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The Unfettered / Live-Action TV

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  • The Borgias: Cesare Borgia wants to go from Sinister Minister to prince of state. He won't let anything or anyone get in the way of his goal.
  • In Breaking Bad, after 50 years of feeling like everyone was stepping over him, Walter White becomes this over the course of the show as his Heisenberg persona takes over more and more. By Season 5, he barely has any limits. From lying, abusing and/or manipulating those closest to him, to poisoning a child and murdering many people, nothing will keep him from getting what he wants.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: and Angel:
    • Angelus, as Angel explains: "There's no guilt, torment, consequences. It's pure... I remember what that was like. Sometimes I miss that clarity." Angelus is the evil alter ago of vampire Angel when he doesn't have a soul (a curse caused him to regain his soul). Other vampires are soulless, so never have morality to get in their way.
    • Wesley, when things get that bad. He did this (and twice crossed the Godzilla Threshold) when trying to stop The Beast and clean up the mess. He'll always do what's right. Some other notable instances of this are when he betrays his friends, when he sacrifices his chances with the woman he loves and when he shoots his father dead in cold blood. If Wesley thinks he knows what is needed for the greater good, there is no emotional attachment he won't sacrifice, no anguish he won't suffer, no underhanded method he will not use to achieve it.
  • Burn Notice:
    • Michael is this early on in the show and is committed to clearing his name and going back as late as Season 3. It's clear that he didn't allow relationships or morality to hold him back from doing what he saw as his duty.
    • Larry, Michael's Psycho for Hire Evil Mentor. There are no depths he will not plumb and no amount of people he won't kill to get his way.
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance has both the Emperor Skeksis and the Chamberlain Skeksis. The Emperor has no limits to what will do to maintain control over Thra and stay alive. Be it cultivate the darkening and ruin his own body in the process or commit genocide against the Gelfling population, nothing checks his ambition. The Chamberlain wants power above all else and will engage in the one taboo of killing his own colleagues if it means getting one step closer to the throne.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Fittingly enough, The Fettered Doctor's greatest enemies, the Daleks, are this. Having absolutely no pity or conscience, they are willing to commit any kind of atrocity and use any devious trick to ensure their place as the Supreme Rulers of the universe. This extends to their creator Davros as well, who killed off his own race when they opposed him creating the Daleks and made a bomb that would destroy all of reality just so his creations would be the only dominant lifeform left, all out of his belief that the only way any one species can be truly secure is by subjugating any and all competition.
      • When the Doctor eventually goes Fantastic Voyage and plumbs the interior of a Dalek to make sure that its damaged moral code suppressor stays inactive, the Dalek in question later calls the Doctor on his desire to create a good Dalek; he calls the Doctor a good Dalek, recognizing the man's moral code as being the only thing holding the Time Lord back.
    • Lady Cassandra is this. Nothing will stop her from living on as a "pure" human, even if she has to commit murder in order to survive.
    • The Master, being the complete opposite of the Doctor in many ways, fits the role of The Unfettered perfectly. Where the Doctor will not deviate from his morals and values for any reason, the Master will not let morals or values or anything deviate him from achieving his goals (usually universal domination).
    • Rassilon, the founder of the Time Lords. He is single-mindedly devoted to his continued survival as well as that of the Time Lords, to the point where he is willing to destroy not only the universe but time itself, so that they can defeat the Daleks, end the Time War, and become Gods. In the Expanded Universe (see Audio below), he imprisons a race in another Universe to prevent them from threatening the Time Lords.
      Rassilon: I will NOT die!
    • During "The Waters of Mars", the normally fettered Doctor jumps off the deep end and briefly becomes this... and it is terrifying and it takes a woman's suicide to snap him out of it. During this state of mind, he dubs himself "Time Lord Victorious".
    • The Doctor becomes truly unfettered in the three-part finale of Series 9, as he becomes determined to save Clara Oswald from her death after it's happened at any cost, simply because he cannot live without her. His urge leads him to threaten all of time and space and takes him and Clara to literally the end of the universe, at which point Time Lord Victorious re-emerges, even more terrifying than before.
      The Doctor: The universe is over, it doesn't have a say anymore! We're standing on the last ember, the last fragment of everything that ever was. As of this moment, I am answerable to no one!
    • The Doctor sums up why he is not usually The Unfettered in "A Good Man Goes to War".
      Madame Kovarian: The anger of a good man is not a problem. Good men have too many rules.
      The Doctor: Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.
    • The Valeyard, the evil possible future version of the Doctor from beyond his 12th incarnation, is implied to be this. Whatever he is, he terrified the Master so much that he helped the Doctor merely to be able to continue living in a universe that didn't contain the Valeyard.
    • His incarnation as the War Doctor was a reluctant case of this. After Eight tried and failed to not get involved in the Time War, the Sisterhood of Karn gave him a Sadistic Choice, and he regenerated into someone who could destroy both his homeworld and the Daleks if it ended the War. It took three more incarnations before they even acknowledged that regeneration.
  • Ronald Sandoval of Earth: Final Conflict is incredibly single-minded for whatever goal he had in mind. In the Back Story, this meant resorting to illegal and immoral actions as an FBI agent. In the pilot, he calmly admits to murdering the lead characters' wife just so he could be recruited to work for the aliens. (He had his own wife drugged into a stupor and imprisoned in a psych ward) And when his implant enforcing his loyalty to the Taelons breaks down, he sets a new goal of undermining and destroying them from the inside. Murder, wiping his own memory, and even arranging rapes are just part of achieving his goal.
  • Scorpius from Farscape will do anything for those damn Wormholes.
    • Mostly because he'll do anything to defeat the Scarrans.
  • Frasier: Bebe Glazer. She will do anything to see Frasier's career thrive. Risk falling off a window ledge, kill a crane via a jawbreaker, manipulate Frasier and anyone else, she'll do it. Only when Bebe has to quit smoking does she temporarily stop being unfettered.
    Bebe: That's it, is it? I'm not virtuous enough for you, not noble. Fine, quit! Next time you need a deal made, call the Dalai Lama. A long time ago, I had to make a choice between being a good agent and a good person, because trust me, you can't be both! So forgive me if I don't have time to make everybody warm and fuzzy. I am just too busy spending every waking minute pouring any drink, pulling any shameless tricks I can to make my clients' dreams come true! I AM A STARMAKER!
  • Game of Thrones:
    • House Lannister tend to be remarkably ruthless in playing the game of thrones.
      • Of particular note is Tywin Lannister. Nothing, not even morality, prevents him from pursuing his goals for his House — except for pragmatic concerns.
      • Cersei Lannister is committed to her own power and status above all else and will go to any lengths necessary to achieve it, regardless of how abhorrent it may be. In Season 7, Olenna acknowledges this about her:
        Olenna Tyrell: I did unspeakable things to protect my family, or watched them being done on my orders. I never lost a night's sleep over them; they were necessary and whatever I imagined necessary for the safety of House Tyrell, I did. But your sister has done things I wasn't capable of imagining.
    • Viserys Targaryen will do anything to retake the Iron Throne. Or rather, he'd let his sister do anything.
      Viserys: I would let his whole tribe fuck you. All forty thousand men and their horses too if that's what it took!
    • Stannis might wring his hands about it, and he might show some insincere regret after the act, but there is literally nothing he will not do to sit on the Iron Throne. He has to build up to this point at least, starting out as The Fettered and slowly having his fetters whittled away by Melisandre from Seasons 2 to 5.
    • Petyr Baelish is probably the best example in the series. He plunged all of Westeros into a war, killed the king and sold the daughter of his lost love to the Boltons all so he can gain power and revenge.
  • Chuck Bass of Gossip Girl, sometimes. For most seasons, his only goal is to sleep with/destroy Blair. He even describes himself as not having anything to lose.
  • In the Gotham episode "A Bitter Pill To Swallow", Nygma shares with Penguin his epiphany that the loss of loved ones that they've both recently suffered from is actually a blessing, as it frees them both from the last vestiges of morality that were holding them back. This serves as a twisted enough Rousing Speech to snap Penguin out of the Villainous BSoD he'd been suffering ever since his mother's murder.
    Nygma: A man with nothing that he loves is a man that cannot be bargained. A man that cannot be betrayed. A man who answers to no one but himself. And that is the man that I see before me. A free man.
  • Hannibal Lecter from Hannibal. Hannibal has absolutely no restraining morals or principles, and is in fact driven largely by curiosity or self-amusement. This is shown best by his choice to let Bella die peacefully or not being decided by a casual coin toss.
  • Emile Danko in Heroes, utterly dedicated to removing the threat of superpowered humans.
  • House of Saddam: Saddam states this as the reason why he decides to personally execute his closest ally and friend, Adnan Hamdani, to display his ferocity. Adnan has been nothing but loyal to Saddam, but a man who could kill his best friend as a show of strength is a man who has no limits and is thus to be feared.
  • Barney from How I Met Your Mother gets like this whenever he accepts a challenge (he's usually the one issuing the challenge, too). He once kept his hand raised into the air for hours on end because he said he wouldn't lower it 'til someone gave him a fist bump. He has, on more than one occasion, sabotaged his best friend's love life in order to win a bet. And one time he slept with a 90-year-old woman just to prove he could get laid while wearing overalls. If Barney Stinson says "Challenge accepted!" he does not back down until it's done, no matter what pain or humiliation he has to endure or who he has to screw over (though, often, he considers screwing someone else over a side-benefit).
    Ted: He'll do anything to win a bet. Remember that time he bet me that Men At Work sang "Hungry Like The Wolf"? And, when he found out they didn't, he tried to hire them to?
  • In Kamen Rider Wizard, Rinko tries to convince the Phantom Phoenix that he doesn't have to let Wiseman order him around and that he should do what he wants instead. He realizes she's right and agrees to this... unfortunately, what he wants most of all is to go on a massive rampage and destroy everything. She was hoping that unfettering him would result in him defaulting to good (he was really nice when he was human), but no such luck.
  • Killing Eve: Villanelle is completely unfazed by any block that stands in her way, including her being stabbed in the stomach, surrounded by armed guards, and nearly being killed. None of that will ever stop her. She doesn’t abide by any rules of society or any moral principle. She merely sees them as an interesting hurdle to ignore and something to actively subvert for no deeper reason that she sees herself as someone with no limits.
  • Knight Rider has another example in the prototype KARR, who was programmed with self-preservation as his primary purpose... at the expense of a mission, innocent civilians, or his driver. None of it mattered so long as KARR himself survived.
  • Lois from Malcolm in the Middle will do anything to make sure the ones she loves will not be hurt, even if they grow to hate her.
    • In a rare case of ruthless prioritizing even among her own family, on one occasion she flatly explains that she'd abandon Malcolm to save Reese — her reasoning being that since Malcolm is a natural genius, he'd do fine without Lois' help, while Reese would be completely screwed without Lois' protection.
  • Rumpelstiltskin of Once Upon a Time has one real goal at the outset — protect his son. Become the Dark One? Start a series of monstrous deals to have every fairy tale character in his back pocket? Manipulate Regina into casting a curse? It's all part of the bigger plan. Of course, this is also deconstructed, as his ruthlessness drives away the very people he went Unfettered to protect.
  • Lynda Day from Press Gang: the only thing she will not do for the betterment of the Junior Gazette is fold to blackmail, and even the suicide of the blackmailer can only throw her off her game for an episode and a half. You don't want to know how low she'll stoop to keep her friends on her paper — and most people will probably never find out what she'll do out of sight of the rest of the world to help someone she really doesn't like or trust that much save a little girl who's being abused by her father.
  • According to actress Khandi Alexander, Maya Pope of Scandal has become this after being locked up for 22 years by her own husband, Eli Pope. And she was a freelance terrorist who married Eli just for his secrets before that.
  • Scrubs: The Janitor's entire purpose in the show is to make JD's life difficult, and he'll do just about anything to do so. Case in point: in the Season 4 finale, he goes so far as to take a bite out of his own laxative-filled pie in order to trick JD into thinking it's safe, ending with the two sitting side-by-side in the crapper:
    JD: Who would do this to themselves?!
    Janitor: Totally worth it.
  • Deconstructed with Jim Moriarty from Sherlock. Having absolutely no empathy and no limits, his one and only concern is to try and stave off his endless boredom, even if that means putting his own plans and well-being at risk to do it. Best illustrated in "The Reichenbach Fall" when Moriarty shoots himself in the head just to "win" his game with Sherlock.
  • Smallville: In "Crusade", Clark is Brainwashed by his father into becoming Kal-El, a more manageable, stoic personality that fully embraces his Kryptonian heritage and is willing to do anything to accomplish Jo-El's plans for him. This also gives him full access to all his powers including flight.
  • Stargate Universe: Dr. Nicholas Rush. He at least claims to care about things like Senator Armstrong sacrificing himself to save everyone else, but he doesn't let it distract him from doing his job.
    • However, as later episodes have shown, Rush is pretty distracted by his dead wife.
    • There's also the possible interpretation that he realizes that his attempts to be the Unfettered cause even more restrictions on his actions by the rest of the crew, and that the only way for him to get what he really wants is to accept minor restrictions and work with the rest of the crew.
  • Weyoun of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine most definitely qualifies for his often-frightening devotion to the Founders and their cause. He would do anything for them... the only 'right' or 'wrong' that exists for this character is whether or not something will serve the Founders.
    • Garak is just as unfettered when it comes to the good of Cardassia. Fortunately for Captain Sisko and his crew, his goals coincide with Starfleet's just often enough for him to be the Token Evil Teammate.
    • Similarly, any occasion where Data has his morality overridden by a program or protocol, of which there are apparently several hidden in his head. One episode deals with him almost getting a young boy killed because a homing beacon was activated, forcing him to go to a certain location right at that moment when they really needed to be going in the opposite direction in order to reach a Starbase medical facility.
      • Paradoxically, Data can also become this when something trips his morality protocols to override everything else, as happened in Star Trek: Insurrection.
    • Section 31 is a "non-existent" black ops group that is willing to do anything to defend the Federation and its ideals. Even if it means violating those very same ideals.
  • Supernatural:
    • Sam after he comes back in Season 6 soulless. He was still dedicated to hunting but he didn't care about saving people (he flat out says he doesn't care about anything) and became utterly ruthless, prioritizing completing the job over everything. He used his brother as vampire bait at one point, letting Dean get turned to infiltrate their nest.
    • Meg states in one episode that her philosophy in life is to find a goal and go for it, and she doesn't care one jot what she does or who she kills in the process. Not even if she's the one getting killed.
    • Gordon Walker also qualifies. Unlike most hunters, he doesn't care at all about saving people or doing good or anything like that, he just wants to see all supernatural beings die.
    • The final episodes of Season 10 make it clear that the Winchesters have become this through their various quests to save each other, with even the deaths of characters like Charlie doing nothing to stop them from going to the most extreme of lengths to keep the other from dying or suffering a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Taken: From the time that he first sees the crashed ship in "Beyond the Sky", Owen Crawford's sole reason for living is to determine what the aliens want. He is perfectly willing to commit numerous crimes including blackmail, kidnapping, murder and human experimentation in order to find out the answer.
  • Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It keeps his Party in power by any means necessary: blackmail, physical threats, and violence are all in his arsenal. Total lack of scruples is a job requirement, with his more idealistic opposite number, Stewart Pearson, playing just as dirty as him.
  • The Twilight Zone (2019): In "Try Try", Mark has grown to be this, since no matter what he does, things will just reset into a new day. While he admits he'll feel bad about it for a while, he's unhesitating while attempting to rape Claudia after she's rejected him.
  • Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries.
  • Shane Walsh of The Walking Dead has the admirable objective of keeping the group alive, but is utterly ruthless in his attempts to do so. Later, he acquires the additional, not-so-admirable goal of taking Lori and Carl from Rick.
  • The Cigarette Smoking Man of The X-Files. He is completely dedicated to The Plan (which he believes is the only thing that can save humanity), and there's absolutely no depraved action he wouldn't do in order to accomplish his goals. Torture his children? Sell his wife to the alien invaders? Assassinate world leaders? That's only the start of this guy's rap sheet.
  • Yes, Minister: Sir Humphrey is a committed career bureaucrat, and his only concern is that government policy be executed as well as possible, regardless of what it is. He also considers being called "a moral vacuum" a compliment.