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This is a common subversion of Tyrant Takes the Helm. It occurs when a character who at first appeared to be a tyrant actually turns out to be a pretty decent person or at the very least someone with a few good qualities. In this case, the other characters will eventually quit rebelling against their new leader and try to adapt to the new management style. When the Tyrant's methods really are as onerous as they seem at first but get results that the underlings love, expect them to make satisfying the hardass a point of pride and brag about it to those with less rigid leaders.

When this occurs in a TV series, it will usually be done to introduce the new boss. Therefore, the Bait And Switch Tyrant may become a regular as opposed to when a Tyrant Takes the Helm; the tyrant is almost always intended for only a single episode or Story Arc. Given enough Character Development, the Bait And Switch Tyrant may soften up or even develop an odd friendship with the rest of the cast. It is not unknown for him to criticize his predecessor -- how else could all his subordinates be so bad? -- in order to get them to straighten up.

Note this only applies to characters who redeem themselves while in power. If their redemption occurs once they are no longer in power, it's Break the Haughty. Compare Depending on the Writer.

Examples of Bait and Switch Tyrant include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Virgin Love, Kaoru and Chiharu both overwork their subordinates when they want to get things done, but are liked for the fact that they are effective and work equally hard. Kaoru specifically often takes responsibility for mistakes that his subordinates make, for which they are grateful.
  • Danzo from Naruto - he starts out as one of the worst cases of Tyrant Takes the Helm ever. He hates the Third Hokage with a passion and seems to only use his position as a grab for power. By the time he dies, you learn that a) he didn't hate the Third Hokage, and b) he truly loved Konoha.

Comic Books

  • Ben Daimio from the Hellboy comics is a double Bait and Switch Tyrant: While he is a competent leader who eventually earns the respect--even friendship!-- of most of his team, it later turns out he was possessed by an evil Jaguar spirit the whole time. He eventually loses control of it and kills several people.


  • Dr. Johann Krauss from Hellboy II the Golden Army. He initially comes across as very by-the-book, but eventually joins Hellboy and the others in finding Prince Nuada, as well as quitting the BPRD afterward.

 Krauss: "Dr. Manning, suck my ectoplasmic schwanzstucker! "

  • Gregory Peck's character in Twelve O'Clock High takes over a B-17 bomber group, formerly led by the ineffective Colonel Davenport. His efforts to instill discipline and order on the group are not well-received initially, but the men eventually recognize his competence, and the improvements in success rate and morale are evident.
    • In this case, an Invoked Trope. His orders were to essentially be a Drill Sergeant Nasty in order to whip the demoralized unit into shape, knowing full-well that they would probably hate him for it.
  • In D3: The Mighty Ducks, the Ducks are accepted to a prestigious academy. However, their new coach, Ted Orion, initially makes many changes to the team roster and traditions to the point where the entire team loathed him. However, their previous coach manages to convince them that Orion isn't such a terrible coach, but just has a stricter coaching style than the Ducks are used to. The Ducks eventually accept Orion as their coach and Orion in turn eases up on his restrictions on them.
    • It should be noted that many of the changes he instigated, such as moving Golburg from goalie to a defensive field player, proved to improve the team as a whole.
  • Sharpe does this occasionally, most notably in his first encounter with Cpt. Frederickson.
  • Rollo Lee in Fierce Creatures is a former cop who shows up to take over the zoo. One of his policies is the "Fierce Creatures" policy, in where any creature that isn't violent, dangerous, and basically interesting will be rid of. As the situation escalates and the workers keep trying to argue some of the tamer animals are fierce, he then pretends to shoot a group of the tame animals in his office. After Willa shows up and relieves him of his post, he proves to be a nice guy who didn't, in fact, kill the animals, and wants to do his best by the zoo. He ends up gaining the workers' trust as he tries to argue for them and the zoo as it threatens to close.
  • In the first few minutes of The Proposition, Stanley seems to be a brute presenting the protagonist with a Sadistic Choice. He turns out to be one of the most decent people in the film.
  • In the Starship Troopers movie, Lt. Raschak has a reputation for being a "real nutbuster" among troops outside his unit, but Raschak's Roughnecks are fiercely loyal to their commander. He comes across as stern and demanding, not hesitant to shoot one of his own troopers to save the poor ape from being eaten alive by a nest of bugs, and says he'd expect anyone in his unit to do the same for him. But then we see that he understands the importance of soldier morale by ordering his troops have a party while they're in a safe zone, and even allowing Rico and Dizzy to finish up their R&R in the tent.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Captain Edward Jellico is given command of the Enterprise while Picard and some of the senior staff are sent on a Black Op. This starts out looking like a Tyrant Takes the Helm plot when he immediately starts to change everyone's duty roster until they can barely see straight, tells Troi to put on a uniform instead of parading around in her lavender bunny suit, tells off Riker when he tries to speak for the crew, and demands that someone "get rid of the damned fish" in Picard's office. But Jellico then goes on to prove himself to be just as good as Picard when he sees through several layers of Cardassian deception, tricks the Cardassian fleet into a minefield, and gets Picard out of a prison camp in exchange for letting the fleet go. By the time he does go back to his old ship, half the crew wonders if they might want to go with him. (And Troi never wears her old costume again for the rest of the series.)
    • Picard himself seemed like this very briefly, especially compared to the more rough and tumble style of command favored by Kirk. He downright frightened Riker, demanding that he perform a needlessly difficult maneuver and raising questions about insubordination before the audience discovers that he was actually testing Riker's competence and character--and Riker had passed with flying colors.
  • Assistant Director Skinner on The X-Files.
  • Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock. He starts off changing the name of Liz's show and drastically "retooling" it to increase its demographic appeal. It's arguable how much he's "improved" since then, but he seems to have grown on the other characters somewhat. (Also, the show seemed to have run out of Tyrant Takes the Helm plots for him after the first couple of episodes.) In later seasons his mentoring seems to be the only thing keeping Liz sane and thus keeping the cast and writers from going off the deep end.
  • Dr. Mildred Finch on Numb3rs. At first Charlie resents the changes she makes, but she generally has good reasons. She can be pushy, but she's a decent person and a competent administrator. And when she turns her supposed "pushiness" against people who are trying to take advantage or hurt Charlie, it turns into a moment of awesome, everytime.
  • General Hammond on Stargate SG-1. One of his first acts was to try to blow up an inhabited planet. It wasn't long before he was downright fluffy, though.
    • Although not a leader, Rodney Mckay is an interesting example: he never develops beyond Jerkass in his first appearance, but gets Character Development in his second and eventually became a heroic figure on Stargate Atlantis.
    • A uniquely interesting example is Richard Woolsey, an Obstructive Bureaucrat who was first seen on Stargate SG-1; he waltzes in with his rulebook and starts annoying the hell out of everyone. But repeated brushes with Senator Kinsey show him that something is seriously wrong with the Senator. He then visits General Hammond and takes Magic Floppy Disk full of Blackmail material on Senator Kinsey. He then gives the disk to The President, who uses it to fire Kinsey. His departing speech to The President is: "I also hope history one day shows that I tried to do the right thing." He is essentially, the one who finally brought Kinsey down.
      • He eventually shows up again in Stargate Atlantis - still trying to push his rulebook for the greater good. He starts annoying people again almost immediately, despite generally having good intentions. When he replaced Carter as the leader, this turned into awkwardness, because the crew was not used to someone so "bureaucrat-like". He soon learned to not only trust rules, however. While still being uptight, he shows a heart of gold on multiple occasions and even gets his own badass moment, when negotiating with replicators.
  • Kevin "Ug" Lee from Salute Your Shorts: Though his initial speech to the campers makes it clear that he's trying to be a hard-ass, it quickly becomes apparent that the guy is just trying to keep his job by enforcing rather reasonable rules (albeit with hilariously draconian punishments).
  • Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M* A* S* H. He was significantly more strict than his predecessor Henry Blake, but he loosened up as the series went along.
    • The first episode has the cast worried about how bad he'll be, and the hard-nosed hypocrite absent for other reasons. Colonel Potter does many things they'd feared, including making Klinger change out of his normal cross-dressing attire into an actual uniform. By the time the guy comes back, eager to see a competent hard-nosed tyrant like he'd heard about, Colonel Potter is drinking with Hawkeye and complimenting Klinger on his fashion sense.
  • Speaker of the House Glenallen Walken in The West Wing, who temporarily became Acting President when Bartlet's daughter Zoey was kidnapped, is arguably one of these; although a conservative Republican whom the Democratic staffers of the West Wing feared was going to take over and force a Republican agenda through whilst he had the chance, Walken had no intention of exploiting Bartlet's personal tragedy for political gain (for sound political reasons as well as the obvious humane one, being well aware of how it could backfire and make him seem callous). He also proved to be a competent and effective Commander-in-Chief (which, ironically, also made the Democrats wary of him, since people might not want him to leave) and, despite his political differences with Bartlet and the staff, a reasonably amiable and gracious man.
    • His only real beef with the existing White House staff comes when he suggests naming a new Vice President. They go berserk (in a well-mannered fashion), saying that he's only a stand-in and has no right to make that kind of decision. They're afraid that if he tries to push it through, such a candidate would be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Congress and the rest of Bartlet's term would have an opposing V.P. who'd be even worse to work with than John Hoynes. In response, Walken asks, rather reasonably, what would happen if he died in office? He's a very large man; what if he had a heart attack while eating his chocolate-covered steak? It would be a Constitutional crisis, which he wants to prevent by continuing with business as usual and assuming that Bartlet's sabbatical will be fairly long-term. In the end, after reviewing the hardcore conservative list of possible V.P.s that Republican congressional leaders prepared for him, Walken backs down on the idea, not wanting to go through with the very scheme that the White House is accusing him of perpetuating.
    • Incidentally, this is what led to the show's famous Jumping the Shark. Many of the fans wanted to see Walken to stay on longer and go through a full Story Arc, seeing for himself what the weight of the Presidency feels like. Hints of this are seen when he asks 'his' secretary, "So when do we get to the fun stuff?" in a half-joking manner, and she simply looks at him as if to say, "What fun stuff?". Him backing down from that look is probably his best moment. But then Zoey is rescued, hugs and kisses and high-fives all around, and Bartlet comes back into office riding the Mood Whiplash. Very disappointing, though understandable, as it was unlikely that the show's already overextended budget could support John Goodman for more than the occasional cameo episode.
  • Several attendings on medical shows like ER, Scrubs or even Grey's Anatomy. Examples include Perry Cox (though in his case there's already a slight "reveal" on the pilot), Kerry Weaver (although YMMV on how friendly she becomes with the staff before she gets demoted), Robert Romano (who never becomes a friend of his subordinates anyway), Bob Kelso, etc.
    • Subverted on Scrubs with Dr. Maddox, Kelso's replacement. At first the team hopes she will be like Kelso, tough on the outside because she has to be in order to run the hospital efficiently. It becomes clear pretty quick that she truly enjoys being evil.
  • Shirley Schmidt from Boston Legal certainly applies. In her first appearance, she seems rather unpleasant to all involved, then quickly lightened up. In the fourth season, John Larroquette's character, Sack, did the same thing, threatening to fire Clarence because of his cross dressing, but, by the end of the episode, he changed his ways.
  • In the second season of She Spies, a type of Charlie's Angels modern ripoff, the new boss presents himself as A Tryant Taking The Helm, claiming the girl's previous boss, the charismatic Jack, was too soft on them. He must've get softer too, but nobody was watching anymore.
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures Season Two, Haresh Chandra is introduced in this manner to suggest that he will be the show's equivalent of Principal Snyder in Buffy or maybe even the Monster of the Week in human form. But he's actually just the new regular character's dad.
  • Director Leon Vance from NCIS first came in to oversee an internal affairs investigation against the previous director, Jenny Shepard, and later took over after Shepard's death. For starters he broke up Gibbs' team, sending them all to different locations which made him seem like a regular dictatorial manager. Later episodes, however, suggested ulterior (better) motives for his actions and that he, while more strict than his predecessors, is basically an okay guy.
    • Gibbs himself may come across as a hard-lining nutbuster to outsiders, the audience, or even members of his team sometimes, but then we see that he truly cares about his team, and accepts nothing but the best from them because he believes them to be the best.
  • Charles Miner in The Office is an unusual case, as for all intents and purposes he fills the usual Tyrant Taking The Helm role. However, it's actually just because he's a competent and no-nonsense manager, and the Dunder-Mifflin staff aren't used to having a boss who expects them to do their jobs responsibly after working for the spineless Michael Scott for years.
    • It doesn't help that Jim and Michael are basically the main viewpoint characters and they're generally treated very poorly by Miner.
  • Lizzi in Greek...but only to Casey, whom she steers towards a way to return Frannie to the house and thus eliminate her.
  • Inverted with Lynn McGill in the fifth season of 24; nobody at CTU likes him at first for his strictness, but he wasn't necessarily a tyrant. They began to like him starting at around the point when he was the only one to recognize Jack Bauer's duress code "Flank-Two Position". He eventually becomes such a tyrant however, the cast remove him from command. Ultimately he sacrifices his own life to re-secure the CTU facility after it had been contaminated by the Sentox VX nerve gas. Though it should be noted, it was his fault the CTU facility was attacked in the first place.
  • Inspector Thatcher from Due South, introduced in season two as Fraser's new boss with an inexplicable hatred for him, who even (briefly, apparently) fires him when he makes a well-reasoned defense of his uniform choices. However, she eventually starts getting wrapped up in Fraser's cases herself and gets a few Big Damn Heroes moments as well as a scorching hot Will They or Won't They? with Fraser.
  • Scott Sherwood on Remember WENN.
  • Criminal Minds' Erin Strauss has pretty much been vilified in the fandom for seeming to be trying to get rid of Aaron Hotchner. However, if you look past this potential motive, it actually seems like she's just trying to do what is best for the team. For example, in "100", she leads the team around in questioning so that she gets answers that will ensure that Hotchner is not fired (or arrested) for beating George Foyett to death.
  • Captain John Sheridan in the first few episodes of Babylon 5's season 2: The alien ambassadors don't like him, the crew doesn't trust him, the Minbari hate him, but about half a season later, he has earned their trust so much that some of them would even die for him.
    • Very, very intentional from Straczynski, as he knew for a fact that the viewers would have about the same reaction.
    • Mind you, also tempered by the fact that Commander Sinclair's former XO, Lieutenant Commander Ivanova, served with Sheridan previously on Mars[1] and trusts him without hesitation. It helped that the two actors had a fair degree of genuine chemistry to sell that character relationship.
    • Done again in Season 5 with the introduction of Captain Lochley. Just as was mentioned in the description, one of the first things she does upon taking command is to criticize Sheridan's apparently "sloppy" management of the station.
  • A good majority of CSI fans cringed when Conrad Ecklie, day shift supervisor and smug rival to Gil Grissom, was promoted to Assistant Director in Season 5. Politically-inclined, more interested in his own advancement than on the actual cases, he enjoyed a brief season as a true tyrant when he split the graveyard shift team and demoted his own investigator, Sophia Curtis, to work under Grissom. But at the end of season, he rallied his efforts to help Grissom rescue Nick Stokes from a kidnapper, and from that point on he became a trustworthy and dependable, if not quite friendly, ally. Several seasons and another promotion later, and he comes off as more of a Reasonable Authority Figure, while a Retcon explained the shift in character by revealing that he was gradually recovering from a drinking problem and a nasty divorce.
    • He gets a couple moments before the season finale too - get him away from the lab and into public relations and he might actually do some good. Like this scene: after Catherine had a memory card of evidence stolen and had the "pleasure" of sweating it out while Ecklie grilled her, the stolen pictures turn up on the news.

 Ecklie: "I'll have our public information officer contact his counterpart at the station. We'll also call Judge Anderson and get a warrant for the memory card, any copies, and the name of their source."

Catherine: (surprised) "Thank you, Conrad."

Ecklie: "It's my job."

  • Lane Pryce of Mad Men comes in at the beginning of Season 3 as the hated representative of Sterling Cooper's new British overlords, Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. PPL's vision for Sterling Cooper clashes at times with that of Roger Sterling and Don Draper, and in any case Pryce is responsible for making painful cutbacks and changes. He is naturally not very popular at first. By the end of Season 3, he's realized that he'll be sidelined by PPL (who are selling Sterling Cooper to advertising Mega Corp McCann Erickson) and joins Sterling, Cooper, and Draper in starting an entirely new agency: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
    • Pryce is extremely competent in managing the firms finances and curbing the excesses of the executives. Since the other partners are staunch capitalists they quickly appreciate how much money he is saving them. When business gets bad he is the one who keeps the firm afloat and everyone realizes this.
  • Sports Night : Sam Donovan. As the new ratings consultant, he arrives suddenly and makes changes to the show while seeming to have no respect for the producers and on-air talent. But he quickly redeems himself when he shows his fanatical devotion to Isaac Jaffe and makes it clear that his no-nonsense tactics are about making the show better, not abusing his own power.
  • Cam Saroyan on Bones began this way, threatening to fire Brennan for the first few episodes after she was introduced whenever Brennan would get upset about the new rules. However, she found middle ground over time and became a valued member of the team without letting the team forget that she is still in charge.


  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40000: Gaunt's Ghosts novel Honour Guard, Commissar Viktor Hark is assigned to the Ghosts with the express purpose of seeing to Gaunt's removal from command and clashes with him repeatedly on matters of authority. He later proves himself to be a competent and charismatic leader, as well as a good shot with his plasma pistol, and ends up joining the Ghosts at the end to serve as one of Gaunt's go-to people when there's a problem that needs to be deal with.
  • In Discworld, Vetinari is represented at first as a tyrant, but in the later books it is shown that he only has the well being of the city at heart (whether the city likes it or not is a different issue altogether).
    • Note that this in no way prevents him from being a tyrant (and even referring to himself as one). His job security lies mainly in the fact that he runs the city with such an iron fist that it'd fall apart in a week if he got assassinated.
  • The Miles Vorkosigan novel Brothers in Arms has Duv Galeni, who seems at first to be obstructing Miles and then later outright framing him. Miles thinks he's acting out of a desire for vengeance - Galeni's family were strongly tied to the Komarran resistance and were all killed in the revolts, while Miles' father is often (wrongly) blamed for the massacre that started it. While Galeni is indeed kind of stuffy and humorless, he's also both competent and loyal, and isn't behind the frame-up; it's actually a plot by Galeni's Not Quite Dead father and Miles' clone brother. And Galeni's so serious about his job precisely because he's supposed to be a poster child for Barrayaran-Komarran rapprochement.
  • In Watership Down, the rabbits of Efrafa who like Woundwort (namely the officers and the other higher-ups) consider him one of these. The rank and file are either quietly sullen or too beaten down to care.
    • Woundwort, despite his defeat and unconfirmed death, ends becoming a Memetic Badass to all the rabbit descendants in both warrens.
  • Piers Anthony's Xanth series features "Evil Magician Trent" who, when he becomes the only known possible choice for king, proves himself such a capable ruler he becomes known as "Good King Trent".
    • It's also made fairly clear when he comes into focus that the "Evil Magician" title was a political one -- he was evil because he wasn't supporting the current ruler.
  • In the first Ciaphas Cain novel "For The Emperor" Kasteen, Brocklaw, and the rest of the 296/301st imagine and fear that Ciaphas is going to be the typical tyrannical Commissar[2]. They quickly take to him though when they realise he isn't.

Video Games

  • Possibly Garrosh Hellscream in World of Warcraft, if the novel The Shattering is any indication.
  • Bhelen from Dragon Age: Origins qualifies for this trope, at least to a degree. Bhelen's rise to power is typical of The Evil Prince: in the Dwarf Noble origin, he successfully arranges to have one sibling killed and the other sent off to the Deep Roads. When his father dies from grief, Bhelen attempts to bring the Assembly in line with blackmail and fraud. If actually put on the throne, he extends greater freedom to the casteless and opens Orzammar up to trade. He isn't completely benevolent, however: his first act as king is to eliminate all of his political rivals, including having one entire house (potentially dozens of people) killed off for opposing him. Most of his opponents oppose him more as a threat to their horrible and self-destructive traditions more than anything; for example, his intention to marry his casteless lover (the Dwarf commoner's sister no less) is used against him as political propaganda.


  • In Tales of the Questor, Elder merchant Gilder begins as a bad tempered and seemingly petty leader -- but was revealed later to be a character sincerely looking out for the best interests of his home village.
    • To a lesser degree, the local merchant is a grasping opportunist selling questionable goods with a unrepentant smile, but when he pulls Quentyn over for a chat, he has some honestly good advice about how the hero should bargain for the items he is undertaking his grand quest for. Mind you, he's doing this to sell a ton of cheap magic items as "trade goods," but Quentyn concedes his general counsel is on the money.
  • Norma, the new manager of the titular Multiplex, turns out to be less unsympathetic than she originally comes across.

Web Original

  • Turns out to be the case with The Nostalgia Critic in the Chick's Transformers-Bratz arc. He tranquilizes her and locks her in his basement to make her watch the latter movie, but it transpires that he just wanted her to be proud of herself for being able to sit through it. Aww? Aww.

Western Animation

  • In Max Steel and the Mutant Menace, Faron Ferro, Jefferson Smith's replacement as Max's boss, begins as an aggressive control freak whose attitude collides with Max's free spirit, but they get along after having some words during a training session.
  • In the Anniversary (and final) episode of The Powerpuff Girls, Mojo Jojo finally manages to Take Over the World, and immediately makes it a better place.


  1. It is later revealed that Sheridan and Sinclair served together on Mars as well, presumably making this a minor case of Everyone Went to School Together
  2. with the mass executions and the like
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