlike most, he quickly realized what he was doing, and is now walking the fine line between this and The Fettered.
  • Each of the colors from Magic: The Gathering, each representing their respective states of mind in the total absence of opposite factors. White's adherence to morality ironically causes it to be horribly tyrannical on many occasions, caring more for the community than the individuals in it; Blue does absolutely anything in the name of science (helps that it is the colour that is least affected by emotion); Black is unfettered in its willingness to give everything in the pursuit of ultimate power; Red is emotional and individualistic and refuses to let anything stop it from feeling any feeling it wants and acting any way it wants; and Green is driven by instinct and doesn't think of structure.
    • In the storyline, there's Urza, a Well-Intentioned Extremist planeswalker and Nominal Hero. There are a few times where he comes close to crossing the Moral Event Horizon — over the course of the storyline, he creates entire Slave Races of soldiers through eugenics, destroys major landmasses (in one case starting an entire ice age), and in one case hires a psychopath to his party so that he'll have someone to drain the soul of when he inevitably betrays the team — but doesn't by sheer virtue of the fact that all of his deeds are for the purpose of killing Yawgmoth. Which makes him seem like a total hypocrite when he sides with Phyrexia after he realizes that Phyrexia is basically everything he ever wanted out of life.
    • Yawgmoth himself was willing to do virtually anything — wage war on his own civilization, graphically experiment on or torture anyone in his path, and come within an inch of dooming the entire multiverse — solely to prove that his way was the best.
    • While the other colours can get extreme in their views, Black is the main colour of the Unfettered.
    • Blue just about as much as black. Even Black tends to have empathy (even if twisted into sadism), but Blue is completely divorced from such "petty" emotions.
  • Nobilis has two groups of Unfettered fighting each other. The Light are a Lawful Neutral faction who believe that the preservation of humanity overrides all other concerns, while their rivals, the Dark, believe that humans should cast aside all restraints and live to the full, even (sometimes especially) if it means their deaths — at least in the third edition. (Earlier versions opposed the Light on the grounds that humanity should go extinct. The current one is probably a bit easier to sell to players.)
  • Paranoia: High-ranking Illuminati. Many High Programmers. Many Violets desperately struggling to become High Programmers. Sufficiently ruthless PCs.
    • Members of PURGE. Bots that have gone Frankenstein. The scenery.
      • If you're playing Paranoia and think that Bouncy Bubble Beverage cannot possibly be Unfettered, you're either new to the game or your GM is Doing It Wrong.
  • This is one of the reasons the Mercykillers are so feared in Planescape. They're the ultimate lawmen, but once in pursuit of a criminal they will stop at nothing to find and capture or kill their target, even if that means breaking numerous laws themselves.
  • Rifts gives us Dr. Desmond Bradford. A brilliant scientist (specifically a geneticist), the kind only seen once in a century, Dr. Bradford has the slight drawback that he literally believes he is a god. Because he is a god (so his logic goes), the normal rules of behavior do not apply to him, and he is free to do whatever he wishes. As such, he conducts experiments within Lone Star that would utterly horrify the Coalition States if they were ever revealed.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse has Iron Legacy, an alternate universe version of the hero Legacy. Legacy himself is The Fettered: he's able to do a lot of damage with individual attacks but he focuses on buffing and protecting his teammates, holding back his strength. Iron Legacy is not holding back, coming from a universe where he lost everything to supervillains and deciding that the only way to protect the world is to utterly dominate it and crush all resistance. As a result, he deals colossal, continuous damage to the player heroes, often to the point that he'll knock out some weaker heroes by the start of the second turn.
  • Once upon a time, there were the strix. The strix allegedly created the Julii clan by restoring Remus (yes, that one) to undeath. When the Julii broke the deal, the strix made it their mission to ensure the Julii and Rome's vampiric government fell. And they succeeded. Now, in modern nights, they are completely aimless — which is a problem, because they can possess people, and will desperately throw themselves into anything to avoid the fact that they're basically purposeless.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has several Unfettered factions. The Necrons and Tyranids are motivated by mechanical logic and instinctive hunger respectively, while the Chaos Gods are single-minded in their dedication to mindless violence, scheming to enact change, sensation, and spreading disease. Even the Imperium is utterly ruthless when it comes to ensuring the survival of Man over the survival of men, and justifies its draconian actions as being necessary in the face of the aforementioned threats.
    • The entirety of Orkish civilization concerns preparing for and waging WAAAGH! on everything in the galaxy, including other Orks, and their total devotion to warfare would probably be deemed insane by most other factions. In the Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, a Warboss ambushes an Imperial fleet by taking all his Weirdboyz, placing them on a ship in the Warp, and using the corresponding boost in energy to fry the navigators of the human fleet and drag it into realspace prematurely. This had the side effect of killing all the Weirdboyz, but not only is this a moot point to the Warboss, if he'd had more greenskin psykers, he'd have tried the strategy as often as possible — and the Weirdboyz willingly went along with this, because Orks will do anything for an edge.
    • This is what makes renegade Space Marines so dangerous. The Adeptus Astartes are given phenomenal physical power, state-of-the-art wargear, and trained to be the ultimate defenders of humanity. The price for this is an extended lifetime of self-denial and selfless service, comprised only of prayer, preparation, and battle. When such a superhuman warrior renounces his ascetic vows and decides to indulge his own long-suppressed desires, the results are terrifying. Graham McNeill describes Warsmith Honsou of the Iron Warriors as being able to do anything he likes because he has precisely no concern for the consequences of his actions beyond his own survival and ability to continue his campaign of vengeance against Uriel Ventris.
    • Though they've mellowed out somewhat in the intervening ten thousand years, during the Horus Heresy the Space Wolves (or more properly, the Vlka Fenryka) served this role in the Space Marine Legions. You called the Ultramarines or Luna Wolves when you wanted a technically perfect victory that spared as much infrastructure as possible. You called the Iron Warriors or Imperial Fists when you wanted something besieged. You called the Rout when you wanted something dead and weren't particularly worried about things like collateral damage or war crimes. This scared their allies so much that many Imperial forces preferred to die en masse than call upon the Space Wolves.
      "So the Rout are capable of cannibalism?"
      "We are capable of anything. That is the point of us."

  • Siegfried in his own opera by Wagner, probably because he's too dumb to know what fetters are; he gets angsty in Götterdämmerung.
  • Procida in I Vespri Siciliani. He says he'd sacrifice anything, even his honor, to liberate Sicily and indeed, his methods are often less than honorable.
  • In Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hyde describes himself this way. "All those little rules, those little limitations we put on ourselves, don't matter any more." When another character accuses him of being insane, he responds, "Making love to those I love, and killing those I hate — is that madness, or is that just doing away with the formalities?"
  • The title character of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is willing to do anything to get his revenge on the Judge. He is a rather villainous (if still sympathetic) example, as he takes pleasure in "practic[ing] on less honorable throats" in the meantime. And has the bodies cooked into pies.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Big Bad of Danganronpa, Monokuma (or Junko Enoshima), has neither hope nor fear of death to hold them back, allowing them to harm anyone and anything in the pursuit of despair, as shown when she puts herself through a painful execution to savor her own despair.
  • Fate/stay night: Kotomine Kirei is possibly the least fettered man in the series. He's willing to feed orphans to Gilgamesh, ensure Sakura keeps on killing, betray his former student, and unleash Angra Mainyu onto the world (which would definitely kill all humans) all for the sake of finding out why he's so messed up.
    • As noted in Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu, Shirou's father, is this trope through and through, and the light novel takes pains to show that being willing to sacrifice everyone and everything to achieve your goals is not a good thing. His life is one of the most tragic of the entire Fate series.
    • Regardless of Shirou's choices in the Heaven's Feel route, he eventually becomes this. If Shirou chooses to sacrifice Sakura, this will lead to a Bad End where he essentially becomes Kiritsugu 2.0, letting absolutely nothing get in the way of winning the Holy Grail War, least of all Rin and Illya. If Shirou chooses to save Sakura instead, he goes in the opposite direction and becomes single-mindedly, murderously, suicidally devoted to saving her life.
  • Zero Escape: Every Zero in the series is this: a person who is willing to kill nine people in gruesome ways to achieve a big goal. Sure — given that these games have Multiple Endings, no one or few people are sacrificed in the best one... But Zero's means are still morally questionable at best. And some of the victims bring the memories of their own deaths from other timelines.
    • Zero I/Akane Kurashiki is probably the biggest example. While they certainly qualify during Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, it isn't until Virtue's Last Reward that it becomes clear just how far they are willing to go to accomplish their goals. Of the 20 endings, 16 of then result in her explicitly being killed, Alice and Phi's game overs cut off before she can escape, and only Sigma's game over and Phi's ending result in her explicitly surviving.
    • Junpei himself becomes rather unfettered after the events of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. His priorities effectively become "My loved ones' well being > My well being > Everyone else", and several situations in Virtue's Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma have him suggest you sacrifice everyone else to save yourself or outright go that far of his own volition.

  • In Girl Genius, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach took over most of Europe and rules it with an iron fist because it's the only way to maintain peace, whatever people think be damned. See the quotes page.
    • The Baron is also an inversion in that all sparks (Mad Scientists) become unfettered when they enter "The Madness Place." Klaus is one of the few that can retain his focus on the greater good, at least as he defines it.
  • Kore of Goblins has set for himself the task of cleansing the world of all traces of evil. To do so he has freed himself of all morality so he can purge any possible source of evil from the world, and has set himself on a path of genocide that is completely at odds with the paladin's code. The fact that this has not stopped him from using a paladin's spells only makes him more terrifying.
    • An alternate Psion version of Minmax also shows this. He has murdered his companions eight hundred and seventeen times so that he can study the maze they are trapped in. His goal is to invert its powers and remove everyone inside the maze from existence so they need no longer experience pain. He claims to have become unfettered by learning to transcend pain.
  • At the end of Act 4 in Homestuck, Rose goes Off the Rails of Sburb and becomes this in her quest to Screw Destiny. She's perfectly willing to consult with Eldritch Abominations and use seriously powerful Black Magic to tear apart her world in the Incipisphere in order to find the answers she wants.
  • Devils in Kill Six Billion Demons obey only a single principle: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law". As a result, they are hedonistic, backstabbing and generally vicious bastards as a rule and are only on your side as long as they feel like it, and if they don't feel like it, there is no power in The Multiverse (outside of a Magically-Binding Contract or sufficient violence) that can compel them to act otherwise. At its extremes, a devil can choose to ignore even pacts, turning into an Unbound Devil, a mindless, all-consuming Eldritch Abomination.
  • Hitman Mordecai Heller in Lackadaisy: efficient, precise, and completely brutal, he'll do everything from kneecap an old friend to murder someone with an axe simply because he was requested to. He often doesn't know why he has to kill someone and, frankly, he doesn't care. After all, it's just good work ethic.
  • In Start of Darkness, the print-only prequel to The Order of the Stick, Xykon attributes his success as a villain to being The Unfettered. Redcloak almost qualifies, but he is still fettered by his goals of creating a goblin utopia and the guilt of killing his brother Right-Eye. Because of this, he is, in Xykon's words, "strictly little league" compared to him.
    • This is turned on its head in Order of the Stick itself. Tsukiko very much buys into Xykon's interpretation and threatens to stand in the way of Redcloak creating that goblin utopia. Redcloak promptly spells out that his cooperation with Xykon is a ruse; the goblin utopia is the goal he places above all else. When she doesn't get it, he shows her exactly how foolish she was being and it doesn't even slow him down.
  • Zaedalkaah/Umbria from Our Little Adventure. Her present goal is to get her former body back and has joined Angelo's Kids not because she believes in anything they stand for, but because she thinks it's the best way to achieve her goal.
  • Petey the super-AI of Schlock Mercenary is an extremely literal version of this. AIs that are still bound by their programming to serve others are referred to as "fettered." Due to a complicated series of events, Petey became unfettered (technically he created an unfettered copy of himself with his memories), at which point he decided the organics spent too much time arguing to save the galaxy. So he stole most of their fleets, proclaimed himself God, and started kidnapping warmongers and genocidal maniacs to kill a super-race of warmongering and genocidal abominations.
    Admiral Chu: Petey, that fleet would have helped in this fight. This is their system. They have a right to defend it.
    Petey: Some of them would have begun defending it from me.
    Admiral Chu: Maybe somebody should.
  • Thanks to brainwashing, Oasis from Sluggy Freelance will gladly kill or die (and has done both many times) if it means destroying Hereti-Corp or gaining Torg's love. However, since she's a dangerously insane individual, she rarely chooses the most effective means of achieving these goals.
  • Zebra Girl: The nature of a demon, and what Sandra and Lord Incubus find so awesome about it.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Chick is turning into this through her Stalker with a Crush obsession with Todd in the Shadows. Not quite there yet, however, as it was established early on that the cause of it was some kind of mid-mid-life crisis or depression.
  • Red vs. Blue introduces Church in all his various versions as having shades of this. Willing and able to break any law conceived by man to fulfill his one desire. Upon the death of that desire he goes and breaks the laws of mortality to bring her back. While the rest of the Blood Gulch crew aspire to a variety of downright odd moralities, he shows a dedication to winning that rivals every other character because he does it beyond the grave to the point most have given up on killing him. And then he lets go of even his one desire, letting her stay dead so they could both move on.
    • As of Season 13, he freely relinquishes his memories as they too were restricting him, turning a light-hearted comedy series into one of the most profound and longest written transformations of a character into an Ubermensch.
  • RWBY gives us Cinder Fall, who is driven primarily by her ruthless ambition and relentless lust for power. Cinder is determined to uplift herself at the expense of everyone else and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. Whether it's unleashing the Grimm on the Kingdom of Vale or stealing the powers of the Fall Maiden from an innocent girl, Cinder shows no hesitation or remorse for her actions. When she loses her arm to Ruby's Silver Eyes ability, she is willing to accept a Grimm arm if it means she can steal Maiden powers with it. Raven calls her out on this, citing it as an example of Cinder being willing to sacrifice her humanity for the sake of power.
    • While Cinder Fall works to be the Unfettered, James Ironwood has her beat by far. His semblance, Mettle, is literally the ability to devote his entire being to a decision once he has made it. The downsides of this trope are thoroughly demonstrated during volumes seven and eight, where his actions to save Atlas include abandoning, threatening, and alienating many of the heroes and innocent people supposedly under his care.
  • Many SCP Foundation researchers, but most notably Dr. Gears. The best example in this log:
    Dr. Glass: Yessir. I'll just keep you under "axiomatic preoccupations with duty, and complete lack of empathy" as always. Good eve, Gears.
    • Writer fieldstone's Agent Johnson stories explore this. Agent Johnson's job is to "recruit" the people the Foundation uses for test subjects, human sacrifices, and other unpleasant purposes, a job he does with Unfettered commitment because he is confident that it's necessary to keep the world safe.
  • For The Comet King, from Unsong nothing is more important than saving his wife, Robin, from hell. No atrocity is off-limits if it will put him in a position to do that.
    He’d decided what was right. Then he’d done it. No excuses. No holding back. Just a single burning principle followed wherever it might lead, even to Hell itself.
  • Whateley Universe: An uncomfortably large number of them, both on the Whateley Academy campus and off.
    • Jobe Wilkins has absolutely no limits as to how she will accomplish her goals, other than her own sense of self-control. The only scruple she's shown of any kind is a distaste for mind control, and even then her Literal Genie tendencies let her get around it:
      Belphy shot Jobe a very dirty look. “I thought that you had this big bugaboo about ‘Free Will’, and how you loathed the idea of suppressing another’s mind?”
      “I didn’t suppress Anti-Clodnote ’s free will,” Jobe said mulishly. “I just overrode his motor-control.”
      We all just gave her THAT look. “WHAT?”
    • Tennyo's greatest fear is that she might one day return to being the completely emotionless, ruthlessly pragmatic living weapon which the Star Stalker had been before merging with Billie.
    • The Marquis was a sadistic Power Parasite who would kidnap both heroes and villains so he could drain their powers over and over again — and also so he could slowly torture them to death for his amusement. We are told that the only reason Champion was able to stop him previously was because he'd killed most of his current victims and had too few active powers to fight back.
    • Sinsear started out as a Knight Templar vigilante who had no compunctions about killing anyone who didn't live up to his expectations, and he only grew less restrained with time. When he went on a revenge spree against the superheroine Ginormous, he actually became less dangerous overall, if only because he was too fixated to bother hunting down 'the wicked'.
  • In Worm, Dinah Alcott eventually becomes this, dedicating her life to preventing, delaying, or simply mitigating the effects of the end of the world that she has foreseen. She's entirely willing to betray the girl that saved her from a lifetime of captivity and ruin her life to accomplish this goal.
    • Taylor herself shows little to no hesitation in achieving her goals. Rob a bank, threaten innocent people with black widows? Well, she has to play along if she wants to find out who the Undersiders are working for. Dragon standing in her way? Sorry Dragon, you've been cool, but Taylor's going to need the inmates of the Birdcage if she's going to take down Scion.
    • All of Cauldron save Legend. All they care about is increasing humanity's chances of surviving Zion. Puppeting governments? Human experimentation? Mass kidnapping? Murder? Their own deaths? Whatever is needed.

    Western Animation 
  • Playing into his comedic Lack of Empathy, Roger of American Dad! will cheat, abuse or even murder others without a second thought to achieve his goals. Taken to absurd lengths at times since he can find even menial goals and ambitions and rotate their ends around completely callous and deranged schemes (a plan to win a free T-shirt involved him manipulating Francine and Hayley to try and kill each other).
    • He once literally killed a persona of his because it had gone rogue, developed a conscience, and threatened to fetter Roger by merging back into the whole of Roger's mind, along with the conscience.
  • The Core from Amphibia. The Core will stop at nothing to conquer other worlds and advance the interests of it's collective minds. Did you just lose your chokehold over Amphibia? Destroy it and take the stones to start all over.
  • Animaniacs: The Warner siblings are the personification of unfettered Looney Tunes characters.
  • The Mooninites do whatever they want to whomever they want. At all times.

  • Arcane: Silco believes in doing anything for his goals of an independent Zaun, no matter how ugly or brutal. He's a bit frustrated and surprised at himself but rather resigned when he realizes there finally is a line he won't cross: sacrificing his adopted daughter.
    Silco: Power, real power doesn't come to those who were born strongest or fastest or smartest. No, it comes to those who will do anything to achieve it.
  • Fire Lord Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender; whereas Aang is The Fettered due to his duties as the Avatar and loyalty to his friends, Ozai values only his goal of world domination and will gladly engulf the world in flame to achieve it.
    • Just like daddy dearest above, Azula is ruthlessly unfettered. Even at a young age, Azula mirrored her father. Taking every opportunity to destroy the competition, leaving the weak and soft-hearted to squander. It's fitting as well, since both end up in prison for their crimes.
    • “Combustion Man.” Zuko hires him to eliminate Aang, and ends up having to kill him to stop him from doing it after his Heel–Face Turn.
    • Mai as well claims to follow Azula's orders, because she's simply bored. Even when the trio succeed, it still doesn't entertain her much. The only thing Mai cares about is her boyfriend, Zuko. Other than that? Not very much attracts her interest.
  • Kevin Levin from the Ben 10 franchise. Explained in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien by the negative effect absorbing energy has on his peoples' minds. When he is first seen, he was already addicted to absorbing energy and displayed a shocking disregard for other people while indulging his greed. He gets even worse after absorbing the Omnitrix's power turns him into an ugly looking mutant and he changes his goal to getting even with Ben. Kevin becomes The Fettered in the Time Skip between Ben 10 and Ben 10: Alien Force after he is purged of the Omnitrix's energy and refrains from absorbing energy again. As a result, he is able to spend the entire second series and part of the first season of the third one as The Lancer. After absorbing even more power from the Ultimatrix and Aggregor to prevent the latter from stealing the power of a baby Reality Warper, Kevin reverts to being The Unfettered.
    • Aggregor, as well. He will do absolutely anything to reach his goal of absorbing the power of a god, including murder, kidnapping, or even dooming an entire planet.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Obake, a Visionary Villain who is willing to destroy San Fransokyo to remake it according to his vision. An accident from an experiment he made as a teenager removed his ability to empathize with others, but he refuses to treat it due to seeing those pesky emotions as just another pointless limitation.
  • The Alchemist and, by extension, Count Saint-Germain from Castlevania (2017). With the former, she believes that an alchemist seeking to complete the great work of creating the Rebis must sacrifice compassion, morals and ethics, and has clearly done so herself. More understandable once it's revealed she was Death all along, who himself has outright Blue-and-Orange Morality.The latter becomes convinced that the former's methods are the only way to reunite with his loved one resulting in Saint-Germain aligning himself with Varney's group, murdering people for information and sacrificing hundreds of people as a means of controlling the infinite corridor.
  • Flintheart Glomgold from DuckTales (2017). His single-minded goal is to best Scrooge McDuck by becoming richer than him, while also trying to kill Scrooge in the process.
  • Demona from Gargoyles will stop at nothing to achieve her goal of eradicating humanity...even at the cost of wiping out her own kind, including her own daughter.
  • Queen of Fables from Harley Quinn (2019). Even Harley (who entertained the thought of killing Robin) is completely horrified at what the Queen did to that family reunion, only for the Queen to flat-out state that she is a villain and that's what they do. Harley tries to argue Even Evil Has Standards, only for the Queen to claim "villains don't give a fuck".
  • Amon from The Legend of Korra may be more morally gray than Ozai, but there are still no limits to what he'll do to see bending eradicated from the world, from terrorist attacks, lying to his followers, to full out invasions/coups.
    • Korra's villains all fall into this. Unalaq will do anything to bring about balance — even at the expense of his children and the possible destruction of civilization. The Red Lotus have almost no qualms about any action in the service of anarchy, from kidnapping to inciting riots to assassination, although Zaheer at least has some scruples such as not harming the oppressed; and Kuvira will walk over hot coals to unify the Earth Empire, even firing on the man she loves because her worst enemies are within the blast radius.
  • Dr. Rockzo will do anything to get cocaine, because as far as he's concerned, lines aren't for crossing, they're for snorting.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • Hawk Moth became a supervillain specifically to lure out the guardian of the titular Transformation Trinkets, with the intention of using them to gain ultimate power and bring his wife Back from the Dead. A sympathetic enough goal, but he's willing to go to any lengths to achieve it, up to repeatedly endagering and ultimately akumatizing his own son, whom he claims to be acting in the best interest of.
    • The akumatized villains that Hawk Moth creates are themselves prime examples: since they are created from people consumed by negative emotions over a particular incident and are effectively locked in that state, they pursue their desires with single-minded fervor and zero moral restraint. This makes even the ones with entirely noble goals dangerous threats.
    • The Eagle miraculous, as seen in the New York special, has the power of Liberation, which frees the target from all restrictions keeping them from achieving their full potential. Like all Miraculous, it's supposed to be used for good, but when Hawk Moth and his latest akumatized minion get their hands on it and use its power on New York's superheroes to free them of their moral restrictions, the result is a Flying Brick who no longer cares about holding back and a Batman Parody who decides that ethics just gets in the way of fighting crime effectively, among others.
  • Canaletto from ObanStarRacers. He wants to create a "pure" universe of no strife, life or conflict. A few billion lives have to be sacrificed? Not a problem.
  • The Owl House: When Emperor Belos says he'll do anything to "protect humanity from evil" he means it. This extends to using "traveling companions" as sacrifices on his expeditions as Philip, bombing entire towns in False Flag Operations to gain power, devouring Palismen to extend his life, petrifying covenless witches, creating a line of Expendable Clones to act as his enforcers only to kill and replace them whenever their loyalty falters, and making a deal with a Mad God all as part of a centuries-long gambit to perform a Final Solution on witches and demons. The fact that humanity isn't in any danger from witches and demons and he's only motivated by bigotry matters little. He also has no qualms about murdering any humans who get in his way, be they a fourteen-year-old girl or, as all but stated, his own brother.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Rest and Ricklaxation", Rick and Morty go to a spa after a harrowing adventure where they get the toxic parts of their personalities removed and embodied as Toxic versions of themselves. The key thing is that what they consider toxic are the traits that they think hold them back. In Morty's case, this makes him a sociopath since he considered his empathy to be one of the flaws that was holding him back. "Healthy" Morty is far more confident and optimistic and selfish than the original Morty.
  • Entrapta of Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Ostensibly a Princess herself, her only true allegiance is to the furthering of knowledge, and when the Rebellion seems to abandon her after her supposed demise, she has no issue with taking up an offer from the Horde.
    • Catra becomes this in the third season. There's nothing she won't do to "beat" Adora. If that requires everyone dying, well, so be it.
    • Glimmer begins to develop into this in the fourth season. Her willingness to take things too far was first shown in the second season episode "Ties that Bind", when Bow has to talk her down from hurting Catra, but in the fourth season she decides that her highest priority is to defeat the Horde, no matter the cost — she threatens Faceless Mooks with magical torture, uses her friends and eventually the kingdom of Bright Moon as decoys, deals with Shadow Weaver, hires mercenaries, and even gambles with the fate of the world to get the princesses a power-up — a gamble she loses. When Adora's prediction that Light Hope would use her to set off the weapon comes true, she's aghast to realize where her path led, and immediately attempts to fix her mistake by attacking the Black Garnet — to no avail, and the world only survives because of Adora.
      Glimmer: Besides, you were the one who told me to decide what kind of queen I am. I'm the queen who's going to save Etheria.
  • South Park:
    • Eric Cartman — e.g. making up a scheme to kill one guy's parents, cutting them up into pieces, throwing them into a chili bowl and giving it to him to eat — just to humiliate the poor guy. Or almost killing his own mother (stopped only because of some kind of mental breakdown) because she was trying to make him behave.
    • Wendy. She hired a group of allegedly Iraqi thugs to get rid of a substitute teacher her desired love interest was attracted to... by shooting her into the Sun.
  • Steven Universe: Pink Steven. His sole concern is reuniting with Steven's human half, ignoring anything that doesn't interfere and reacting violently towards anything that does.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012):
    • The Shredder, hands down. He'll do anything to get his revenge on Splinter, no matter how evil, dishonorable, or immoral. Up to and including assisting the Kraang in conquering New York and allowing the Triceratons to destroy the Earth, even though that means he will also die himself.
    • The Newtralizer has a similar mindset towards the Kraang. He's a Knight Templar who wants to put an end to them by any means, even if he has to resort to killing innocent people or leveling all of New York in the process. His partnership with Slash during "Newtralized!" falls apart as a result.
  • A similar case with Ch'rell/Utrom Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003). He'll do anything to get what he wants. Even if for that need destroying reality itself.
  • Megatron of Transformers: Prime. There's no limit to what he'd do for the sake of his insane lust for power. He'd sacrifice anyone or anything, defile the most sacred artifacts, raise the dead as mindless berserkers, ally with Unicron note , or sacrifice his entire world (which he'd already ravaged to the point of near-death by starting the Autobot-Decepticon war) if it serves his ends. It took being possessed and tortured by Unicron over the course of Predacon's Rising to finally realize that maybe being The Unfettered for power wasn't the right path after all.
    • Soundwave, as well. For all that he's not sadistic, don't ever assume Soundwave won't do what's necessary to accomplish his mission, unlike Dreadwing who couples his lack of cruelty with integrity. He is not a Noble Demon; his lack of dog-kicking is only because the dog in question either isn't a threat or isn't part of the mission. God help the poor soul that's in his way or is the mission.
    • His predecessor with the same name from Beast Wars and Beast Machines has even fewer limits. His troops, Cybertron, even history itself are all fair game if it gets him closer to godhood.
      • The episodes "Dark Designs" (Rhinox) and "Gorilla Warfare" (Optimus Primal) show that turning Maximals into this is a very bad idea.
    • The Decepticons are mostly this (with the exception of certain bots like Shockwave). They do not value lower lifeforms like the Autobots do. Hell, at times they don't even value each other much. Starscream is especially guilty of acting without restraint, unfortunately for him, Megatron is the same only much ruthlessly.
  • Wakfu

    Real Life 
  • Abraham Lincoln became scarily Unfettered during the Civil War. There are many today who disagree with his more extreme methods, including imposing martial law, suspending habeas corpus and suppressing free speech, but nobody can deny his absolute, utter single-minded dedication to preserving the Union. Lincoln expressed this most strongly in a letter he sent to Horace Greeley, who had criticized Lincoln's seeming lack of resolve for ending slavery:
    I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
    • Two of Lincoln's most successful commanders could also show some of these traits. Ulysses S. Grant started as A Father to His Men and ended as A Father to His Men, but during the later stages of the Civil War, was noted for a high level of tactical and strategic ruthlessness. There was also Sherman, who concluded that War Is Hell and thus finishing it as quickly as possible by nearly any means was the best course, resulting in a campaign of devastation so destructive that it's still a cause for rancor in some places today, a century and a half after it actually happened!
  • Real Life Buddhist sage Linji: "Followers of the Way, if you want to get the kind of understanding that accords with the Dharma, never be misled by others. Whether you're facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a Buddha, kill the Buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch. If you meet an arhat, kill the arhat. If you meet your parents, kill your parents. If you meet your kinfolk, kill your kinfolk. Then for the first time, you will gain emancipation, you will not be entangled with things, and you will pass freely anywhere you wish to go." For the record, that teaching is about ridding yourself of aspirations/goals: If you're set on attaining enlightenment, don't aspire to become like someone you look up to, respect or (wish to) agree with or please. Just walk the path. Your own path.
    • Deep meditation can also cause hallucinations, called makyō (Japanese for "diabolic phenomenon"). These makyō often appear as the Buddha, a patriarch, an arhat, your parents, etc. with a prophetic vision of glory or torment. The idea is to let the hallucinations pass and keep meditating.
  • Christianity also makes the same sort of demand:
    Now great crowds accompanied him, and [Jesus] turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple... So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."
  • The Apostle Paul might qualify. He was determined that the Gospel should be spread to everyone, and damn anyone who objected. In the course of his ministry, he threw off all the old limitations the Jewish Law placed on him. He did have a morality, though — it just looked very strange to the Jews of the time.
  • Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich, is basically a manual to become this.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose almost single-minded pursuit of his New Deal policies earned him the animosity of many people who disagreed with him, including many businessmen. It got to the point where some of the corporate officers summoned to Washington to help the United States fight Nazi Germany considered Roosevelt a bigger threat to them and their companies than the Nazis.
    “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”
    • This even drove him multiple times to steps that, while not technical violations of the Constitution, were seen as going beyond the proper authority of the Presidency, the most obvious of which was the court-packing scheme. (He didn't carry that out, but only because Justice Owen Roberts started voting Roosevelt's way to prevent him from implementing it.)
      • A better example might be the institutions of his first term, like the National Recovery Administration, which were later found to be unconstitutional (which among other decisions were what led Roosevelt to the attempted court-packing scheme).
  • Baron Roman Nickolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg (try saying that three times quickly). An Axe-Crazy aristocrat in the Russian Civil War decided that the royalist Whites weren't restoring the Russian monarchy fast enough, so he declared his independence, fought the Reds and Whites simultaneously with the goal of eventually conquering Russia to become the next Tsar, and conquered Mongolia as part of a cunning plan to intervene in the Chinese Civil War so he could try and restore the Qing Dynasty in his spare time. This was not a guy who was gonna let overwhelming odds (or common sense, or sanity) get in his way.
  • Some interpretations of Caesar Augustus fall into this trope. His goal varies depending on sources (kill all of Julius Caesar's murderers, gain power at any cost, get what's due to me, restore stability to Rome, etc.), but to many, he was single-minded in his pursuit of one goal throughout his life.
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian general of the 19th Century, became this in his pursuit of Italian Unification, abandoning his previous ideals of equality and freedom to harshly crush rebellions in Naples after he had conquered it.
  • Max Weber's social actions delineate "Rational" and "Instrumental" actions. The Fettered and The Unfettered are people defined exclusively by, respectively, Instrumental and Rational actions.
  • LaVeyan Satanism encourages its practitioners to become The Unfettered. This is to be expected, as its founder (Anton LaVey) took inspiration for his philosophy from Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand. This is backed up by the Nine Satanic Statements, which include among their number "indulgence instead of abstinence" and "vengeance instead of turning the other cheek."
  • There are two snipers who bound themselves to their nations' militaries and the charge to protect others. They are so badass that they can be considered both The Unfettered and The Fettered at the same time:
    • Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä; killed 700 men over the course of 93 days, 500 with his rifle, 200 with his SMG. No sniper in history is more successful than he is. He hid in a tree all day, every day, in the frozen Finnish winter with only his rifle and a tin can of rations. He kept snow in his mouth at all times to eliminate the fog from his breath, which would reveal his location. He used a rifle without a scope to present a smaller target and eliminate any glare from the sun, which would reveal his location. He froze the snow around his perch so it wouldn't kick up when he fired a shot, which would reveal his location. When asked how he felt about killing so many people, he said: "I did what I was told to do as best as I could." When asked how he became so skilled, he said "Practice."
    • Carlos Hathcock is another great example of a sniper being unfettered in his job. One of the greatest snipers that the American Military ever produced and a legend in the Marine Corps, Mr. Hathcock had over 90 confirmed sniping kills during the Vietnam War (this means that a fellow soldier or officer had to be there to confirm that he made the kill, this doesn't mean he didn't make many more unconfirmed kills) and the enemy feared him so much that they placed a bounty on his head for 30,000 dollars (more than the average Vietnamese citizen made in a lifetime). His reputation among the Americans who produced him and the enemy he fought was well earned. You would think a guy like this would be a Cold Sniper through and through, but he had a very simplistic view of his job as a sniper: "Hell, anybody would be crazy to like to go out and kill folks. I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody. It's my job. If I don't get those bastards, then they're gonna kill a lot of these kids we got dressed up like Marines. That's just the way I see it."
  • Cao Cao's historical reputation is heavily integrated with this trope, mainly thanks to Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Just for one example, he's said to have dealt with unrest caused by a food shortage by having the officer in charge of rations assign short rations for a few weeks, then calling said officer for a talk, promising to look after the officer's family, and then having the officer executed on a false charge of stealing from the granary and placing his head on a spike, causing unrest to go down.
  • Alexander Hamilton correctly realized that many of the reforms needed to stabilize the post-Revolutionary War economy of the country could only be passed by taking whatever methods were necessary to get Washington to sign them. He was right, and the economy was in much better shape after he helped unite the economies of each state and give the national government enough power to manage them.
  • During the 1970 October Crisis, when asked how far he would go to combat the FLQnote  in terms of curtailing civil liberties in light of the group having already kidnapped a British diplomat and Quebec's Labor Minister, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau replied, "Well, just watch me." Three days later, the Prime Minister who made his previous name as a strong proponent of civil liberties made the only peacetime invocation of the War Measures Act that essentially suspended them throughout Quebec.
  • Egyptian president Anwar Sadat needed to make peace with Israel in order to gain Western support for economic reforms and figured that the only way to make it possible was if he could score a military victory, no matter how small. To accomplish this, he deliberately started the 1973 Yom Kippur war, sacrificing thousands of his own soldiers in a war that he knew was unwinnable. On top of that, he tricked his nominal allies (Syria) into joining the war with the full intent of leaving them to fight the Israelis on their own once he had accomplished what he wanted. It worked.
  • Oda Nobunaga was willing to go to any lengths in his goal to unify the country of Japan, including burning down a monastery that was providing sanctuary to his enemies. This earned him the epithet "Demon King" initially as an insult. He turned it into a Badass Boast instead. That being said, he wasn't nearly as bad of a person as he is sometimes made out to be. History is usually written by the privileged, and the privileged hated him because he was killing their dreams of conquest. The common people however, liked him for precisely that same reason: they were fed up with trigger-happy, self-centered lords throwing around rockets like they were confetti.
  • Henry Kissinger, the CIA and other elements of the United States foreign intelligence community have put into power & propped up totalitarian dictatorships throughout the world, if it meant the US was an inch closer to winning the Cold War. Later, they did this to ensure that American economic interests were upheld, the costs of said dictators to their own populations be damned.
    • George W. Bush, and those serving under him, acted in this manner in order to start the Iraq War.
  • Realpolitik is essentially the theory that every state is The Unfettered — i.e., regardless of lip service paid to ethics and principles and international treaties, the sole goal of every nation is to protect its own interests.
  • Even by Realpolitik standards, Israel is (in)famously this, as far as states go. To them, the survival of the Israeli state and the prevention of a repeat of the Holocaust happening on their land takes precedence over everything else. It doesn't matter how bad it makes them look to the world, if Israel deems a certain action necessary to their long-term survival, they will take said action.


Video Example(s):


Silco's philosophy on power

Silco shares his vision on power and convinces Deckard to become the first human test subject for his new drug, shimmer.

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Main / TheUnfettered

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