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Wild Card

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Elizabeth: Whose side is Jack on?
Will: At the moment?

This trope covers characters. For the game mechanic, see Literal Wild Card.

The Wild Card is so used to swinging between teams that they have no default "good" or "evil" Character Alignment or even a "home team." They truly aren't interested in consistently remaining with either side, and will very often simply want both to leave them alone. They can be the sort of person who will stay out of things entirely, until someone else (usually the hero or other sympathetic character) asks them for help.

The Wild Card doesn't care whose toes they stomp on, even if they're supposed to be the Wild Card's own team. In fact, The Hero probably got one (if they even manage to convince one) onto the team only because the Wild Card owes them big time. The Wild Card can really shake up a team — the more suspicious characters will quite rightly not trust them.

Unlike the mainstream neutral characters that don't join evil or good because of their preference of not assisting malevolent individuals accidentally, which they have a right to fear, Wild Card characters are instead dynamic in terms of their morality, which doesn't exactly make them truly impartial. The latter characters however, are truly impartial and rather morally static, meaning they stay loyal to what their overall morality is.

Wild Cards often share a few of these traits:

  • Bystander Syndrome: "As long as that rampaging evil beast doesn't get in my way, it's not my problem. But if it does... well, the good guys just got a new ally."
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: "It's all about being on the team currently closest to my personal goal."
  • The Unfettered: "There's a job to be done, and it doesn't matter whose feet I step on, or who gets in my way, I'm going to do it."
  • Self-Preservation: "I'm not in it for my reputation. Or yours. If push comes to shove, I'm going to save my own hide."
  • Manipulative Bastard: "Sure, I'm on a team right now. That's because that team has the MacGuffin, Applied Phlebotinum, Plot Coupon, or other doohickey I need. As soon as they let me get my hands on it, I'll be selling it to the highest bidder. Even if it's the team I just stole it from."
  • The Chessmaster: "Why shouldn't I manipulate both teams at once if it'll help me get what I want?!"
  • We Need a Distraction: "I'm not really evil enough to be the real Big Bad. I may have distracted the good guys from what's important and endangered the world, but that wasn't my intention. On another day, I might divert the Big Bad's attention away from the heroes."
  • Playing Both Sides: "Why should I pick a side when I can play both of them against each other without them knowing I'm the one responsible? Let them kill each other, then I'll comb through the ashes."
  • Becoming the Mask: "Although it doesn't necessarily last forever, my unsteady moral compass often gets in the way of what I'm trying to do, especially when I'm trying to stick it to the good guys."
  • Redemption Equals Death: "My redemption is never to turn 'good' (what does that mean to someone like me, anyway?) But as soon as I become steady, reliable, and predictable, I'm usually gone."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: "Well, this was fun, but this is a bit more than I can take. Good luck, everyone else!"
  • It Amused Me: "I don't care whose side I'm on, as long as I get to have fun!"
  • Punch-Clock Villain/Punch-Clock Hero: "I only get paid if I do the job, and I do like getting paid and actually living to enjoy it. Nowhere does it say that I have to do a great enough job to either die for your faction or to actually agree with all your mumbo-jumbo, buster."
  • Only in It for the Money: "I'm on the side with the best odds of getting me rich, and odds can change."
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: "Thanks for helping me with this problem, but don't count on me for your pointless crusade, I have actual work to do."
  • Stupid Neutral: "I have to help the underdog, no matter what side they are on!"
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: "I'm under seventeen concurrent layers of pretending to be The Mole to the opposing faction."
  • Cloudcuckoolander: "I'm not really sure what's going on, so ... how 'bout I give the diamond necklace to a salmon. Will that help anything?"

Sometimes Wild Cards fall in love. Love is the bane of the Wild Card, because no longer does the world revolve around one amazing and easy to understand person—there's somebody else. Oh my god, What Is This Feeling?! Knowing how erratic the Wild Card can be, it could be somebody from either team—or both. With somebody to care about, the Wild Card may well become more reliable for a team. Or if there's multiple people to care about, they may become less reliable. There are also some Wild Cards who became what they are because they fell in love with someone.

Neutral characters of the said three neutrality alignments can qualify as this (with Chaotic Neutral being more notorious with this trope, but because neutrality is by definition not joining either side, this is by no means a guarantee). Basically there are some neutral characters of the three impartial alignments that are deemed Wild Cards, while some others are not.

Wild Cards are very rarely Big Bads, though; they aren't really dedicated enough to evil—or to anything—to be that evil. However much they may enjoy doing what they do, most Wild Cards have either some form of morality, or high survival instincts, and are likely to turn on their evil employer because they were betrayed, don't want to be blown up with the planet, or even just because they just don't like being that evil. Wild Cards are more likely to be a Big Bad's poor choice of Bastard Understudy, or even the Good Team's Token Evil Teammate.

While the average Wild Card sees their "friends" as a handy Bulletproof Human Shield, they have just enough conscience to feel bad about abandoning them when the fight turns ugly. No Wild Card switches teams because they care about their friends—they switch teams because it means a better life for them.

On rare occasions, a Wild Card may unexpectedly pull a sudden act of Heroic Sacrifice, though it'll likely be because they guessed that if they didn't sacrifice themselves, they'd probably die anyway—along with everybody else.

Or they might not. Wild Cards are just that unreliable.

A group full of people like this is a Deck of Wild Cards.

See also: True Neutral, Enigmatic Minion, Lovable Traitor, Double Reverse Quadruple Agent, The Starscream, Opportunistic Bastard, Heel–Face Revolving Door, Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, and Playing Card Motifs. Compare/Contrast Nominal Hero.

Particularly wild Wild Cards tend to fall under For the Lulz and Chaotic Neutral.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Raphael from Angel Sanctuary, much to everyone else's frustration.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Ymir, due to playing her cards very close to her chest. While most can agree she's devoted to Krista, her true motivations and allegiances are a mystery to everyone. As an unaffilitated Titan Shifter, it seems she has loyalty to all of two people: Krista and herself. Her Heel–Face Revolving Door and unwillingness to share what she knows leaves everyone but Krista justifiably suspicious of her.
    • A couple of other characters appear to be this. It's a common fan theory that this is Zeke Yeager's true nature.
  • Ladd Russo in Baccano!. He mostly just wants whatever to satisfy his sadism, regardless of who he's teaming with.
  • While she's not quite a typical Wild Card, the direction the Berserk storyline is going is pretty much dependent on what Casca's going to do after she regains her sanity in the coming chapters. There's a strong possibility she's going to Come Back Wrong, but no-one is quite sure how yet.
  • Blue Exorcist gives us Mephisto Pheles. Just Mephisto Pheles. No one knows what his goal is in all of this...aside from amusement. He's still dangerous though.
  • Ryuk from Death Note makes it clear early on that he's not on anyone's side; he only goes along with Light for as long as it makes things interesting for him. This is proven when in the manga, after Light runs out of plans and ideas and turns to Ryuk to save him, Ryuk kills him.
    • Mello could also count; all he does is only done so that he can prove himself to be the best.
  • Impmon from Digimon Tamers ranges from an arrogant and selfish loner, to helpful and fun-loving (if a bit begrudgingly), to a depressed wreck, to The Atoner.
  • Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z, rather infamously, pulls this in each major arc. During the Namek Saga, he is only out for himself, eventually teaming up with the Protagonists to deal with the bigger threat in Freeza. During the Cell Saga, he intentionally allows Cell to absorb Android 18, and even turns on the protagonists to make sure Cell transforms so that he could have more of a fight. Finally, during the Buu Saga, Vegeta willing joins the antagonists for a powerboost so that he would be able to fight Goku.
  • Dream Eater Merry: Treesea in the anime.
  • Izaya Orihara from Durarara!!, a Big Bad example. There's nothing he loves more than stirring up conflict between people and watching the human drama unfold. He's probably helped out and back stabbed every significant character in the series just for his own amusement... except for Shizuo. With Shizuo, there is no question that Izaya's every action regarding him is driven by pure hatred.
  • Food Wars!: Has the 2nd seat of the Elite Ten Rindou Kobayashi. While she took part on Azami's takeover and the creation of the Central, she is clearly not on board with all his ideals and actively despises when Etsuya starts using dirty techniques to win matches, while actively cheering for the group that represents La Résistance and preferring their food and way of cooking than anyone in the Central, while never leaving the side opposed to them. It's actually really unclear what she wants and why she does most things, though there's some implications she has done a lot of stuff For the Lulz (that and the fact she sticks by the side of Tsukasa, her closest friend).
  • Fukushuu Kyoushutsu: Miho, the strange quiet girl who is one of the Big Bads of the manga. She has done things that help Ayana and those against her, but it's not clear what her endgame is.
  • Sagara Sousuke from Full Metal Panic! was apparently originally this, before becoming attached to his friends at Mithril and Kaname. It's implied that the reason he joined Mithril as a Wild Card was because Kalinin was part of Mithril, and he decided to join him there. Sousuke especially fits this trope in the section of Wild Cards that fall in love. He originally had no conflicting emotions, since his world and goals only revolved around getting the job done. However, it's made clear that falling in love with Kaname is his bane, making him much weaker. Gauron is less than pleased with this change...
    • Ironically, Gauron turns out to be a more evil version of this. He never has any sort of attachment to any of the organizations he's part of, not even of a financial nature. He kills and betrays (or not) only according to his whims, and can not be threatened, bribed or convinced out of it by nothing and no one. Not even when offered the very real possibility of getting the past/future of his choice, and he knows it's possible. And in the end, he betrays Amalgam to Sousuke, because apparently he really did feel... erm, something disturbingly close to actual affection for the kid.
  • Greed/Ling from Fullmetal Alchemist (mostly in the beginning).
  • Sora from .hack//SIGN is probably one of the best examples in Anime, checking the entire list from above. Since the setting of the story is an MMORPG, Sora's goal is strictly to have fun, at anyone's expense. He doesn't seem to understand the gravity of the situation as the plot progresses probably because he's a child in the real world, and continues to flip back and forth between sides. Even though it's a game, Sora strives to survive at all costs; he only helps either side if there's an immediate tangible benefit to him, and isn't above playing both sides at once, although this ultimately costs him badly when he pulls one Back Stab too many, fulfilling the Redemption Equals Death aspect. The effects this have on him as a person are eventually examined through Haseo, a later character played by Sora's player after he's grown up somewhat, in .Hack//GU.
  • Henkyou no Roukishi Bard Loen: Julchaga works with Coendera Family only becuase they're paying handsomely. After he delivers Aidra's letter, he is proven to be a Nice Guy while not "on the job". Then he conspires with Bard Loen to trick Coendera Family while they'll be paying for it.
  • Hisoka from Hunter × Hunter, whose sole desire to fight strong opponents causes this. He wants to fight and kill Gon and Killua, but not until they get stronger, which means he'll occasionally even lend them a hand. He's also a member of the Phantom Troupe or at least he's pretending to be one, but only because he wants to get the leader alone and fight him, which means he actually feeds information about the group to Kirapika during the Yorknew arc to help this along but when Kurapika seals Chrollo's nen abilities and brings him back down to normal, he starts working towards getting him back up to full power again.
  • The Colorless King from K, a Big Bad example, is called this In-Universe by the other Kings, due to the fact that his power "to affect other Kings" is unknown until it manifests in a particular generation. The character himself counts as this as well, once he is finally revealed.
    • Mercenary ninja Douhan Hirasaka might also count, seeing as she ends up helping Scepter 4 defeat the Green Clan, JUNGLE, even while remaining a U-rank member of JUNGLE. The Green King anticipated that not all members would be loyal, but he likely did not anticipate the extent of damage one or two members could cause.
  • In Kakegurui, students at Hyakkaou Academy are ranked by their gambling success, and those deep enough in the hole are essentially stripped of their human rights; winning, even if by cheating, is everything there. Enter Jabami Yumeko, who doesn't give a hoot if she wins or loses, because all she cares about is the rush of taking risks in high-stakes games. She's incredibly adept at reading people, and perceptive enough to see through schemes, but, while she'll never throw a victory away, she just does not fear losing as any sensible person might, and she's quite happy to risk everything to luck in the heat of the moment. This leads many of her challengers to only realise just how much they underestimated her by the time it's too late to back out. She freely acknowledges how crazy she is, and once admitted feeling guilt about not caring about what happens to those who get dragged into her world, but, to her, there's not greater high in life than gambling.
    Jabami Yumeko: In a capitalist society, money is naturally life. No sane person would entrust their life to luck. And yet, many people go to casinos, because they derive pleasure from this insanity! In other words... gambling is more fun the crazier it gets!
  • Nijima, self-proclaimed 'friend' of Kenichi in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple — though calling him a Wild Card implies that he has a good side. He doesn't; all he's really interested in is gathering information, spreading rumours and ranking everyone in school. Oh, and running away. Even Kenichi gets tired of his shit.
  • Wang Liu Mei from Mobile Suit Gundam 00, who would aid/manipulate anybody and everybody to achieve her vision for the future of the world (which was in a nutshell a change in its nature, and exactly that specific). The Ptolemaios faction of Celestial Being, to a certain extent; their Necessarily Evil nature make the intentions and targets of their interventions hard to second-guess, along with their tendencies to be flit between ruthlessness and diplomacy (depending on the circumstances).
  • In Naruto, Uchiha Sasuke is well known for staying on one side only as long as it benefits him, then moving on. The sides bounce from good (Konoha) to evil (Orochimaru and Tobi) to basically neutral (Hebi), then back to evil (Orochimaru again) for a short while, then back to good (the zombie Hokages). Considering that Sasuke has been getting progressively less moral, it's easy to characterize him as a bad guy, but when it comes down to it, he's killed more major bad guys than all the good guys put together.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Evangeline doesn't care about Negi's welfare and will occasionally help the villains if she feels it will be entertaining. Eva also seemed to treat the entire Battle of Mahora arc as a massive training exercise for Negi. If she had wanted to influence the outcome, she could have probably won the battle for either side singlehandedly.
    • Evangeline's partner Chachamaru, being a robot, will fight whoever she's ordered to by her mistresses, including the people she otherwise acts friendly around. That is, until she falls in love with Negi, after which she remains firmly on his side.
    • Tatsumiya Mana and Asakura Kasumi side with Chao Lingshen because they believe in her goal while having helped Negi several times previously (well, Kasumi switches sides when she learns of the consequences for Negi).
    • Kurt Godel, who is said (with reason!) to be extremely dangerous and fits the trope to a T. He appears to be on a different side of the conflict every time he appears in a new chapter. The guy is Infuriating Awesome.
    • There is also Tsukuyomi, who will betray her side and remain hostile to the other side at the drop of a hat if it looks like fun. Unlike most others of her sort, you can't even point her at your enemies and let her loose — but she will make you think you can, right up to the point where she slices your limbs off.
  • One Piece:
    • Nico Robin used to be one, jumping from ally to ally to find the Poneglyphs until she met the Straw Hats during the Alabasta saga. Her loss of this status was further cemented by the end of the Enies Lobby arc when she came to truly accept them as her friends who would never betray her.
    • Trafalgar Law. He's extremely powerful as a Super Rookie and a Warlord after the timeskip, but has a tendency to ignore or abandon allies that don't fit into his plans. While ostensibly he formed an alliance with the Straw Hats and the samurai to take down the Emperor Kaido, it was really to complete his years-long revenge on Doflamingo. That said, even after toppling Doflamingo's criminal empire, he still sticks to his promise to go with Luffy to Wano Country and defeat Kaido.
    • CP9. Following the Enies Lobby arc and the World Government dismissing their Psychos for Hire and turning them into outlaws for losing to the Straw Hats, the group was left listless, only concerned with their own wellbeing and safety, though they did make a brief return to their homeland to see the next generation of0CP9 being trained. Post-timeksip, however, it's gradually revealed that they were all re-recruited into the World Government as members of the higher-rank CP0, so evidently their murderous talents were not completely missed.
    • On the subject of those no longer employed by the World Government, we have Kuzan (former alias: Admiral Aokiji), though it may be a subversion; now that Moral Sociopath Sakazuki (former alias: Admiral Akainu) is Fleet Admiral, and it's clear just how corrupted the world is, government and pirates, it seems that Kuzan is only looking out for his friends. His first appearance since the timeskip proves this, when he shows up just in time to keep Doflamingo from killing Smoker. But, the following arc reveals that he's now working with Blackbeard for some reason, and even Jesus Burgess doesn't know if they should just him.. During the Egghead arc, when Garp leads an attack on Blackbeard's base, Kuzan steps in to defend the Emperor since he's one of his Ten Titanic Captains in charge of a ship in his massive fleet and goes directly against the Hero of the Marines in spite of their past camaraderie.
    • The Straw Hats are seen as a whole crew of Wild Cards by the world at large. There are certain unspoken rules that pirates are expected to follow. The Straw Hats do not follow them. When Zoro almost attacks a World Noble (the penalty for which is being hunted down by a Marine Admiral), a bystander notes, "I heard the Straw Hats were crazy, but..." Most pirate crews are motivated by money or power. The Straw Hats do whatever amuses Luffy and legitimately don't care what the consequences are. This has led to them taking down three of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, declaring war on the World Government, and picking a fight with not one, but two of the Four Emperors.
    • "Big News" Morgans' only loyalty is to the biggest available scoop, whether or not he needs to embellish the truth a little to get things to spread faster and/or get the public's hearts moving. And if he needs to antagonize one of the Four Emperors at her very own tea party, or antagonize the very World Government (complete with needing to beat the stuffing out of an assassin that wanted to earn his silence through coin or death), so be it; the Big News takes priority.
    • All these above examples pale in comparison to Big Mom during the Wano Arc, who changes sides so many times that not even the readers are sure which side she's on anymore. First she tries to enter Wano to kill Luffy in revenge for the events of the Whole Cake Island arc, despite knowing damn well that doing so risks war with Kaido. Then her ship is tipped over, she lands in the sea, and washes ashore with Laser-Guided Amnesia, and subsequently befriends Chopper, Tama and co. Chopper then uses her to try and break Luffy out of Udon Prison via her obsession with o-shiruko, whereupon she gets into a fight with both Queen, one of Kaido's top enforcers, and Luffy over said o-shiruko, until Queen manages to get a lucky shot in and knocks her out, in the process reawakening her memories. Queen then drags her to Onigashima, where she then gets into a fight with Kaido, which lasts several days until they decide to team up and Take Over the World together. And then, during the Final Battle, she turns against Kaido's forces after learning that they destroyed Okobore Town, which showed her hospitality when she was amnesiac. She then goes back to trying to kill the Straw Hats.
  • Reborn! (2004):
    • Hibari and Mukuro. Apparently, after 10 years, however, they both seem to be more loyal to Tsuna (even possibly admiring and respecting his strength). Of course, neither would ever admit it. Their present time selves definitely fit this trope very well, though.
    • Also Xanxus. Or the whole of the Varia. They will fight under the name of Vongola and there are implications they don't like Tsuna, but they do enjoy what Tsuna has done to Vongola.
  • Xellos from Slayers does follow Zelas' will, but however he chooses to do that, and what that will actually is, is a mystery to everyone else, which means no one can predict which side he works for at any given time. It doesn't help that he frequently misleads the people he's helping, and often isn't on the side he seems to be.
  • Uta from Tokyo Ghoul is a fairly easy-going Ghoul that primarily involves himself in things solely because it interested him. Then it just becomes more complicated during the sequel: revealed to be a member of the Clown Gang, he seems to have been set up as an evil mastermind during the finale of the original series. But the sequel shows him to swing between playing Auctioneer at a Nasty Party, discussing the Clowns' plans with Yomo and Touka, mailing a copy of Kaneki's old mask to Sasaki to coax him into visiting the shop, and even providing his services for the Quinx's undercover mission. His true intentions are impossible to predict.
    • There’s also Kichimura Wasshu, a Big Bad example. One really can't work out this guy's true allegiance. He's an agent of V, and has spent years sowing chaos and spying on various groups to pursue his own goals. Even this is called into question when it's shown he had the ghoul operation without the consent of V and abandons many members to be killed by Eto.
  • Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! cared for very little, aside from his brother Mokuba, as long as he ended up victorious.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman franchise:
    • Batman: Jason Todd (aka The Red Hood) is a definite example. While Commissioner Gordon normally relies on Batman to do the dirty things he won't, Jason will do the dirty things Batman won't. He will kill criminals, initiate crime wars, recruit gangsters (only to betray them at the right moment), resort to torture to get information (or just because he feels like it), and so on and so forth. It is all part of his vendetta against crime and vision of a better world. Or something like that. While he does truly think he's doing some good for Gotham, his actions sometimes cause innocents to be casualties. He will attempt to kill whoever gets in his way, which on some occasions has included members of his former "Bat-family." Sometimes it isn't even just about them being in his way but him just feeling competitive. It is hard to classify him as hero or villain, but it's clear he is not someone to be messed with.
    • The Joker is through-and-through an evil character. The reason he's listed here is because even most of his fellow villains want almost nothing to do with him, and rightly so. When you're a bad guy and have a choice of which other baddie you want to work with on your latest scheme, you don't want the one who may just try to kill you for no other reason than because he thought it would be funny. However, it's a completely different situation if the Joker comes to you. Because it's not like he's the type to take "no" for an answer. And he might be a harmless prankster one minute, and then decide to be a back-stabbing, murderous psychopath the next. This is a big reason why he's feared even by supervillains far more powerful than he.
      • Funnily enough this tendency of The Joker is precisely why Lex Luthor always tries to include him in large supervillain team-ups whenever possible. If you have a large group of villains getting together and don't invite the Joker, he's liable to wreck your plans anyway because he feels like he's been snubbed. There's no way for the Joker to not be a Wild Card, so Luthor has found it safest to just include him in his plans in some capacity and at least try to get him to cooperate. The alternative is leaving him out and praying he doesn't invite himself to the party.
  • Catwoman usually qualifies, although the character becoming more likely to swing over the good side of the fence as the years go by means Batman doesn't go nearly as hard on her as he does other criminals.
  • Deadpool usually has no rational reason to do anything. And being both liked and loathed by people in both sides of the hero/villain community (sometimes even liked and hated by the same person) certainly qualifies him.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Kind of played with in the case of the Hulk, as he genuinely is a good guy, but whether you're a good guy or a bad guy, if you do something he views as a betrayal or an attempt to hurt or hound him, it doesn't end well.
  • Kingdom Come: Batman invokes the trope directly regarding Captain Marvel, stating the chief reason he infiltrated the MLF was to remove that threat.
  • Lobo: Lobo, The Main Man, has fought against and along side with several of the most powerful DC heroes and villains. Most of the time he does it because he's a bounty hunter, and he gets paid for what he does, or he felt like doing it.
  • Loki: Loki God(dess) of Stories seems to be heading this way after the last few issues of "Loki: Agent of Asgard" where after finally gaining Odin and Asgard's approval, they pretty much tell him to stuff it and then refuse to take sides on the last Ragnarok battle, but still sit back and enjoy the show.
  • Fingers the magician, encountered by Lucky Luke, is both the main antagonist in his story and an ally to Luke against the other, more violently threatening antagonists. He steals compulsively and slips away from responsibility by charming everyone's wives.
  • Catman, at least, liked to believe the Secret Six were this, choosing neither to join the Justice League or the Society of Supervillains, but plow their own furrow down the middle. Really, they were villains with standards. Well, some of them had standards.
  • In Secret Wars (1984), the Beyonder transports a group of superheroes and a group of supervillains to "Battleworld" and expects the two groups to battle each other to aid his study of what it is to be human. It doesn't precisely work out: Magneto is grouped with heroes, despite still being a villain at the time, due to his Anti-Villain nature. The other heroes obviously aren't thrilled and he goes off to do his own thing before finally signing on with them. The Lizard is too savage to understand the concept of "sides" and ends up most loyal to the Wasp for having treated him when he was injured, and Galactus just ignores all the other combatants and spends the entire series working out a way to take on the Beyonder himself.
  • Nyna Calixte/Morrigan Corde from Star Wars: Legacy has helped and hindered just about every major faction in the comic at least once. She clearly has an agenda she's pushing towards, but whatever it is remains completely unknown (and is the subject of much discussion on Star Wars fan forums), and as such it's difficult for fans and nigh impossible for characters to predict her next move.
  • Harvey Dent/Two-Face, although not so much a wild "card" but a wild "coin," as his morality is entirely dependent on what side his coin lands. There are very few times in the Batman mythos that he goes against the ruling of his coin, and one time even had fans questioning the possible dubiousness of the action when it was meant to be a genuinely sincere moment. Although one central part of his character is that he is both Harvey Dent and Two-Face, so anyone savvy enough (Gordon or Batman) is able to exploit that by forcing a confrontation between Two-Face and Dent. At the very least, it'll make Two-Face act fairly, because Dent still believes in justice, no matter how much of a monster he is now.
  • Über: In an alternate World War II fought with titular super-soldiers, Maria Andreeva aka Katyusha is on no one's side but her own. Originally a Soviet sniper that was sent to a gulag to be mistreated before being turned into an Battleship-class Uber (the most powerful kind in existence), she quickly went rogue and attacked any Russian troops that tried to capture her. However, she sided with them to fight against the advancing Nazis and was instrumental in beating them back. Since then, one of the most important players in the war, since she is the only Uber in existence capable of replicating the rare substance that creates more of their kind, but her alliance with the Soviet Union is shaky and uneasy at best, since nobody is capable to control her and she does whatever the hell she wants.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Sabertooth is introduced happily hunting down his fellow mutants for an organization that sees him and everyone like him as animals. But after that falls through he joins up with mutant supremacist Magneto, proving that he'll work for anyone, human or mutant, just so long as they give him the freedom to be the monster he's embraced being.
  • In The Umbrella Academy, there's Vanya, who is technically part of the group but was never really accepted by them even before she tried to (under duress?) murder them. (She also murdered the guy who ordered her to do the above, because she didn't feel like obeying him anymore.) She still hangs out with some of them sometimes, but mostly she's just off doing her own thing while they fight to save the world. Her overarching goal, insofar as she has one, is "find a place/people I belong with", but that's not going to happen anytime soon.
  • Wolverine in many of his comic portrayals proves to be something of an Anti-Hero Wild Card — while usually on the side of the good guys, he's violent, dangerous, unreliable and extremely intelligent. While he may not swing fully from Villain to Hero and back again, like many Wild Cards enjoy doing, his comic incarnation especially has a high number of team affiliations, and he has frequently worked on his own.
    • This was far more explicit in the Ultimate Universe. Wolverine started off as a cold-blooded assassin working for Magneto. Then he did a Heel–Face Turn in order to sleep with Jean Grey. Then when she dumped him, he responded by trying to murder her new boyfriend, Cyclops (by dropping him off a cliff. He broke a bunch of bones and spent a month lying in a pit eating bugs). Then he was given one last chance to rejoin the team (after having the crap blasted out of him by Cyclops), and has stayed good since. Except that then his time-traveling future self turned up and apparently murdered Xavier.
    • Mystique is similar; there's some contention of whether she belongs here or in Heel–Face Revolving Door, i.e., whether she's actually changing sides as the plot demands or just allying herself with whoever's convenient. Not that most of them are under any illusions.
    • Emma Frost is an ally of the X-Men but occasionally sides with the villains depending on what she can get out of it.

  • Ben Tennyson is seen as this in Fate/Stay Night: Ultimate Master by everyone else in the Holy Grail War; his only interest is in preventing casualties or loss of innocent lives, including the other Masters. As such, he will team up with anybody just to protect other Masters, but will just as easily turn against them if they cross that line. Rin even refers to Ben as such.
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Fujiwara. He's almost as bad as the aforementioned Godel.
  • In Young Justice fanfic New Kid On The Block, Wally is one of these. As long as he doesn't get caught, he'll do things that help and hurt both sides.
  • Lampshaded in Back From the Future by Commander Rex who admits he's not sure whose side Luke and Vader are on besides each other's. But he does know they're committed to ending the war rather than fighting or winning it.
  • Young Justice: Darkness Falls has Red Hood, Arsenal, Red X and Jinx AKA Red Hood and the Outlaws. They're not heroes by any mark due to their stealing and destroying technology, but they're not associated with The Light, and help the League on several occasions.
  • In the Star Wars Rebels story A Sword to Pass, Senator Alekos Kallus appears to have his own agenda separate from the mission that Elair is on. He was a last-minute addition to the diplomatic mission to Mandalore and when meeting Alrich he seems to be fishing for information.
  • In Torque (Jak and Daxter), Keira herself is a wild card in that she is taking on the destiny that was supposed to be meant for Jak. Her decisions and actions are completely different from his and begin to lead to different results.

    Films — Animated 
  • Aladdin:
    • Iago is about as reliable morality-wise as a chocolate teapot. He spends much of Aladdin: The Series stealing treasures from his 'friends', manipulating people's good natures, and abandoning fights that turn ugly. However he doesn't like his friends getting hurt, and has had some surprisingly brave moments. Jafar makes note of it in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar:
      Jafar: Iago... you betrayed me and allied yourself with my enemies! Then you turned on them as soon at it was in your best interests. That's what I love about you. You're so perfectly... predictable. A villain through and through!
    • And his conscience moment...
      Iago: Hey, I did my good deed! I don't owe you a thing! You hear me?! [beat] Not a thing...
    • This is mirrored in his role in Kingdom Hearts I, II and Chain of Memories.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain Renault in Casablanca looks like The Quisling at first, but he proves himself just as willing to bend the truth and turn a blind eye to the law for the good guys' sake.
  • In Ex Machina, is Ava siding with Caleb in order for them to escape? Is she following Nathan's programming to manipulate Caleb? Or is she manipulating both of them? The ending makes it quite clear she is on no one's side but her own.
  • Clint Eastwood also did this in A Fistful of Dollars, the first of his "Man With No Name" trilogy.
  • Rodan from Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) is described by director Mike Dougherty "a bit of a never quite know where his loyalties lie". When he is first introduced, he levels an entire city by flying over it and completely obliterates Monarch's Gold Squadron who were attempting to lure him away from inhabited areas. He then attacks Ghidorah when the humans lure him towards Monster Zero, but later becomes Ghidorah's sidekick after the latter defeats Godzilla and takes control of the rest of the Titans. He fights Godzilla and Mothra in the climax, but becomes the first to bow to Godzilla after the latter defeats Ghidorah and reclaims his position as the Alpha titan. The end credits later reveal that he's moved to Fiji, where he becomes a tourist attraction, indicating that he's no longer as hostile towards humans as he was initially.
  • Dr. Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. While she starts off as an ally to Indiana, we find out that she's really a Nazi agent. However, towards the second half of the movie, she shows lots of mixed behavior that suggests she's not truly "evil" nor believes in the Nazi cause. She even helps Indiana by dispatching Donovan in the grail chamber (even if it was to further her selfish motive to get the grail). In the end, her character was just too morally ambiguous for a popular film, and the writers use a Death by Materialism to seal her fate.
  • James Bond: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the nefarious head of SPECTRE and 007's biggest Arch-Enemy, likes Playing Both Sides by loaning out his services to any nation that is willing to pay him while secretly enabling them to weaken each other so SPECTRE could Take Over the World. Being a mercenary, he only cares how much SPECTRE is going to profit from their Evil Plans. Throughout the franchise, it's shown that both sides of the Cold War are using his services, such as rubbing out defectors, conducting nuclear blackmail, etc. to cover their tracks. Also, this quote from From Russia with Love best sums up his long-term Evil Plan:
    Blofeld: Siamese fighting fish — fascinating creatures. Brave, but on the whole, stupid. Yes, they're stupid. Except for the occasional one, such as we have here, who lets the other two fight. While he waits. Waits, until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself, and then like SPECTRE... he strikes!
  • The stranger in Last Man Standing not only hires himself out as a mercenary to both sides, but does so in the expectation that his presence will swing the gang violence into gang war, in which he can make more of a profit. Then he guns down both gangs.
  • Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed or (pretended to change) his allegiance so many times that you'll get tired of counting. He is always on his own side, the rest "varies from moment to moment". He finally ends up on his brother Thor's side at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, just in time to get killed off in the opening scene of Avengers: Infinity War.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Captain Jack Sparrow is constantly switching sides at the drop of a hat, going with whichever side immediately gives him an advantage or moves him closer to his personal goals. It takes the other characters a little while to catch on to this, though they finally get it near the end:
      Elizabeth: Whose side is Jack on?
      Will: At the moment?
    • All the pirates by the third film. Everyone's allegiance is best described as being on "their own side." Jack just happens to be better at it than most; when the pirates vote for the new Pirate King, most of the pirates present vote for themselves, including Elizabeth Swann (who does it more as a Take That! than anything), but Jack, who votes last, votes for Elizabeth — the one pirate present who shared his conviction to stop Davy Jones — making her the winner of the election, and therefore the Pirate King.
  • Han Solo in Star Wars happily does work for Hutts, Rebels, or anyone willing to pay. He never offers to help unless they have some credits to offer for his trouble. His Character Development throughout the Original Trilogy sees him go from this to a hesitant comrade concerned about a price on his head to a loyal comrade willing to go on a very dangerous mission to help the cause. It helps that Luke, Leia, and eventually Lando prove more than willing to put their necks on the line to help him when he's in trouble.
  • Jaka's allegiance, in Triple Threat (2019), is not clear to Payu and Long Fei, nor to Collins and his crew. Jaka uses Payu and Long Fei to get to the mercenaries, and after seemingly teaming up with the mercenaries, eventually helps the duo to defeat them. Ultimately, Jaka's allegiance is to vengeance for his wife and village.

  • Animorphs has the Drode, the emissary of the effective God of Evil, the Crayak. His name literally means "wild card", and it is implied that he sould out his entire species in order to work for the Crayak. This made him a Reality Warper herald of one of two effective gods who are playing a cosmic chess game.
  • Sadi, Chief Eunich of the Nyssian Royal Court in The Belgariad really shows hints of this in the sequel series, the Mallorean. He shanghais the heroes to escape from some rivals' plots (Of course, his part in the prophecies didn't help matters either), manages to trick the leader of the Dagashi (ninja-like assassins) to the point that even said leader is impressed with his cleverness, and then near the end, represents his government (despite at that time having no legal standing whatsoever) in a set of very lucrative accords, and uses his standing in the accords to buy himself back into his queen's good graces.
    Durnik: Did we kill anybody?
    Sadi: Two. [off their expressions] It's a little hard to un-poison a knife...
  • Codex Alera features the ironically-named spy Fidelias, who starts the events of the first book when he turns traitor in an attempt to replace the aging First Lord with a new ruling noble, Aquitaine. He believes that what he is doing is no different than the many acts he has previously performed as a loyal spy, acting to preserve the long-term stability of Alera. In the later books, he turns again upon realizing that The Hero is the heir to the throne and would make a far better ruler than Aquitaine.
  • Along the same lines as Talleyrand, both Fernand and Vilefort from The Count of Monte Cristo might count, being excellent judges of when to change their politics and thus rise through society at a time when most people suffer because of having Napoleonic or Royalist politics at the wrong time.
  • The Council of Thorn of Dora Wilk Series are, technically speaking, Dora's superiors, but their attitude towards her vary not only from person to person, but from situation to situation as well, meaning that in some books, their friendly, in others they're actively or passively antagonistic, and in some they are divided.
  • Dragaera novels:
    • Sethra Lavode is a strange example. She might count as a Lawful Neutral Wild Card, given that she is loyal above all to The Empire but not necessarily the current emperor or empress on the throne. She is also rather a Chessmaster, along with being eons old and ultra-powerful — it's noted in the Khaavren Romances sub-series how some villages view her as the Evil Overlord to be defeated in their fairy tales, while she is considered a "fairy godmother" /Physical God the next village over. In the Taltos sub-series, her actions are more unambiguously good, and she experiences Becoming the Mask in her kindly and likeable persona as Classy Cat-Burglar Kiera, which was initially just a scheme to monitor organized crime in the Empire.
    • The House she is associated with, the Dzur, is also something of a Wild Card group, as Sethra notes in the book Dzur how that group likes fighting for its own sake and will choose the right side when everyone else is against it.
  • The Dresden Files plays with this. Harry is generally perceived as this by a large part of the supernatural community, but Murphy points out that he's quite predictable once you know him. He's a guaranteed Spanner in the Works for the plans of everyone in the immediate area, but if he agrees with the morality of what you're doing he'll help you out.
    • In his earlier appearances, Thomas Raith was one, until he sided with Harry more permanently in Blood Rites. Invoked, since he didn't yet want Harry to know he was on his side the whole time.
  • Everworld plays this in several ways — Senna is dragged into Everworld to help Loki escape, but she has her own ideas on how things should play out. To this end she drags several acquaintances through the portal with her, knowing that they will also be Wild Cards that she can control better than her enemies can. That being said, they become savvier as the series goes on, and pretty soon they're messing up her plans as well.
  • Walter Baranov the Anti-Hero / Villain Protagonist of the mystery novel The False Inspector Dew qualifies as one of these in terms of his actions, particularly because the novel never conveys his mental state to the reader, making his true nature ambiguous. Walter had planned on killing his nagging wife on board a ship, but when she doesn't show and another corpse turns up, he has to impersonate a famous detective on account of using that detective's name as a pseudonym, and solves the murder. The ending implies that he will very soon be trying The Perfect Crime again, this time successfully.
  • Josip from Flight to the Lonesome Place only wants the reward for finding the Blue Boy, not realizing that the reward was put in place so that Ronnie would have a harder time escaping those who want to kill him.
  • In the Forgotten Realms, Jarlaxle is a Magnificent Bastard Wild Card. One excellent example of his playing both sides and the middle is when he captured a young woman, made a half-hearted attempt at seducing her, and set things up so his own ally would "betray" him and free her, so they could go rescue her would-be boyfriend and the ally's rival, who was being held by Jarlaxle's employer. Ta-daaa.
  • Diana from Gone is a Card-Carrying Villain, but she hasn't done anything truly, overtly evil, at least not relative to some of the people she hangs out with. She acts as the Caine's chief assistant and seems to genuinely care for him, but helps the heroes from time to time so Caine's Dragon, who has a sadistic fixation on her, will have someone else to target. And, although she has an apparent Heel–Face Turn in Plague, it seems to only be because she can no longer control the Big Bad.
  • Eddie Malone from Leviathan is an American reporter with no loyalty to either the Clanker or Darwinist side and a knack for finding things out. While he personally likes the protagonists and can be very helpful at times, his first concern is always having something to turn in to his editors.
  • Zack State, the protagonist of The Mental State, definitely qualifies. He is a sociopath with a talent for manipulation and a fondness for devious schemes. It is almost impossible to tell what his objective is at any one time. He normally only reveals what his plans were after they have been completed. He comfortably worms his way into other people's confidences, sets two sides against each other and takes full advantage of any opportunity that comes his way.
  • The Marquis de Carabas from Neverwhere. He's your man right up until there's more in it for him not to be.
  • Vergere from the New Jedi Order series. What she was doing was pretty clear (training Jacen Solo to be an uber-Force user) but the why was so ambiguous that even the editors can't seem to decide. At first the official position was that she wanted peace but wasn't allied with any faction in particular, then that she was a loyal (albeit unorthodox) Jedi of the Old Republic, and now she's apparently supposed to be a Sith acolyte. Thing is, the original Vergere was just such a messed-up enigma that the authors seem to dust her off whenever they need someone to act as the linchpin of the ongoing plot, giving a sort of weird meta-status as the Wild Card.
    • Talon Karrde as well, although at least he's honourable enough not to sell anyone out if he can help it. He even lampshades it at one point, telling a Republic officer that he's in it for the money, not the ideology. The reason he sides mostly with the good-guys? He reckons they're going to win in the end.
    • Heck, his ship is even called The Wild Karrde!
  • Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain:
    • Lucyfar, who claims to be the Archangel Lucifer, is fond of switching between hero and villain apparently at a whim. The only person who has any ability to talk her down when she's in villain mode is Gabriel, who she claims is the Archangel Gabriel (which he denies).
    • The Inscrutable Machine ends up as this by accident, since they don't actually want to be villains and are very careful to avoid casualties, but keep finding extremely powerful and dangerous things on accident.
  • The Secrets of Droon has Salamandra, the time-traveling queen of Shadowthorn. Her only loyalty is to herself, and she helps both the heroes and villains at times.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, we have Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Lord Varys, both of whom have switched sides at least three times (Lannister to Tyrell to himself in Littlefinger's case, Targaryen to Baratheon to Lannister to Targaryen for Varys) depending on who happens to be able to help them out. Varys actually mentions more than once that his big talent in life is sucking up to whoever is in power. Both come from very humble backgrounds for the circles they operate in (the littlest of Lordlings for Littlefinger, foreign eunuch for Varys) but through raw talent became Councilors and major players in the realm, and both are aware of how they have to secure themselves at all costs. Particularly Varys, who despite decades as a major player has no title or wealth whatsoever of his own.
    • Sellswords are generally on the side of getting paid by somebody whose money is good for at least the next week — preferably, month. With very few exceptions. They may, however, change sides if you wave a better possible payout for less danger in front of their noses... unless they're with the Golden Company and are sticking to their contract. Or, like the independent contractor known as Bronn, they have taken the Golden Company as the standard by which to be measured. However, then you get the ones like "The Brave Companions": For the Evulz rules.
  • Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain without Mercy in The Supervillainy Saga certainly qualifies. Not only is a Card-Carrying Villain despite being a Antivillain, he's also got many friends on both sides of the superhero/supervillain divide. As a result, he may side with one group or the other depending on his feelings at the time.
  • Padan Fain/Mordeth from The Wheel of Time is the embodiment of this trope. He is sort of possessed by an Evil Chancellor (Mordeth) who became pure evil to ward his city from an other evil two millennia ago. But, as it turns out, he (Padan Fain) was working for the main villain before that, and now his only goal is to screw with both teams by killing the hero and making sure no one else does before him. Note that unlike many Wild Cards, Fain is unabashedly evil — it's just that his goals put him at odds in various ways with almost every major faction in the series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 has recently been bringing this trope out with Tony Almeida, who seems to have turned double agent in an attempt to get revenge on the man who killed his wife. This means he has no qualms about acting against his country's best interests in order to gain the Big Bad's trust.
    • Jack also played with it, "going rogue" as a result of the fact that the country wasn't exactly happy with him in the first place, but he still always had the country's best interests in mind and was merely playing the bad guys. Then again, when half the bad guys in the show are corrupt politicians, often going against the authorities is being the good guy. Played straight in Season 8 when Jack goes on the warpath against said several of said politicans, but eerily starts mirroring Tony in his own quest to avenge a loved one as he starts acting against the country's best interests by coming close to instigating a war if that means the politicians finally get what's coming to them. It takes Chloe giving him a much-needed verbal response to bring him out of this state.
  • Grant Ward from during the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. After his escape from prison his motives are completely unclear and his actions both benefit and hinder Coulson's team.
  • Jack Bristow from Alias has not one but two goals, which he values almost equally. The first is, as an intelligence agent of the United States, to secure and defend America's military, diplomatic, and industrial interests abroad. The second, and more important, is as a father: to keep his daughter — also an intelligence agent — safe. Because of the dangerous nature of his daughter's missions, these two goals come into conflict more often than might be thought.
    • Julian Sark is an even better example. He's out for himself, and will join forces with whichever side he feels gives him the greatest benefit at the moment. When the good guys capture him late in the series, he outright states it:
    Sark: My loyalties are... flexible.
  • Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica (2003). His final line in the pilot is, in fact, "I'm on nobody's side." So there you go. He certainly does his best to muck up Admiral Adama's command while recruiting groupies wherever he goes; first he tries to seize power politically, but when that plan goes bust, he embraces the mantle of the 'martyr', founding a sect of monotheists (a novelty in the Twelve Colonies, which are devoutly polytheistic) and running afoul of some Romans, i.e. President Roslin. However, he never quite embraces the Cylons despite prodding from various incarnations of Six. The finale reveals that a higher power was manipulating Baltar's greed for their own purposes.
  • Despite being nominally a villain or hero at various times, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer functions as a Wild Card for most of Season 4 and early Season 5 as he makes his gradual Heel–Face Turn. During that changeover period he provides backup or information to the main cast when he's paid for it but also betrays them to Adam at the drop of a hat when it appears to suit his purpose.
  • Cole Turner in Charmed switched sides so often, it could give you a headache trying to keep up. Over the course of the three seasons that he was part of the regular cast, he went from being the Big Bad's Dragon to the sisters' Token Evil Teammate to a human under the sisters' protection to becoming the new Big Bad (replacing the one he had originally worked for) to not caring about anything but trying to win Phoebe back by any means necessary.
  • Chousei Kantai Sazer X: Jackall is nominally aligned with the Neo Descal, but disobeys orders constantly and eventually goes completely rogue. The only thing he stays committed to is his vendetta against Commander Shark. Blaird also goes off on his own because he doesn't like being bossed around by Garade and Grouza. Ironically, he and Jackall eventually end up bumping into each other and teaming up to help each other against their respective rivals.
  • Doctor Who: the Master in all his incarnations drifts inscrutably between sides, when he isn't a side unto himself.
    • He's always a side unto himself, and never works for anyone, just tricks people into doing his bidding.
    • Though he does get a doozy of a Heroic Sacrifice / Heel–Face Revolving Door in "The End of Time."
    • Similarly, Sabbath from the Eighth Doctor Adventures tends to do a lot of becoming mortal enemies with everyone he allies himself with and shifting his goals because of it. He started off engaged in mildly Teeth-Clenched Teamwork with the Doctor, and, well. That didn't last. He carries on getting into Enemy Mine situations with the Doctor, bookended by attempts on the Doctor's life, until he decides he's actually "more than a little fond of" the Doctor.
  • This is Crais's role in the second season of Farscape. After giving up his attachment to the fascist Peacekeepers, and recognising that his quest for vengeance on Crichton was insane and unjustified, he makes it quite clear that his only motivation is to ensure his survival and freedom and that of Talyn. While he still has moral lines that he won't cross in terms of gratuitous murder, he's extremely unpredictable and untrustworthy. This is toned down a bit in the third season after he teams up with half of the regular cast.
  • Firefly's Jayne Cobb appears to be this type of character, but when his one attempted betrayal is weighed against all the instances where he unhesitatingly stands by the crew against overwhelming odds he suddenly looks far less neutral. This may be because the one time he tried to betray the crew, Mal damn near threw him out the airlock.
    • Saffron (a.k.a YoSaffBridge), in her two appearances. There's a girl who truly can't be trusted.
  • Fringe has quite a few of these:
    • The first is September, and the rest of the mysterious Observers. All they do is watch and observe... So there's one (or twelve) wild card(s).
    • William Bell's true allegiances are never really clear. On one occasion, he's fighting against Walternate and helping Olivia, on the other, he's the very man who created the shapeshifters. He's also behind some of the show's more... morally questionable acts.
    • Next, we have Sam Weiss. On one hand, he's very friendly, helps rehabilitate Olivia and makes a new friend in the process. On the other hand, Walternate is somehow aware of his existance and doesn't trust him, he appears to be the author behind the century-old book The First People, and knows exactly who Peter Bishop is and what his connection to the Wake Sink Device is. Eventually, we learn that he was just an ordinary guy all along who happened to have generations of knowledge bestowed upon him.
    • The show's biggest wild card is arguably The Man In The X T-Shirt. Olivia has absolutely no memories of the man despite the fact that he was in her mind. Even more creepy is that he wasn't a normal "mental projection". Because Olivia regressed and hid because of her fears deep in her subconciousness, all of her memories of everyone she knew turned malevolent, seeking to harm her as well as anything that "doesn't belong" (i.e, Peter, Water and Bell). This man, on the other hand, wasn't a malevolent entity — he simply sought to escape the zeppelin he was trapped in. And finally, after Olivia returned better than ever, this man's image simply appeared in her mind, and she nonchalantly stated that "he's the man who's gonna kill her." Word of God says that he's somehow connected to September, and David Robert Jones.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish is the inveterate wild card of the series, allying with and subsequently betraying most of the major factions involved in the struggle for the Iron Throne. Baelish has no true loyalty but to himself, and frequently upsets the balance of power in Westeros by screwing over one side in order to serve another.
    • Averted with Lord Varys, the Master of Whispers. Varys has definite goals in mind that he does not sway from, but he keeps those goals close to the chest and only pretends to be a wild card to keep his enemies guessing.
      Varys: My role is to be sly, obsequious and without scruples. I'm a good actor, My Lord.
  • Heroes: Sylar's intentions change to suit whatever his situation at the moment calls for; he'll assist either the good guys or the bad guys if he thinks he has something to gain from it. However, he also dislikes being lied to, and every attempt to control him through lying and manipulation has ended horribly with a bloodbath and Sylar defecting to the other side by default.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
    • When Mac is fitting all of the bar into a Five-Man Band structure, he designates Charlie as "the wild card" and for good reason. In that episode alone, he tries to proposition their loan officer, switches the bar to run on a gasoline engine, tries to sell some more gasoline to a random woman using a Texas accent (and sounding like a gigolo), and pushes four large garbage cans of gas out of the car and jumps out. When asked about any of it, he just says "Wild Card!"
      Mac: Why aren't the brakes working?
      Charlie: BECAUSE I CUT THE BRAKES! WILD CARD, BITCHES! YEEEHAW! [jumps out of car]
    • Frank also serves as a Wild Card, with less insanity and more selfishness. He doesn't have any loyalty; he just does whatever he thinks will net him the most money/enjoyment.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Blade:
      • Hajime Aikawa/Kamen Rider Chalice was initially the neutral variety, having unclear motivation and fighting both Undead and Riders alike.
      • More literally, the Undead are assigned Playing Card Motifs and competing with one another — but it's eventually revealed that the "deck" includes an actual Joker; and if the Joker Undead wins then everyone dies. Fittingly enough, Chalice is secretly the Joker.
    • Touched on in Kamen Rider Double: The powerset that Shotaro Hidari usually uses is labeled "Joker", which gives him good general combat skills and lets him adapt his fighting to any situation; and it's described as a form of Personality Powers since he has the right disposition to draw out the powers' potential. However, his loyalties are never in question and he's a selfless hero through and through; his affinity for the Joker is more in line with the Tarot definition of The Fool — you may not know what he'll do next, but that's because he's an impulsive Large Ham trying to be a cool stoic, and he ends up being a Spanner in the Works of many plans going on in the city of Fuuto.
  • Benjamin Linus of Lost, even though his early appearances set him up as the Big Bad. Even up to the finale, the audience isn't quite sure what he's going to do or who he's going to side with.
  • Krenshaw from Monk is probably the closest to being a Wild Card that could be given in the series. A notable example is in the episode where he attempted to vote for the destruction of a parking garage solely to spite Monk, who attempted to defend it from its destruction.
  • Eli David of NCIS seems to be this as well. He seems to put country above everything including family, to the degree of being an Abusive Parent because of this. At the same time, he is not a completely unsympathetic character. Still no one knows what he will do.
    • From the same show, Trent Kort, because nobody knows his reasons, which side he's on, or even his actual name. You don't get much wilder than that.
  • Once Upon a Time has Mr. Gold, a.k.a. Rumplestilstkin, the type of Wild Card in control of virtually everything that goes on in the series, even other villains and Wild Cards. He has made deals left and right, from the miller's daughter Cora her two daughters Zelena the Wicked Witch and Evil Queen Regina, all the way down to Jekyll and Hyde. Gold/Rumple does many things that help the heroes and defeated his own villainous father Peter Pan, telling him that villains don't get happy endings... only to turn around later and try to help three other villains (Cruella, Maleficent, and Ursula) get their happy endings! He really seems to know how to make others owe him! Other than his loyalty solely to himself, it can be hard to decode his rhyme or reason a lot of times for whose he picks-and-chooses as temporary ally.
  • Oz: Ryan O'Reilly was a prisoner in the Oswald State Correctional Facility who was often involved as part of some scheme with various other inmates (or even the guards), but with no true allegiances except to himself. The Irish weren't really organized as a major gang like El Norte (latinos), the Homeboys (blacks), or the Aryans (neo-nazis), so he only really had his retarded brother Cyrill as muscle. His audacity and charm allowed him to become one of the leaders of the prison riot in Emerald City, for one.
  • Piggy of Power Rangers S.P.D. was able to align himself with all three fractions in the series (The Heroes, the Villains, and The Villain Traitors) all for want of money. This isn't a guy who sided with whoever paid the most, this is a guy who just wanted pay.
  • Both Sully and Mickey from Ray Donovan. They're loyal only to themselves, collaborate with both heroes and villains, and, most importantly, they're unpredictable. Their actions are always self serving, but also impulsive, and short-sighted, and they end up screwing both the heroes and themselves as they make situations worse for everyone. Mickey collaborates with the FBI to bring down Ray only to kill his handler and goes solo. He fakes loyalty to Sully, but ends up on Ray's side by Season 1's end, though Ray tells him to get lost. He loves his family and tries to do the right thing, but the same cannot be said for Sully. Sully used to work with Mickey until Mickey scammed him and Ray hired Sully to kill Mickey. Sully betrayed him and was let loose in Miami, only to find himself increasingly at risk in a city he doesn't fully know, with the cops and Ray's people hunting him.
  • Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale. Truly loyal only to herself, and later her girlfriend Toni, Cheryl can pretty much be anyone's enemy or ally at any given time (especially since Riverdale isn't a straightforward good vs evil show) depending on what's best for her, or simply if she thinks it'll be fun.
  • Lana Lang on Smallville, more-or-less because the writers weren't sure to do with her. Lana's first Face–Heel Turn came about as the resulting of being possessed by her ancestor, a malevolent witch. Later seasons had her marrying Lex Luthor (who was demoted to "cuckolded husband" almost immediately), embezzling all of his money, and setting up her own Cape Busters syndicate. She eventually became a super-powered secret agent and left the show to pursue adventures of her own.
  • Garak of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He actually skirts the edges of having no allegiance, because he is steadfastly loyal to Cardassia. However, he is not necessarily loyal to its current government, and he is on the side of the protagonists in later seasons because he believes the current government does not have the best interests of Cardassia in mind. Only rarely, however, is he actually opposed to the protagonists. It is not uncommon for him to be confrontational though. (Specifically, his methods do not always sit well with Starfleet ethics.)
  • Q of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unpredictable, showing up at most unexpected times, and it is anyone's guess whether it will be a lesson that leaves one better off than they were before or simply a cruel game set up from boredom/desire to experiment.
  • Todd the Wraith from Stargate Atlantis. He's among the most pragmatic of the Wraith, along with seeing Sheppard as almost like a brother due to their time together in a Genii prison. At the same time, he's still a Wraith, and being among the smartest of his kind means he's among the most dangerous of his kind. The reason he's a Wild Card rather than just a villain like other Wraith is that his loyalty is solely with his own hive rather than to the Wraith species as a whole. Whenever some other hive (or a non-Wraith villain) stands to gain dominance over Pegasus that's just as bad for him as it is for the Atlantis crew.
    Sheppard: Here's my problem. Every time we get involved with you, I feel like I'm walking around with a live grenade in my pocket, just waiting for it all to go wrong — for that one thing you forgot to mention.
  • Supernatural:
    • In Season 3, Bela pulls a lot of scams that endanger the Winchester's lives but will occasionally help them (usually out of self-preservation).
    • In any given episode, Meg, Ruby, and the all-famous Crowley might be working alongside or against the boys, and is ready to betray them at a moment's notice. Demons are tricksy like that.
    • In Crowley's case he seems to get his moral flexibility from his mother. Rowena in her early appearances schemes against him, the Winchesters, or both before settling into Token Evil Teammate herself.
    • Castiel frequently switches between helping and opposing the Winchesters.
  • This trope was particularly common in Showa and early Heisei seasons of Super Sentai, where a third party would sometimes get involved in the fight between the heroes and the villains, going up against either side depending on the situation.
    • The Dark Knight in Kagaku Sentai Dynaman was one of the first. He opposes the Jashinka Empire as much as the Dynamen do, though he's not exactly on their side. It's eventually revealed that he's actually the former Jashinka commander, Prince Megiddo, looking to get revenge on them for the You Have Failed Me they pulled on him. After he knocks off his two rivals for power, he swoops in to take over and becomes the final Big Bad.
    • Bio Hunter Silva in Choudenshi Bioman. As a Killer Robot built to exterminate anything with Bio Particles, he's naturally an enemy of the Biomen, but his singlemindedness in his directive leads to the Neo Empire Gear's attempts to ally with him going nowhere. They then try to capture him to study his technology which also fails and leads to all of their executives dying.
    • Choushinsei Flashman: Sir Cowler is the leader of a team mercenaries who initially start off working for the Reconstructive Experiment Empire Mess. After Lah Deus starts sacrificing his men however, Cowler goes rogue and battles both the Mess and the Flashmen from that point onward.
    • Hikari Sentai Maskman: Thief Knight Kiros starts off his own party, but allies with the Tube Empire early on, although his only real goal is getting his hands on the frozen Princess Ial. Emperor Zeba is perfectly to give her to him provided he defeats the Maskmen, but the other generals of Tube aren't so keen on him. Eventually, Kiros breaks off from them and takes Ial with him the first chance he gets, only to be hunted down and killed by Igam.
    • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger has Stinger/Sasori Orange. He attacks the team in his first appearance, joins them for a single fight later on and opposes them again afterwards. He joins the team later on, but keeps his independence. The initial mess was an act while the rest was apparently a lack of trust on his side.
    • Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger has two wild card characters:
      • The first is Good Striker, a piece of the Lupin Collection tasked with protecting the rest of the collection who also forms the torso of the giant robots used by both the Lupinrangers and Patrangers. Whom he chooses to aid at any particular time depends on his ever-changing whims, although if he fears one side may destroy a piece of the Lupin Collection, he will refuse to help them.
      • The second is the series's Sixth Ranger, Noel Takao, AKA Lupin X and Patren X. Ostensibly, he is a Global Police specialist in studying the Lupin Collection, but he is also a phantom thief and allied with the Lupin family. He is known to change forms and alliances often, even in the midst of battle, thus leading to him being distrusted by both the Lupinrangers (since he is a liability, due to being a rival thief and knowing their identities) and the Patrangers (who suspect him of being a mole, but can't act on it due to his being officially undercover).
  • Survivor has had many, but the practice started with Rob Cesternino in The Amazon and resulted in the Pearl Islands season that followed being an all-wild card situation after Rupert's elimination. Special mention to Sandra, who won employing a self-proclaimed strategy of "as long as it ain't me."
  • Lila from The Umbrella Academy. She's introduced in the second season as Diego's love interest, but then it turns out she's an assassin sent to kill him but fell In Love with the Mark. But even then, she's still a villain to the rest of the Hargreeves siblings. It's later revealed that she was born from the same Bizarre Baby Boom as the rest of them but was adopted early on by the Handler. When the Handler betrays Lila and leaves her for dead, Five saves her life and she escapes. She returns in the third season to reveal to Diego that their tryst had produced a child, and while she's on the siblings' side for most of the season, it's partly out of love for Diego but mostly because their interests are aligned with her own. It's also worth noting that her special ability is copying the powers of other "Children," making her a literal wild card.
  • Veronica Mars: the title character's on-again, off-again Homme Fatal boyfriend Logan Echolls helps the investigations as often as he messes with them — all for his own shady reasons, of course. His own girlfriend believes him capable of murder, so there's that, too.
  • Vikings has three primary examples:
    • Rollo frequently switches side against his brother Ragnar and later against his own son Bjorn, making it hard for anyone to tell which side he really is on. This eventually leads to him finally losing both Bjorn and Lagertha.
    • King Harald has been in every Viking-team constellation on the show except Lagertha's (not for lack of trying), to the point he has saved his rival Bjorn's life twice and the later feel obligated to save him in Season 6 despite everyone advising against it.
    • Hvitserk frequently switches team, but unlike the two examples mentioned above, it's usually due to being badly treated.
  • The Game Show equivalent would be the Bonus Space, but there's two particular examples that fit here:
    • Wheel of Fortune has a literal example — a sparkly red "Wild Card" is placed on the Wheel. When you land on the space with it and call out a correct letter, you pick it up and if you want, you can call for an extra consonant. Lucky players who haven't used it, didn't hit Bankrupt and make it to the Bonus Round get a boost there, where it gives them an additional consonant of their choice.
    • And from their sister series The Joker's Wild, the titular Joker acted as this — if you spun one or two, you could make it double as a category symbol and play that category for double its value. You could also use a Joker to call for a category that hadn't been spun (termed "going off the board"). Spinning three Jokers pretty much won the game, though you needed to give a correct answer to win.
    • Concentration used the Wild Card in all its permutations. It matched whatever the other number selected concealed. On the original, it could be a double-edged sword — if a Wild Card is picked first and the second number revealed a Forfeit, then the player is forced to relinquish a prize from his/her rack (with hope that he/she at least has a gag prize or no prizes at all).
  • Max from Wizards of Waverly Place, the youngest sibling of the trio. He constantly switches sides, from Justin's side to Alex's side and back.
  • Alex Krycek from The X-Files.
    • Even Mulder's informants can be seen as this, as they simultaneously offer Mulder information, withold it, and feed him incorrect information.

    Multiple Media 
  • Vezon from BIONICLE would work for whoever had the best chance of killing him at the given moment, however he was mostly out to follow his own twisted yet never quite defined plans. After he gained the power to travel between dimensions, this mostly stopped being a problem for him, although even so, he was once seen doing errands for another, highly powerful character.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The business calls these folks "Tweeners" (as in, between Heel and Face). Essentially, it's when the bad guys get heroes' welcomes. (Keep in mind, the inversions of this — babyfaces who get booed out of the building, or supposed big things who get no reaction at all — do not qualify as Tweeners; that's called X-Pac Heat.)
  • Daniel Bryan. There was a time when Daniel Bryan was a Heel who thought he was a Face. He would come out and chant "YES! YES! YES!" The fans would cheer him and chant along. In order to get heat, he became a more blatant Heel. When the fans shouted YES!, he would shout NO! This had the unintended side effect of being extremely fun, and only made people like Bryan even more. His character eventually evolved to have both Heel and Face elements. Like a Heel, he would argue with the fans, get jealous of his tag team partner Kane, and even cost Kane singles matches. Like a Face, he never ran from a fight, and refused to win by cheating. Most Tweeners in wrestling are actually Faces that simply act cocky, or Heels that the fans like. However, this may be the only time a wrestler was truly unclassifiable, as he performed the tropes associated with both sides.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Never trust a rattlesnake.
  • Chris Jericho makes a career out of doing this, knowing well how to manipulate the crowd. Once, he returned from a year-and-a-half hiatus, trolled the audience with a video that had nothing to do with him, and did nothing but walk around saying "Come on, baby!" for ten minutes. After that, when he finally started getting booed, he just left. The announcers remarked that they weren't even sure of what they'd just seen.
  • WWE wrestler Triple H seems to settle into this role whenever he attempts a Heel–Face Turn. Mostly because, even as a face, he's kind of a prick—but a smart, (YMMV) funny prick.
  • During his TNA days, Christian Cage settled into this role after the dissolution of Christian's Coalition, and his major storyline was about him trying to rebuild his burned bridges with the faces on the roster, in order to combat his allies who had now joined the Angle Alliance. The fact that he was still pretty much a cocky asshole heel in characterization really hurt his efforts.
  • Ric Flair, whose exceptional skill at both grappling and cutting promos, and his ability to carry even the most pathetic "wrestlers" to four-star affairs while remaining the Dirtiest Player In The Game throughout, made him almost impossible to boo even as he started to push sixty.
  • Even at his most face-ish, the late Eddie Guerrero would lie, cheat, and steal to get his way. It was on his shirt. As he once said while teaming with his nephew Chavo, "Hey, we may lie, cheat, and steal — but at least we're honest about it."
  • Jake "The Snake" Roberts was an evil version of the Wild Card. He could be a good guy for as long as he needed to.
  • Shawn Michaels. Montreal Screwjob aside, whether he's a heel or a face, even if he's just playing a commissioner, he's cheered out of the building, despite being notorious for Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • The Rock kinda fits this example too. Whether he's a Face or a Heel, he will attack anybody just because he simply doesn't like him (examples: Vince McMahon and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin). Also, even when he's supposed to be a heel post-1999, fans will still cheer him on such as his fight with Goldberg. His charisma and obvious desire to entertain the fans even as a heel makes it really really hard for fans to legitimately hate his character.
  • Randy Orton. Even after turning Face again, he still feuds and fights with John Cena and Triple H.
    • His assaults on both John Cena's father and the McMahon family should have made him the biggest heel in the company. Instead, fans tended to cheer him more.
  • The Undertaker and Kane also fit this example, as they will attack anybody they feel is a threat to them, not caring whether they are a Face or a Heel.
  • John Cena, despite turning Face in late 2003, still used Heel tactics to win some of his matches such as the one at Wrestlemania XX when he used the steel chain to defeat Big Show. Since dropping the rapper elements of his gimmick and becoming the face of the franchise he still falls short of being The Cape despite the company's presentations, engaging in the occasional dirty tactic and contradiction of message and changing his promo cut-down tactics from being straightforward disses to relying on Blatant Lies and Smug Super condescension to press the occasional Berserk Button. A closer analysis of the dissonance involved with his character and push might conclude that part of the problem with Cena is he behaves like a tweener yet the company routinely shills him as the purest hero in the history of wrestling, which only adds to the clear perception that corporate pull is the main thing that's keeping him on top.
  • Kurt Angle will often be cheered regardless of his status as a face or heel due to his incredible in-ring ability. In fact, he once cut a promo proving exactly this: After saying that the US should lose in Iraq, France is better, he dislikes "the black people", and would make Jesus tap out, he said people ("idiots") still would cheer him, because they knew he was the best in the world. The crowd promptly cheered.
    • On the inverse of that, fans continue (in to 2018) to chant "YOU SUCK" at him, in time with his entrance music, more as an Insult of Endearment than anything else.
  • Mickie James has never actually been booed in WWE. Fans loved her crazed psycho lesbian stalker gimmick so much she was cheered over the also very popular Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22 and continued to be cheered through her heel run so she turned face and has remained so throughout her entire career.
  • Beth Phoenix slipped into this role when she was moved to Smackdown (she had been a heel on Raw) where she was immediately shown to be out for herself and a bit of a three way feud started between her, Mickie and Michelle McCool with Beth's allegiance constantly in question. Eventually she made a Heel–Face Turn. Curiously when she turned back Heel she was still getting a large amount of cheers from the crowd, due to her character having a sympathetic point of view — wanting to make the division about talent instead of looks. So later on they had to make her just care about no one except herself in order to keep her heel, save the part where she still didn't want to hurt Natalya when they competed on opposite sides.
  • Kharma debuted as a Monster Heel but she only attacked heel divas at first, before then going for Face divas too. Her farewell promo blurred the lines even further.
  • During the summer of 2011, the WWE pulled off the rarely-successful main event tweener feud with John Cena vs. CM Punk. John Cena is nominally the face, does face things, and is certainly beloved by younger demographics, but has long had a poor reputation with the older fans who, while no longer giving him X-Pac Heat, think of his Invincible Hero Hogan-like dominance as a clear symptom of WWE's static nature and an on-screen product that was getting old. CM Punk's current persona is the straight-edge The Guy Who Says What Older Fans Are Thinking. Officially, that makes him a heel, but understandably, it doesn't lead to him getting booed, and his Anti-Hero antics are hilariously entertaining to boot. Throw in some excellent matches between the two of them, and the result was arenas split 50-50 with support.
  • CM Punk in general: since he settled into his "Straight Edge Messiah" gimmick across multiple organizations, typically the only difference between whether he's a face or a heel is how condescendingly he talks to the audience when trying to "help" them, or whether he: picks a fight then runs away; or picks a fight, kicks the guy in the face, then runs away. He's also pulled more than one Face–Heel Turn by being the most beloved guy in the company for weeks or months, executing a grandiose betrayal, and calling everyone out for trusting him again, once outright stating "I'm still a snake, you idiots!"
  • Rob Van Dam and his chilled and calm persona makes him hard to get over as a heel, because the crowd just cheer for him anyway when he does his "R. V. D" point at himself gimmick.
  • A.J. Lee won the title while supposedly a heel in a feud against Kaitlyn, but was cheered more for their entrances and on winning the title. A Worked Shoot that was meant to be heel aligned resulted in AJ speaking her mind about the plastic non-wrestling women who currently made up the roster, the crowd responded positively, which gained her even more popularity and cemented her as the Distaff Counterpart to CM Punk.
  • AJ Styles' 2013 Face–Heel Turn has him saying he's sick and tired of doing the right thing and instead he'll do his own thing. During the TNA roster's war with Aces & Eights, Styles refuses to join either side and instead viciously attacks both sides. Eventually settles into a "dark hero" role, taking the World Title off of Aces & Eights for good and using it to try to make Dixie Carter pay for her managerial mistakes over the years.
    • Then in WWE, when the brand split happened and he got put on SmackDown Live while his buddies in The Club went to Raw, Styles's heel run really ended up just being this. He's still incredibly cocky, insults the audience, and complains whenever he got put in a situation he didn't like, but he's still acknowledged, in and out of kayfabe, as a phenomenal wrestler, he never backs down from any fight he gets booked in, and while he does cheat sometimes, he always cheats by himself, as opposed to guys like The Miz who bring in outside help. The result is that he gets cheers everywhere he goes, even against beloved faces like Dean Ambrose.
  • Being a Wild Card was explicitly a major part of Mexican legend Dos Caras's gimmick; hence the name Dos Caras, which translates to "Two Faces".
  • The Mizdow Tag Team are a tweener tag team. One half, The Miz, is a heel that gets booed, while his "stunt double" Damien Sandow, who copies everything Miz does, although still technically a heel is over as a face — he went full-on face after the team broke up.
  • Jon Moxley: In AEW and other independent wrestling organizations, he can be somewhat categorized as an Anti-Hero fan favorite but his actions can be so inconsistent with traditional face or heel roles that his moral alignment can be difficult to pinpoint. One minute he'll do absolute villainous things like beat the crap out of babyface jobbers for no discernible reason or savagely attack a referee with little provocation. Then the next minute, he'll be playing to the crowd like a traditional babyface and talking about how much he loves the fans and how much he respects his opponent. And he can do all of this wild, contradictory stuff in just one night.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Red Hand of Doom:
    • Old Warklegnaw the forest giant. While he won't join your cause, you can choose to fight him (a bad idea) or you can convince him to help against the Red Hand of Doom.
    • The Ghostlord. Despite being evil-aligned, he's only helping the Red Hand as they hold his phylactery. If you return the phylactery, the Ghostlord breaks his forced alliance with the Red Hand but also warns you to leave before he decides to kill you. Fighting the Ghostlord is not a good idea.

  • Hamilton: The play's take on Aaron Burr is a Deconstruction; Burr's philosophy for personal and political advancement is to display no convictions for one side or the other unless there's an obvious winner, and so he can switch from stance to another as the wind blows, unlike his rival Hamilton who loudly proclaims his beliefs wherever he goes and rackets up enemies at an alarming rate. The Deconstruction comes in when Hamilton continues to climb, while Burr's career stalls, and eventually grinds to a halt. The problem with Burr's philosophy is that people can see through it; they know he has no convictions, and so can't be trusted, while even those who despise Hamilton are willing to cut deals with him because they at least know what he stands for.

    Video Games 
  • Rogue CIA agent Steven Heck of Alpha Protocol has no real loyalties to anyone save for himself due to the fact that he's completely insane. He is however an ally of Michael Thorton provided that he stays on Heck's good side. Though it is possible that he was Halbech's contact in Taipei that sent Mike against Deng.
    • Michael Thorton himself can potentially become this. By constantly forging and shifting alliances as well as changing your tone whenever necessary, the game will note that the characters have no idea where your true allegiances lie.
  • Baldur's Gate has a few, but Haer'Dalis from Baldur's Gate II is a shining example of the trope. He's a tiefling (demonkin) from a wholly different plane of existence who joins the party to do some sightseeing, seduction, and provocation. Jan Jansen from the same game is also an example, although he's much more down-to-earth than Haer'Dalis.
  • The Going Rogue expansion for City of Heroes let the players do this: heroes can change into villains, villains can change into heroes, or they can stay somewhere in between as rogues or vigilantes.
  • The whole shtick of the Mound-Makers covenant in Dark Souls III. Unlike other PvP based covenants, which require you to kill the host to fulfill your goal, Mound-Makers can kill just about anyone to do so, including summoned players, invaders, and even other Mound-Makers.
  • Vergil in the Devil May Cry series, complete with the obligatory Enemy Mine and Heel–Face Revolving Door.
    • It's best shown in the third game; he forms an allegiance with Arkham, someone who could help his main intention of becoming the most powerful individual by going through Temen-ni-gru and unsealing the spell within it. But when Vergil himself drops the aforementioned allegiance and learns that Arkham also seeks the exact same source of power he wants, Vergil decides to temporarily team up with his brother Dante to stop Arkham.
    • Near the fifth game's finale, Dante and Vergil prioritize their Sibling Rivalry by dueling each other to the death. It's only until after Nero intervened and beat Vergil that the latter finally decided to submit and do the most crucial priority at that time; destroying the Qliphoth.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • Zevran is originally sent to kill the Grey Warden, then surrenders to their command. Because this fantasy is far too cynical to believe Defeat Means Friendship, his motivations and loyalty aren't convincing. He can do a genuine turn, but if his Relationship Values are neglected, he remains the Wild Card. In the sequel, providing if you let him go after being chased by his former employers, he will help during the Final Battle. Also, both Flemeth and her daughterMorrigan qualify, having nothing to do with the Blight or the later Mage-Templar War and they are only in it due to personal reasons.
    • In Dragon Age II, Hawke is treated as this by every faction in the game. This ultimately leads to them getting wrongly blamed for causing the Mage-Templar War, when they actually had very little influence on the underlying problems that sparked the conflict and were merely the Right Man in the Wrong Place. The root causes of the war are already there even before Hawke arrived to Kirkwall to take refuge.
    • The player character of Dragon Age: Inquisition will lead what is nominally a Chantry organization, but have no pre-determined allegiance in practice. You can thus pick and choose your allies as you see fit. This becomes a problem in Trespasser DLC, in which few nations either want the Inquisition to be disbanded or put them on Chantry's leash.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has Spider Daedra, which, as their name might imply, are a Spider People form of lesser Daedra. Spider Daedra are equally formidable with melee attacks and destruction magic, particularly ranged Poison and Shock spells. Due to their unpredictability, few mortals are willing to summon them for fear that they will disobey orders. Given that they are servants of the Daedric Prince Mephala, essentially the patron deity of the Manipulative Bastard trope, this trait is rather understandable.
    • Many of the Daedric Princes come off as this, at least from the perspective of mortals. Some can be rather predictable in acting out their defining character trait, but others aren't as reliable. Of note:
      • Likely first among Wild Cards is Sheogorath, the Prince of Madness. It's enforced in his nature to be a unpredictable lunatic whose "logical" thought processes couldn't be understood by anyone else. He's just as likely to bestow upon someone great riches as he is to turn them into cheese. Shown in how his realm, the Shivering Isles, is separated into Mania and Dementia, with the former being a bright and cheery place, and the latter being the polar opposite. Despite usually coming off as a rather friendly fellow and often not overtly malicious (until he all of a sudden decides to be, anyway), the Dunmer consider him to be one of the four corners of their House of Troubles. Ranking him alongside Mehrunes Dagon (Prince of Destruction), Molag Bal (Prince of Domination, Lord of Brutality, and the King of Rape), and Malacath (Prince of the Spurned and Ostracized, and patron saint of the Dunmer's constant enemy, the Orsimer). That's how dangerous they consider Sheogorath's whims to be.
      • Boetiah is the Prince of Plots, Betrayal, and Murder. Essentially making him/her the patron saint of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Weirdly, the Dunmer consider him/her to be one of the good Daedra.
      • Meridia, despite being one of the more level-headed and less nakedly malicious Daedric Princes, can swing wildly in her allegiances. She's been the "Man" behind the man for the Big Bad of an entire Oblivion DLC, and the Big Good of The Elder Scrolls Online. Her motivation in the former was that the Big Bad, despite being a tyrannical Aylied despot that enslaved most of what would become playable races far in the backstory, was a devout worshipper of her's, and the Player Character wasn't. Her motivation in the latter was that she really, really hates Molag Bal, the Big Bad of that game. Confounding matters is that no one really knows what her "sphere" is, or what he's the Prince of, exactly. All she can really be counted on for is being vehemently opposed to Molag Bal and the related undead, which might have something to do with her apparent obsession over "beauty" (the undead being really ugly).
    • The Dark Brotherhood tends towards this, but it's most apparent in Skyrim. They'll take any hit they're paid adequately for. Including killing the Emperor. Including killing the guy who hired them to kill the Emperor, at the request of the Emperor, who offered them his ring in payment. The ring they could have just as easily taken off his corpse. But hey, a contract's a contract.
    • Naturally, at least in terms of gameplay, the Player Character can be a Wild Card, due to the Elder Scrolls games being of the wide open sandbox variety and allowing the player to have total agency. Particularly in Skyrim, where you could be considered a noble hero and paragon of virtue in the Eastmarch hold, for having solved a series of murder in Windhelm, among other things... while also being a charming rogue type in The Rift and Riften, directly working with the Thieves' Guild, while not actually racking up a bounty through discretion and bribery. The player could also simultaneously be a wanted fugitive in Whiterun for punching the Jarl's mouthy, spoiled brat in the back of the head and escaping the guards, etc. etc..
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • This is a potential option for The Courier to take towards the end. The line of quests is even known as "Wild Card." Indeed, working with all the factions and stringing them along for as long as possible before upending all their plans and seizing power without warning is the encouraged way to get that ending.
    • In the promotional deck of cards that came with special editions of the game, the Courier and Benny (whose lack of success makes him more a Spanner in the Works in the grand scheme) are depicted as the Jokers.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Shadow the mercenary from Final Fantasy VI is a slightly less teetering Wild Card; he indeed seems to care little for the overarching plot, and will randomly leave your party in the first half of the game. He also works for the bad guys in one area of the game, but since you're also working with them at that point, the issue never really comes up.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics:
      • Delita is the ultimate Chessmaster; he manipulates absolutely everybody, and is more often on nobody's side than on any particular side.
      • Ramza is a Wild Card in the Lion War, though for the opposite reason as Delita. Almost every faction wants him dead, and the main plot of the third chapter is, from his perspective, one long Blast Out. Delita is just happy to give him fuel and let him clear up the Gambit Pileup for him.
  • Nasir in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, who appears to sincerely support or betray the player party on an unpredictable whim. Ultimately a subversion, as there is a consistent pattern to his actions, but it's not until the final cutscene that all the pieces come together: his actions reflect consistent loyalty to his granddaughter Ena, who in turn serves the Big Bad because the villain's mount is her enslaved, feral Laguz fiancée. If you know his loyalties in advance, Nasir's actions make perfect sense on a repeat playthrough.
  • Hat Kid from A Hat in Time is more than willing to help or fight anyone as long as she can get her time pieces back in return, whatever they're good or bad guys. This puts her at odds with Mustache Girl who encourages her to be her crime fighting partner by using the time pieces, but Hat Kid couldn't care about it and refuse to use them.
  • Henry Stickmin Series:
    • The titular Henry Stickmin. While the first three games show him as a selfish criminal, Infiltrating the Airship lets him become a bounty hunter, a government agent, the Toppat Leader or just remain as a thief. And while Fleeing the Complex doesn't rumble with Henry's morality that much, Completing the Mission does: Henry can remain as the Toppat Leader, bounty hunter or government agent, or become a Toppat recruit, a special covert ops agent, the owner of a space resort, a dead cyborg, a retired criminal, or once again remain a selfish criminal, with a partner or not.
    • Ellie Rose is also a similar example. While she's also a criminal, her morality completely depends on Henry's actions in Airship out of her sheer loyalty to him: She either becomes a government agent, a retired criminal, a Toppat recruit, Henry's Right Hand Lady, or remain a criminal alongside Henry. And that's assuming Henry even decides to help her in the first place: Either he can simply ignore her or outright abandon her when she lends him a hand to escape, and she disappears from the story after that... unless Henry is choosing the latter as the Toppat Leader. If so, expect one of the biggest hits of karma in the entire series as Ellie becomes the Toppat Leader while Henry is dethroned and has only three people on his side.
  • Axel/Lea from the Kingdom Hearts series is this trope all-over (in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories especially, where he was quite the aforementioned "Getting The Job Done" type), until Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] where his Character Development had him graduate from Anti-Villain to outright-good-guys territory.
  • Dark Pit from Kid Icarus: Uprising. He's apparently a reflection of the part of Pit that doesn't like being a loyal pet to the Goddess of Light. This means he's even more pissed off about the fact that he was created just to be a servant of the Goddess of Darkness.
  • Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, a Big Bad example. Ostensibly she's the main character's ally and adviser but only because that puts her in the best position to manipulate others without herself being manipulated.
  • King Bulbin from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Though he only stays on the evil side for the course of the game, his only text in the game states that this the type of guy he is after you beat him for the last time. He fights for the stronger side.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny: Kyrie who, thanks to a mixture of Personal Goals and being a Manipulative Bitch, switches sides at several points in the game whenever it will help her save her home planet.
  • Mass Effect has arguably a few, but from the point of view of most organisations and unaligned people Shepard seems like this. He/She has a clear goal that is essentially a good one (prevent the Reapers from destroying all advanced organic life) but most people either don't know about the Reapers at all or don't believe they're real. Even those few who do believe the Reapers are real and a threat to all civilization (such as the Illusive Man) can be badly disappointed at how Shepard treats the problem.
    • In the first game, Shepard is mostly a diplomatic investment for the Alliance and a tool for incarcerating a rogue Spectre for the Council. S/He's in a position where it's impossible to please both and for them Shepard turns out to be something of a liability until right at the end of the game.
    • In the second game the player can have Shepard be very cooperative with Cerberus, but because of how the game mechanics work, Shepard remains a wild card for them as well. And of course, because s/he's technically working for Cerberus, the Council and the Alliance don't really know where Shepard stands.
      Illusive Man: Shepard, you're making a habit of costing me more than time and money.
    • In the third game, Shepard is reinstated in the Alliance Military, but that doesn't mean that s/he does everything they tell him/her to or in the way they hoped s/he would. However, by the time there's no intergalactic politics to meddle in in the game and most of the organizations more or less admit that We ARE Struggling Together. Shepard is more of the Big Good at this point, being the symbol of hope and unity as well as the Reapers' feared enemy. So you could argue that most other factions that don't get their shit together and side with him/her are the Wild Cards. There are of course still plenty of occasions to piss people off and blur the line between friend and foe.
    • In fact, this trope is the whole point of the Spectre rank; they're given a lot of backing by the Council with no oversight, so they're allowed to be as much of a Wild Card as they want in pursuing their goals (which the Council hopes are in line with theirs). It's so extreme that for a Spectre to have their status revoked, they have to become enough of a political threat for the status to be just a formality to them.
  • From the Mega Man (Classic) series, Bass technically works for Dr. Wily, but has proven repeatedly that he has no problem backstabbing his creator if it means that he can prove himself as the world's strongest robot. His entire justification for being a playable character in Mega Man & Bass is that Big Bad King starts off declaring himself king of the robots, getting Bass' attention and causing him to come after him to prove that he's more worthy of the title.
  • Mega Man X:
    • The bounty hunter Vile really doesn't care whose side he's on, as long as it's neither X's nor Zero's. The remake of the first game, Maverick Hunter X, even has a non-canon bonus mode where you play as Vile and fight Sigma's other minions just because they piss him off (and he wants to kill X himself). In his opening stage, he even explicitly identifies himself as such.
      Vile: Incite rebellion. Split up the Hunters' forces. That's the way to get to X... But Sigma, I may be the wild card you hadn't counted on!
    • Dynamo shows up as a True Neutral mercenary for Big Bad Sigma. In X5 he wipes out an entire space colony, loads it with a computer virus, then initiates a Colony Drop. He's quite jovial though as he stalls for time by fighting X and Zero. When he shows up in X6, he has no relation to the crisis at hand and is merely hunting for Nightmare Soul for his own profit (note that X and Zero are also collecting Nightmare Soul.) When defeated, he has no hard feelings and merely departs. It seems he just wants to get his job done.
  • The player characters in the Mercenaries series are private contractors. They have an overarching goal (the substantial bounty on General Song's head in the original, payback on Ramon Solano in the sequel), but are willing to play any side of the conflict, as long as it gets them closer to that goal. For instance, in the original, they had to work with the Allied Nations, since they were the ones giving out the Ace missions, but in order to get intel leading to the Aces, the players had to do missions for the Chinese Army, South Koreans, and Russian Mafia. Since the Chinese and South Koreans were hostile to one another, and the Mafia was at cross purposes with pretty much everyone, that meant the players had to fight for, and against, pretty much every faction at one point or another in order to maximize profits.
  • Metal Gear: Revolver Ocelot is perhaps the greatest example of a Wild Card in the history of fiction. He at first seems to be aligned with Liquid Snake in 2005, and then it turns out he's working for Solidus, who was the one that had Ocelot convince Liquid to instigate the entire Shadow Moses Incident in the first place. In 2007, he partners with Sergei Gurlukovich, and then almost immediately betrays him while still working for Solidus...until eventually betraying him in 2009, revealing that he's actually working for the Patriots. However, if we go back to 1964, he appears to be working for the GRU, but is secretly operating as a spy for both the KGB and the CIA. Then, in 1970, when the CIA and Pentagon were bickering over the Philosopher's Legacy, he took the opportunity to join Zero. Then when he started thinking about leaving HIM, Zero lured him back with battle data on the "Perfect Soldier Project," and the concept of genomes. By staying with Zero, Ocelot ends up being one of the founders of the Patriots, along with Zero, Para-Medic, Sigint, EVA and Big Bossnote . He would continue to act as a Patriot spy in the KGB, and left Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Theeeeeen, fast-forward to 2014: once Ocelot is possessed by Liquid's ghost, and Snake apparently beats “Liquid Ocelot” so hard that he knocks it out of him, Ocelot dies from a new stream of FOXDIE. After this, we find out from Big Boss (who is still alive thanks to Ocelot, EVA and nanomachines) that Ocelot wasn't working for anyone, and that he was actually coordinating a huge scheme in order to destroy the Patriotsnote  probably since the early 70s, all for Big Boss (the man who put "Revolver" in his name). Oh, Ocelot, you Magnificent Bastard.
  • Scorpion from Mortal Kombat frequently switches sides, though in fairness this is frequently the result of being duped or enslaved by the higher-ups. It's especially apparent during the third game, where his single-minded pursuit of his hated rival Sub-Zero causes him to attack good and evil characters alike, and in the ninth game where he said he would only defeat Sub-Zero in battle, but ended up killing him anyway when Quan-Chi reminded him of what Subby supposedly did to his clan, wife, and child. He is explicitly named as this trope in his Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 attract-mode bio.
    Pat: Scorpion's not evil, he's just insane with the spirit of vengeance!
  • The Monquistans from Pirate101 act like this because they are easily insulted. The most famous of them is Mr. Gandry who had served in three different navies before he became a pirate.
  • Ada Wong from Resident Evil is definitely this character. She's basically a free agent who works for people only when convenient and always to further her own ends. Somewhat subverted by the fact that she seems to have feelings for Leon and helps him out whenever she can. In Resident Evil 6, you see that while she works on her own, she does actually care about people to a certain degree and doesn't want sociopaths taking over/destroying the world.
  • Rimworld has you pick a "Storyteller" at the start of the game. Randy Random is the wild card. Unlike the other two, Cassandra and Phoebe, Randy has no algorithm determining which events spawn when. It's entirely possible to have your colony obliterated by a dozen raids in a row... and just as likely for absolutely nothing to happen for years.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • All three members of Team Dark have shaky allegiances. In spite of doing the right thing most of the time, they usually take much more violent and/or morally dubious ways of getting the job done. Shadow fights whoever gets in the way of his goals, Rouge is only interested in jewels and hunting for treasures, and Omega attacks whatever the other two point him at. The three of them are even ostensibly willing to work with Big Bad Dr. Eggman, and have in the past, but it's all for their own sake and no one else's. Most of the time, the reason they're willing to work with Sonic and friends is they're taking on a world-ending threat, which would clearly not benefit Team Dark.
      • This is played with in Shadow's own game. You can switch Shadow's allegiance at any time, even during a mission. Sometimes your allegiance will be changed for you if you accidentally collide with a different Mission Character.
    • Knuckles the Echidna is always ready to fight without hesitation anyone who seeks to steal the Master Emerald or threatens his mission to protect it. This gets exploited by Eggman, who has a tendency of tricking Knuckles into believing that Sonic is his enemy. Knuckles was more of a neutral character than a hero when first introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, only pulling a Heel–Face Turn thanks to a Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal from Eggman.
  • Suikoden:
    • In Suikoden II, Sid joins you only after finding out that Chaco, his younger brother and his favorite target of torment, has joined you.note  He also qualifies as a Token Evil Teammate due to his creepy demeanor, which you get to witness firsthand through the dialogue sequence between him and Chaco during the recruitment process.
    • Suikoden V has Haleth, a former administrator at Hershville who has placed bets with other administrators, with himself betting his money on the victory of the forces led by the Prince (the protagonist of the game). He joins with the sole intent of keeping an eye on the proceedings, so that he can gather the money in case he comes out as the winner in said bets.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, Zelos is The Chosen One of Tethe'alla, but he always has his own agenda. When asked which side he'd want to fight for, Zelos answers "the one that's likely to win", even if he admits that he'd want to Save Both Worlds if push came to shove. He's actually helping all three factions in the game — the party, the Renegades and the Angels — so that he can side with whatever faction seems to be on top at the end. This comes from deep self-loathing that he's only valuable as the Chosen One, so Lloyd's idealism and genuine friendship stuns Zelos. This loyalty is eventually rewarded in kind when Zelos defects to just help the party. And in the sequel, Zelos is the only one who never wavers that Lloyd is innocent of a charge of mass murder.
  • The Mishima family in Tekken. The only true heroes in the series were Kazuya in the first Tekken, Jun in 2, Jin in 3 and 4, and Lars in 6. The only full-on villain was Heihachi in 1, 3, and 4. Since then, it's virtually impossible to define who's good and bad. Asuka was never involved in the main plot, though has always been a Face.
  • Ultimate Custom Night has Rockstar Foxy. If you click on his parrot, he'll pop up, and one of two things will happen. If you're lucky, he'll give you a power-up. If he tells you, "Yargh, you win some, you lose some," brace yourself.
  • Boomerang from the first Wild ARMs, though technically on the side of the bad guys, is only interested in fighting and hence couldn't care less about his own side. At least once in the game he protects your party from them.

    Visual Novels 
  • BAD END THEATER: While the Hero is a Knight Templar, the Maiden is naïve and innocent, and the Overlord just wants to live in peace, the Underling's role in the story is the most varied. Will they be nice to the Maiden, or will they murder her purely For the Evulz? Will they get peer pressured into killing the Overlord, or will they remain loyal to her? Will they protect their friends from the bloodthirsty Hero, or will they run away and save their own skin? It all depends on which path you take.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Byakuya Togami from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc loudly proclaims his intent to graduate (which means killing someone) and is willing to meddle with crime scenes to "make things more interesting." However, he does eventually get over it and join forces with the other students to escape.
    • Nagito Komaeda in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. He claims to be on the side of hope, but this also includes the hope of the blackened, meaning he's willing to assist the murderers despite their victory meaning his death. He'll also try to spread despair himself, in the hopes that the hope of the other students can overcome it. This means his actions and allegiances are completely unpredictable from moment to moment.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony continues the tradition with Kokichi Oma, the Ultimate Supreme Leader. A self-professed pathological liar, Oma's actions are completely unpredictable and seem geared around antagonizing the other students.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Archer pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice in Fate, goes through Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in UBW and then does his job as a Counter Guardian in Heavens Feel. In all cases he's immensely powerful and knowledgeable and to a large extent drives the plot, mostly in the latter two routes. He has his own goals, but he's not quite willing to destroy the world to fulfill them.
    • Rider in HF. Her goal is to obey and keep Sakura safe. So throughout HF she's busy switching sides to ensure Sakura's survival, and after she becomes unsure of what is the best option, she disappears despite presumably being on the good guy side at the moment. Sakura/Rider combo ends up causing more bad ends than pretty much every other character, beating out Caster and Ilya by a narrow margin. But she saves Shirou's at the end and even gets to live in the True End.
  • Lambdadelta in Umineko: When They Cry for differing reasons throughout the story. First is because she doesn't want an outright winner between Beatrice and Battler; later she acts in a fair manner because it's more interesting and, when pressed, is even capable of saying in red that she is completely neutral. While she's helping everyone out in order to amuse herself, you just need to remember the part about 'in order to amuse herself.'
  • Your Turn to Die: In a similar manner to Danganronpa above, Your Turn to Die does this with Sou Hiyori (Real name Shin Tsukimi). A liar and manipulator motivated by self-preservation, the player is never really sure if he can be trusted at any given moment.
  • Team Q of Zero Time Dilemma. Teams C and D, while also introducing a character each with team leaders Carlos and Diana, also have veterans from the past Zero Escape games; Junpei and Akane for Team C, and Sigma and Phi for Team D. Team Q are made up of three new characters introduced in their game with their leader Q being an amnesiac boy (or rather, an old man) who got thrown in with the others for the Decision Game (everyone else was a coworker in the DCOM facility). Most notably there’s Mira, who is actually the Heart Ripper.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, we have Raven Branwen. A former agent of the good side in the secret conflict that grips the world, Raven abandoned the war between Ozpin and Salem (likely after learning that Salem has Complete Immortality and simply cannot, as far as anyone knows, be stopped for good), viewing fighting against Salem as a Hopeless War and that anyone who took part in it was simply throwing their life away. Raven is instead on her own side and that of the Bandit Clan that raised her, and won't hesitate to use or manipulate anyone, including her family, to ensure her own survival and that of her clan.

  • Most of the main characters in Darken to a greater or lesser extent, but especially Jill.
  • In the world of Drowtales where practically everyone is part of a massive Gambit Pileup against everyone else, a few characters stand out by being this position, mostly notably Kiel'ndia Vel'Vlozress, whose unique type of magic actually allow the readers themselves to communicate with her and give her the potential to seriously disrupt some of the larger plans. More minor cases are the Balvhakara and Jie'yen clans, who act in this capacity in the Nuqrah'sharian Civil War and derail the plans of the would-be usurper when they refuse to support her coup. Two members of these clans also wind up part of the main plot and have so far served in a similar capacity for Snadhya'rune.
  • Wanda Firebaugh, the dread Croakamancer of Erfworld, who's seemingly working for Stanley the Tool, but is involved with Jillian Zamussels who is on the other side, and is really working for herself. In large part, this is because she appears to see herself as a servant of fate, and will do whatever's needed to see that fate realized.
    • Jillian herself is a Wild Card at best — and is even called such in the second book — and Chaotic Stupid at worst; she cares only about her own agenda, but is actually uncertain of what her agenda really is, leading to spontaneous and erratic behavior, which alienates potential allies and makes her a highly unpredictable force in the ongoing conflict.
  • Played around with in Vriska from Homestuck. On the one hand, she was responsible for setting a Cycle of Revenge into place and keeping it going. On the other hand, she also agreed to end it, and showed some signs of genuine remorse. On the other hand, when she entered the veil she set in motion the events that lead to Jack Noir being prototyped by Bec, which doomed the kids' session. On the other hand, she claimed she was only doing it to make John stronger, and that she intended to try to face Bec Noir herself. On the other hand, she then proceeded to kill Tavros for pretty much no reason. On the other hand, she seems genuinely regretful of that, and has been talking more and more to John lately, who seems to be steering her down the right path. All in all Vriska's Wild Card days seem mostly over, though it's not out of the question she'll revert back to her old ways...
    • Later in the story, it's stated that the Bard class is considered a Wild Card class as its role is to have a major influence in how the game progresses in either a positive or potentially devastating way. In the case of Gamzee, he was at least partially responsible for the Trolls' victory against the Black King by delivering the single most powerful blow of the entire battle, and later in the story he winds up working for the Big Bad of the story Lord English/Caliborn.
  • Galatea in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Poor mixed-up kid.
  • The Living Words aka Story in Roommates also fits with his/her treacherous deals, technically not lies, weird morality and inscrutable goals. Generally speaking (s)he is not on anybody's side but generally works in the direction of moar drama because, well, it amuses him/her and also the readers.
  • Bun-bun from Sluggy Freelance is one of these through and through. He tends to fall on the good guys' side more often than not lately, though that's largely because the other characters have gotten better at making sure it's in Bun-bun's best interest to keep them alive.
    Bun-bun: Deal, but I reserve the right to mug the target and/or switch sides at any time.
    Riff: I know, I know, "your usual disclaimer."
  • Zombie Ranch gives us Rosa Amarilla, whose loyalties so far are proving to be... fluid. She's even portrayed as the Joker card in what appears to be a poker hand on the cover of issue five.

    Web Original 
  • In DC Nation's Olympics plot, Terra was one of these. Both Hades and Troia tried to recruit her because she was too damn dangerous not to. True to form, however, she took the divinity potion Hades offered her, and betrayed him as soon as he pissed her off. She is now a minor deity of Strife and Chaos (and a pain in the ass for the Titans' shapeshifters), a position that suits her perfectly.
  • Ylana Skyfire, a mercenary in Neopets.
  • New York Magician: Raymond. Cthulhu. Michel's grandmother. Michel himself (as seen by everyone else). Baba Yaga — is it possible to have a whole cast of wild cards?
  • Arthéon becomes this in later parts of Noob, as he has a goal that puts him at odds with most of the player community, but is permitted to temporarily ally with players if it can help accomplish the goal in question faster.
  • Rats SMP: Tubbo is extremely prone to starting conflicts for no reason and is, in essence, a menace to rat society. The first thing he does on the server is try to start an uprising, and Apo strongly suspects that he might have "ratbies" (rat rabies).
  • Maxie Dasai from Survival of the Fittest version three who, whilst not stabbing anybody in the back or outright betraying them, was prone to walking out on groups or partners that she felt wouldn't benefit her. She wasn't exactly cowardly or villainous per se, but Maxie was definitely not somebody to be relied on.
  • She-Beast, daughter of the supervillain Dr. Diabolik in the Whateley Universe, looks to be in it for whatever she can get out of the deal. Usually hangs with the other Bad Seeds (children of supervillains), but seems to have a thing for Phase.
  • YWC aka (Youtube Wrestling Community) as everyone switches sides as soon as the person they sided with previously upsets them, the wrestling vloggers also switch sides just as much.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • The Ice King is originally presented as a villain with a stereotypical penchant for kidnapping princesses. It slowly becomes clear that he's less evil and more mentally ill, and he never intentionally harms anyone, so he's more like an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, and he'll even pitch in to help against existential threats to Ooo or the Candy Kingdom. Problem is, even when he's more or less "good," he's still crazy, so his "help" is often unhelpful or he might get confused about what the "good" side is. His alter-ego Simon Petrikov is unambiguously good, but he's very seldom in control.
    • Similarly, Marceline the Vampire Queen, while she cares about her friends, is whimsical and at times amoral. Despite being one of the more powerful beings in the Land of Ooo, she very seldom pitches in against even the most powerful threats unless she's got some personal stake. In one episode, when her Dad, Hunson Abadeer, seems intent on sucking out the souls of every living creature in Ooo, she tracks him down only to retrieve her treasured axe.
    • Even Jake the Dog can be like this; he's generally good at heart, but very irresponsible and lazy. He'll sit out entire episodes if he doesn't feel like helping, usually when his powers could resolve the conflict too quickly.
  • Archer:
    • Krieger may be working for ISIS or for the villains depending on what he feels like that day.
    • Malory Archer. She is the head of ISIS, but had an ongoing affair with the heads of both rival agency ODIN and enemy agency the KGB for years before the series even started, and often alternates which one has more influence on her behaviour.
  • In Batman and Harley Quinn, Batman explicitly calls out Harley Quinn on this when she asks to help him and Nightwing stop Poison Ivy and Floronic Man and lists examples of the possible on-a-whim reasons as to why she might turn on them, including "Because it's Thursday!". In the climax, he turns out to be right, and she ironically echoes the Thursday reason as she does it.
  • Beast Wars:
    • Femme Fatale Blackarachnia starts out as an example of an evil Wild Card. First of all, she was Starscream's Bastard Understudy in the episode Possession. After learning the ways of treachery from him though, she displayed genuine Wild Card traits by using her new skills on him before the episode ended. Later on she fell in love with Silverbolt, an action which changed her to a more moral person, although it didn't keep her from shooting him in the leg. Later versions of Blackarachnia (Beast Machines, for example) were less unreliable and more faithful to the Maximals.
      Silverbolt: You shot me!
      Blackarachnia: He was going to blow your head off!
    • Tarantulas begins the series working for Megatron, but as time goes by it is revealed that he has his own agenda, and frquently betrays Megatron then will ally himself with Megatron again, all while working towards his own goals. At the end of Season 2 it is revealed that he originally joined Megatron's crew to spy on him for the Tripredacus council, who have their own agenda.
  • BoJack Horseman has Character Actress Margo Martindale declare herself one in Season 2's "The Shot", by virtue of getting into a shootout with police over their Recognition Failure.
  • Donkey Kong in Captain N: The Game Master is generally depicted as a villain, even on the side of the Lords of Chaos in "Videolympics". But he is just as likely to attack Mother Brain and her henchman as much as anyone else.
  • Galtar and the Golden Lance:
    • Rak and Tuk are happy to work for or betray anyone so long as the money's good, and their allegiances shift from episode to episode as finance dictates.
    • Rava wants power, she wants Galtar, and she incidentally wants Goleeta dead. She'll be happy to work with her uncle right until she's got him where she wants him, while working behind his back with the heroes, and betraying either and both as soon as it suits her purposes.
  • Heloise on Jimmy Two-Shoes. She both works for Lucius, yet often goes against him to help Jimmy.
  • The Legend of Korra has Varrick, a businessman who initially allies with Team Avatar against Unalaq because his blockade on the Southern Water Tribes is hurting his shipping business and even backs a war with the Northern Water Tribe. Later on, he seeks to prolong the war for the sake of profit and is willing to use his friends to his ends by bankrupting Asami's corporation so that he can buy her out and framing Mako for a crime when he learns of the former. Later on, he's found staying at Zaofu, only to sign on with Kuvira's Earth Empire as their head scientist, though eventually he has a legitimate change of heart after they force him to create Fantastic Nukes and sides with the heroes to stop her.
  • Polytheus from Mia and Me can be either on the elves' side or on the villains' side, depending on who currently has something worthwhile to offer him.
  • Penny Lefkowitz in The Mighty B! is either Bessie's best friend or Portia's henchman whenever she wants to tear Bessie down. Sometimes within the exact same episode; Bessie never holds this against her.
  • ReBoot has Mouse the agent for hire/turned goody when her employer disregards her own safety during a job.
    • The virus Hexadecimal is usually on her own, with he objective of sowing chaos, but she will sometimes make an alliance with her brother Megabyte, though these never last. On a few ocassions she even helps the good guys, when it suits her.
  • Police officer Boxter Hamdon from SheZow would on occasion support the episode's villain because he doesn't like it when SheZow steals his thunder.
  • Bigmouth in The Smurfs can play either friend or villain of the Smurfs, depending on what will get him more food. Eventually he settles in as the Smurfs ally, albeit as The Friend Nobody Likes.
  • Steven Universe has Lapis Lazuli. While she's more than willing to protect Steven and treasures her friendship with Sixth Ranger Peridot, she's far more interested in her own self-preservation and living a peaceful life than anything else, blaming both the Crystal Gems and Homeworld for the Trauma Conga Line the past 5,000 years have been for her. As a result, she's spent just as much time on the show being a serious threat that the main characters need to placate as soon as possible as she has as an Aloof Ally that can easily crush any foe they're dealing with that week, sometimes being both at once. She officially becomes a Crystal Gem towards the end of the fifth season, after realizing the care she feels for Peridot and Steven overrides everything else. That, and the fact the Diamonds would consider her a member of the Crystal Gems regardless.
  • Super 4 has Dr X, the ruler of Technopolis. Since Dr X only cares for the success of his inventions, he can be either an ally or an enemy depending on the episode.
  • While almost all the villains in Teen Titans (2003) readily co-operate, Red X will fight with or against anyone depending on his own interests and whims.
    [in his first episode]
    Red X: Not everyone likes to play the big villain, kid. I'm a thief. I'm not threatening your precious city. Just looking out for number one.
    [while preventing the other villains from getting Robin's casenote  after Robin saves his life]
    Gizmo: Whose side are you on, Barf Brain?!
    Red X: MINE!
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) animated series has two of these. The second, Torbin Zixx, is a mercenary who will betray everyone twice in order to complete a job. The first and more important one, however, is Foot Clan member Karai, whose sense of honor clashes with her devotion to her father in a way that makes her impossible to predict.
  • The eponymous protagonist of El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, who his inability to decide whether to become a hero or a villain as the main crux of the series. Manny is equally as likely to fight against the villains of Miracle City with his superhero father as he is to go about causing trouble with his supervillain grandfather (often at the suggestion of his best friend Frida). However, when push comes to shove, he'll do what's best for his family.
  • Airachnid from Transformers: Prime is certainly evil, and technically a Decepticon, but she's got her own personal agenda that doesn't involve the war. She just likes killing things. When she was forced to return, one of the first things she did was start scheming against Megatron to try to take over. Unfortunately for her, Megatron only has patience for one Starscream and eventually orders her termination when he tires of it, prompting her to go rogue and essentially become her own faction with a hive of Insecticons.

    Real Life 
  • The page quote comes from Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, a French diplomat who embodied this trope a couple of hundred years ago. He started out under the Gallic Church and King Louis XVI, switched sides to the anti-Church, anti-Royalist Republic, ditched them to help Napoléon Bonaparte seize power, converted back just as Napoleon had allied with Russia, convened the Senate that legally dismissed Napoleon, and finally threw his support to the Citizen King Louis-Philippe. All this time he remained powerful and influential, and even managed to stay out of prison. The Other Wiki says he was known as "The Prince of Diplomats" but Napoleon himself came up with the perhaps equally fitting (if less flattering) label "shit in a silk stocking." More recent scholarship suggests that he saw himself not as betraying any particular regime, but always serving the interests of France as a state and nation.
    • When he acclaimed brie as the "king of cheeses", it was said that it was the only king he had not betrayed.
  • Alcibiades. He switched sides five times during the Peloponnesian War, always for who was willing to give him the power and glory to match his military ability.
  • This is the constitutional position of the monarchy in Britain, last used to pick a new Prime Minister in 1963.
  • In countries which suffer from a hung parliament after an election, independents and third parties usually become this.
  • Dennis Rodman in Phil Jackson's Chicago Bulls.
  • Dr. Pepper to both Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Dr. Pepper is a distinct brand owned by its own company, the Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group. Yet, said company does not have a complete bottling network so they use both Coke and Pepsi for bottling and sales.
  • Video game critic Jim Stephanie Sterling is considered to be a wild card by many major video game publishers due to Jim's very wild and swinging viewpoints where they can be trashing a game for its flaws and production values and giving another one their most highest praise. Jim's wild card persona is one of the reasons why some publishers silently refuse to give them review copies of their games.
  • The Cold War provides several examples:
    • The People's Republic of China. After the death of Josef Stalin, the political philosophies of China and the Soviet Union began to diverge, with the Soviets becoming (relatively) more moderate. This culminated in 1969, when the two countries briefly fought a war with each other over a disputed island on the border. Three years later, China withdrew from the Eastern Bloc, opened relations with the United States (ironically for being the more radical government), and began fighting against/supporting enemies of Soviet-aligned countries such as Vietnam and Ethiopia; a massive turning point in the Cold War from which the Soviets never recovered.
    • France. After the Second World War, the United States pressured the country into withdrawing from Vietnam. France responded by threatening to re-align itself with the Soviet Union. In 1965, Charles de Gaulle had his government cash its entire reserve of US Dollars in exchange for gold, which helped end the Gold Standard. Finally, in 1966, De Gaulle effectively withdrew France from NATO in protest of the "special relationship" between the United States and Britain (it rejoined in 2009).
    • Iran. Before the 1979 Revolution, Iran was an ally of the United States by way of the British-led CENTO bloc and a major regional supporter of western-aligned Israel (both mutually opposing the influence of neighboring Arab countries). After the Revolution, the Soviet Union became the first country to recognize the Islamic Republic in the hope of gaining a new ally. Instead, Ayatollah Khomeini denounced Communism as incompatible with Islam, leading the US and USSR to join forces in support of Iran's pro-Soviet enemy, Iraq.
    • Yugoslavia began the Cold War as a Communist state and strong Soviet ally. However, because Yugoslavia had expelled the Germans independently, the Soviets never had the opportunity to establish their own satellite regime there. The Yugoslav leader Tito strongly opposed Stalin's nationalist tendencies and opted to participate in the Marshall Plan, leading the Soviets to expel Yugoslavia from the Communist Information Bureau. The two countries somewhat improved relations after Stalin's death, but Yugoslavia never joined the Warsaw Pact, remained neutral, and opened trade and travel with the west.
  • Italy is famous for "changing sides" in both world wars. In the first, they stayed neutral until 1915 because technically their alliance with Germany and Austria had been defensive only (not that it mattered to any other European power, all claiming to be fighting defensive wars) until they joined on the Allied side because France and Britain promised a better deal in case of victory. After said victory a certain Benito Mussolini exploited the sense of some Italians of a "mutilated victory" consisting in the Allies not delivering on their supposed promises of 1915. So Italy ultimately joined forces with Nazi Germany, only to change sides again when Mussolini was removed from power. It ended giving Italy no major loss of pre-war territory and they even held onto some of their colonies after 1945. Of course Piedmont-Sardinia, the state that would gobble up the rest of the Italian peninsula in the 19th century did similar things, allying as the need arose with France to beat the Austrians, with revolutionary movements to unify Italy, with reactionaries to crush "too left wing" movements (like Democracy and Republicanism) and ultimately (de facto at least) with Prussia against France. If there was one thing constant about Piedmont-Sardinia's / Italy's foreign politics between 1848 and 1948, it was that whoever tried to ally with them usually got screwed, one way or another.
  • Kyoungjong Yang, allegedly the only man to have fought on all sides of World War II. He was a Korean who was conscripted by the Japanese to fight against the Soviets, only to be captured and sent to fight against the Nazis. The Nazis then captured & sent him to Normandy, where he was then captured again by the Americans. Rather than bring things full circle and send him back to fight against the Japanese, the United States had him wait out the rest of the war in a POW camp before granting him U.S. citizenship, upon which he spent the remainder of his days living peacefully in Illinois.


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Alternative Title(s): Tweener


“It’s not what I’m doing…”

While Deathstroke is working with the Insurgency, he only joins them to get back at the Regime for torturing him. He goes outside of the Insurgency's plan during their mission to free Batman and sabotages the Watchtower to explode, putting the Insurgency's plan in jeopardy. Despite that, the Watchtower exploding deals a big blow to the Regime.

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Main / WildCard

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