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Who Needs Enemies?

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Ted Phillips: Well, you know the old saying, right? The enemy of my enemy is my friend?
Greg Phillips: Are you on drugs or something? The enemy of your enemy is your enemy's enemy, and that's all!
Jared Hubner, It's All Inevitable

With Friends Like These...

The hero is working to stop the Evil Plan of the Evil Overlord, and has, at long last, found an ally. No, wait... perhaps ally is too strong a word. This person is fighting the Big Bad, just like the hero, but is doing so on their own terms with their own agenda. This agenda doesn't run contrary to the hero's, but at the same time, the other person's agenda doesn't fall seamlessly in line with the hero's goals, either.

This so-called "ally" isn't overly concerned with the hero's welfare, or whether or not the hero succeeds in their mission. They aren't actively out to hurt the hero, it's just that they would happily betray the hero to the bad guy if it means that one of their schemes succeeded. But as long as the hero is of use to them, they'll help out when they can. They aren't necessarily malicious... they just have a mission of their own they are attending to.

Occasionally, the "ally" will actually be another villain, who, for some reason, has decided that helping the hero is beneficial to their own long-term goals. Often, this is part of a Xanatos Gambit; if they can use the hero to do some dangerous dirty work then why not? They either accomplish a goal or lose a potential enemy. It's a win-win.

Expect the phrase "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" to be used, a sentiment that is quite often proven false in such situations.

Compare Divided We Fall where genuine allies fight, and contrast Enemy Mine where the above sentiment proves true. Not The Mole, but may as well be.

Compare and Contrast with the Aloof Ally whose motivations and goals legitimately match the hero's AND does earnestly work alongside them when needed or when their interests align—they just don't consider themselves to be a part of The Team.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Slayers The Slayers themselves know that Xelloss is only using them as part of a scheme to advance Mazoku interests, but between the facts that he's incredibly useful for the period of time where their goals coincide, and that they don't have any practical way of forcing him to leave, they have no choice but to put up with him.
  • Princess Principal's central spy team is made of five people and a hazy puzzle of loyalties. The short of it: it's the Kingdom of Albion vs. the Commonwealth, the latter of which our team works for. The Princess of the kingdom, the enemy, joins that team early on, planning to usurp the throne of her own family (as there are other heirs in the way). Two people in the team (her friend and the original Princess, whom she traded places with) are more or less loyal to her first and foremost, and only one of those two keep an important, allegiance-related mutual secret with the Princess. One other member, in wholly allied with the Commonwealth, is chosen to be the first to take action if she turns out to be The Mole, and the last has double duty as an observer, keeping watch so the third party she came from can decide who between the Kingdom and Commonwealth to ally with. How is this the short? Personal feelings aren't yet in the equation.
  • Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z started as a flat out villain but over the course of the the Namek arc became accepted as an unwilling ally. Despite this he frequently made things worse for the other characters due to his Inferiority Superiority Complex and constant need to prove his strength by beating Goku and other strong opponents. Cell was only able to achieve his Perfect Form thanks to Vegeta's interference in search of a strong fight while Buu was only awakened because Vegeta's fight with Goku released the energy Babidi needed.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Universe, Doctor Doom once agreed to assist the X-Men by successfully healing Shadowcat when she was about to die from the effects of a fight with the Marauders after Reed Richards had tried and failed to do the same. Doom didn't actually give a damn whether Shadowcat lived or died... he just enjoyed the opportunity to show up Reed Richards. This was also Doom's logic when he helped deliver Valeria Richards — her very existence would be a perpetual reminder to Reed that Doom was able to save his family when he wasn't.
  • In Sin City, Wallace gains the help of Corrupt Cop Liebowitcz who had previously been helping the Colonel, the head of an assassin guild. Despite Wallace beating up Liebowitcz's men several times and being a general annoyance, he agrees to help bring down the Colonel only because one of his assassins hurt his son.

    Fan Works 
  • The Northern and Southern Water Tribes in The Stalking Zuko Series. They attempt to present a united front to get better say in the peace conference. Otherwise, they despise each other. The Southern Water Tribe remembers that Northern Water Tribe didn't lift a finger to help them when they were being slowly killed off while the North thinks the South as poor, uneducated yokels.
  • The pilots and NERV command in Neon Metathesis Evangelion. The officers see the pilots as basically tools, and the pilots become resentful about that. After the successfully resisted nude synch-test idea and the Arael battle, it nearly dips into Divided We Fall territory, considering the angel threat to the whole world still exists.

  • Mandalay: Tanya Bodoroff is already in a precarious situation by virtue of being a Russian refugee. But what's the constant risk of being deported back to her country when she's got a scumbag, opportunistic boyfriend willing to sell her into sex slavery to pay his debts?
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Hector Barbossa helped out Elizabeth Swann, Will Turner and Jack Sparrow in the later films, but not because he liked them. More like he needed them to advance his own agenda.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the Ents help the people of the West by beating down Saruman not because they want to stop Sauron and destroy the ring (they specifically say that it's not their war), but because Saruman destroyed so many trees, and "A wizard should know better!"
  • In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, Alexa Woods ends up teaming with the lone surviving Predator because she thinks it's the only way for her to get out of the situation alive (and she's right). The Predator's motive? He's still hunting the aliens, and hey, she proved herself useful in a fight and isn't an infected host so he may as well let her tag along if she wants to help him bag some more bugs.
  • In Blade II, the vampire hit squad teams up with Blade to stop the Reapers. They still don't like each other, and each side takes great pains to antagonize the other. And the moment they get the chance, the vampires betray Blade.
  • During screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, one of the quips audience members have been known to shout out is the malapropism "With friends like Riff Raff, you don't need enemas!"
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, when Ebony Maw mocks that Tony Stark would be unable to save his friend (Dr. Strange), Tony comments, "We're not really friends. Saving him is more of a professional courtesy." Later, Strange tells Stark, in no uncertain terms, that if it came to a choice of saving him, Peter Parker, or the Time Stone, he'd choose the Stone.
  • In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, General Hux covertly helps the Resistance...not because he believes in their cause or actually cares if they win, but because he wants to see Kylo Ren defeated.

  • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, the various combatants fighting each other in World War II abruptly stop fighting each other and all turn their attention to fighting the alien invaders. The fact that they are all cooperating (to various levels) to beat back an outside threat does not make them friends (or even, in some cases, allies).
  • When Griphook the goblin agrees to help Harry Potter break into Gringotts, he does so because he wants both to strike back at the human wizards who tortured him and to reclaim a lost goblin treasure, not because of any loyalty to Harry. Indeed, at his first opportunity, Griphook grabs what he wants and leaves Harry to escape on his own. Of course, Harry was also planning to betray Griphook by using the Exact Words of their bargain to withhold the treasure in question.
  • Basically every good faction in The Wheel of Time. Each of them has their agenda, and while all of them oppose the dark ones, some of these consider the other ones to be allies of the Big Bad, and every one of these "know" better than the others how to stop the Big Bad. It's not always evident what is the most harmful — the Big Bad or the resulting struggles.
  • Played for laughs in Dora Wilk Series. To work out a mystery involving vampires, Dora enlists the help of vampiric seneschal Teresa. Relationship works out well, but it turns out that Teresa's a raging vampire feminist, who wants Dora (recently a Vampire Lady) to engage in vampiric politics and aid the women's cause. She still helps, in hopes that Dora will be so entangled in the matter she'll have no choice. So far, mixed results.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, when Melodía joins the Garden, she decides that their mercenary, Karyl, is not to be trusted and actively tries to undermine his ideas. Karyl, on his side, doesn't care for Melodía and refuses to listen to her because of her boyfriend. When this leads to tragedy, the two learn and turn into genuine allies.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Season Two finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike helps Buffy stop Angel because 1) he wants Drusilla to himself and believes that with Angel out of the picture, he'll have her all to himself again, and 2) he rather likes the world (all his favorite activities and foods are there) and doesn't see much fun in the whole thing, himself included, being sucked into hell. He really couldn't care less if Angel ended up killing Buffy.
    • Later, after he'd been implanted with an inhibitor chip that prevented him from harming human beings, Spike helped the Scoobies fight demons simply because he liked to fight, and demons were the only things he could hurt anymore. Eventually, the other demons pick up on this and he's no longer welcome among them so it does become more like a traditional Enemy Mine scenario.
  • Game of Thrones: It's not a surprise that Jaime's distaste for the Freys is considerable. He feels that the Lannisters have to constantly bail them out. It becomes more than he can bear when Walder Frey toasts his men for the victory of re-taking Riverrun... which the Freys totally botched until Jaime personally took back the castle (in spite of these clowns). He tells Frey point-blank that his house is a joke without the Lannisters backing him.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Legacy", the Enterprise crew enlists the help of Ishara Yar in order to rescue a lifepod full of space-freighter crewmen from a hostile faction on the Death World Turkana V, only to find out in the end that Ishara Yar was using them as a covering force for her own mission: to blow up the fusion power plant belonging to that faction, so her own faction can gain supremacy.
    • In Deep Space Nine, the Romulans, Gorn, Tholians, and Ferengi (all at least antagonistic toward the Federation and in some cases downright hostile) banded together with the Federation and Klingons (already long allied) in opposing the Dominion.
      • The Cardassians (and later the Breen) invert the trope, uniting with the Dominion to oppose the Federation and the Klingons.
      • From the Cardassians' perspective the Dominion fits, they obviously don't really trust or like each other (the Cardassians tried to wipe out the Dominion's homeworld only a year and a half before they allied), but with the Federation and the Klingons getting back together, they have teamed up to fight the Federation and their allies in order to gain control of the Alpha Quadrant.
      • Garak is this on a more personal level. A true patriot (like all good Cardassians), he was banished from his home but still loves Cardassia with all of his heart, and sees Dominion rule as disastrous. As such, he will do anything to destroy the Dominion, and for most of the series, that means working with the Federation. His main differing point with the Federation is one of method: Garak has no qualms against any method that might achieve his ends. He has been willing to start wars, commit genocide, and manipulate, assassinate, and be accessory to the creation of chemical weapons in order to destroy the Dominion. Worst of all, he makes a good case for it.
      • Section 31 may also count. While acting in the interest of the Federation, they are willing to violate each and every one of its principles. The main characters of Deep Space Nine oppose them on the grounds that their methods ( which include an almost perfectly successful extinction of the Founders) are everything they are fighting against.
    • This was intended as part of the cast dynamic of Star Trek: Voyager, with the Starfleet and Maquis crew united only in getting home. Of course, the crews merge almost flawlessly and immediately, preventing this except for a rare few episodes.
  • Jerome in House of Anubis. He's sneaky, manipulative, and uncaring, (at least at first). He does always end up helping Sibuna... but usually for his own benefit, or at least one that's different from the rest of the group's. Three seasons and he's still just an ally... an ally that none of them tend to even trust on a daily basis.

    Tabletop Games 

  • In The Emperor Jones, Brutus and Smithers are partners-in-crime and ought to be friends, but in fact they are not. Brutus can barely hide his contempt for Smithers, and even tells him, "Dere's little stealin' like you does, and dere's big stealin' like I does." Smithers, in turn, secretly has nothing but hatred for Jones.

    Video Games 
  • In Jade Empire, Princess Lian starts out as this but ends up joining your team and doing your bidding.
  • Dragon Age uses this trope as a recurring theme.
  • Lord Yuan and the Renegades in Tales of Symphonia, who fall into villainous territory because they feel Lloyd must be killed to guarantee their success, but whose aid is critical at several points in the story.
  • Delita from Final Fantasy Tactics is out for Delita. He trades information with Ramza and provides a certain amount of aid and cover for him in later chapters, but his main role is to stay out of the way and hold onto Princess Ovelia while Ramza goes through the nobility and the Church like a berserk wrecking ball. He may or may not know about the Demonic Invaders threatening Ivalice, but Ramza has that taken care of anyway.
  • Volke from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is an assassin, thief, and mercenary in every sense of the word. His motives are never explained and he only gives information for a fee. When asked why he always needs money, he asks for 100,000 in pay to answer.
  • In Mass Effect 3, it would be a stretch to say that you can ally yourself to the batarians in the fight against the Reapers. It's more like you get them to agree that, since you're fighting the Reapers, and they're fighting the Reapers, you might as well all fight them at once, on the same battlefield, at the same time. On a personal level, Balak makes it clear how much he despises humans and especially Shepard when s/he makes the alliance with him. The feeling is quite mutual.
    • The eponymous Reaper-killer of Leviathan. It or rather they, are the MEverse's original Abusive Precursors who used Mind Control to rule over the 'lesser races' as gods until one of their creations turned on them, created the Reapers and started the cycles. They fight the Reapers because they are angry at losing their position as the 'apex of life' and care nothing for anyone else beyond the fact Shepard has proven they can no longer hide. Shepard may have found more help for the war, but what will happen when there's no longer a common enemy to fight is a pretty worrying question.

    Visual Novels 
  • Henry from Double Homework gets very excited when Tamara snarks that he should do online videos with the protagonist doing “boy-boy stuff” - because he’s thinking of guy stuff. When he tells everyone he wants to do this, Dennis offers to set him and the protagonist up with a website, and advertises it to the girls. Both Amy and Ms. Walsh buy memberships.


    Western Animation 
  • In the Young Justice (2010) episode "Drop-Zone", Bane is willing to work with the Young Justice team in order to get his allies back. He winds up betraying them after this.
  • On Ralph Bakshi's Terrytoons creation The Mighty Heroes, an apartment tenant and his neighbor see the destruction the Heroes are causing during a battle with an enemy and says "With heroes like these, who needs enemies?"
  • The Hair Bear Bunch episode "No Space Like Home" has Hair saying this about Bubi. Hair is made ruler of the planet Tarulia, but then Bubi—who speaks Tarulian (and any gobbledygook language) tells the natives that Peevly is their Earth leader. Hair is usurped for Peevly.
  • In the Justice League episode Injustice For All Lex Luthor gathers up some villains and, when The Joker muscles himself into the scheme, tolerates him at best because it's better to have the unpredictable lunatic close by and under surveillance than it would be to chase him away and risk incurring his wrath and sabotage. Despite spending the whole time basically being annoying and pleading to kill Batman, Joker proves his worth by capturing Bats to begin with and, believe it or not, being the voice of reason the entire time.
  • An episode of Felix the Cat (Joe Oriolo) has Felix and Rock Bottom neighbors, but Rock is making relaxing for Felix on a Sunday morning nigh impossible. Felix quips "With Rock as a neighbor, you don't need any enemies!"
  • The Foghorn Leghorn cartoon "Raw! Raw! Rooster" has Foggy being victimized by practical jokes from his college classmate Rhode Island Red. Foggy gets even with Red with an exploding "Goodbye" present, to which Red wearily comments "With you as a friend, I'll never need an enemy!"

    Real Life 
  • The Soviets, the Americans and the British might have been allies against Germany in World War II, but that doesn't mean the Soviets were friends with the British and the Americans. There was a reason for that. What's more, it ultimately came to a head after WWII.
    • A similar thing happened with Finland. They fought on the side of the Axis and managed to avoid being turned into a Soviet puppet. Finland had, in fact, actually wanted to ally with Britain and the US but neither country was willing to speak out against the Soviet Union for its invasion of Finland in the Winter War. So they reluctantly went to Germany for military aid, got it, and dragged their heels when it came to upholding their end of the bargain on things like turning over their Jewish population.