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A typical Heel Face Turn comes with a fair amount of buildup. Maybe The Hero had to beat it into them. Maybe they sat through a World of Cardboard Speech, or maybe they discovered that they're Not So Different.
A Heel Face Return is a complete aversion of this. In this case, an antagonist leaves the scene showing no sign of redemption, though he's probably not a Complete Monster. At any rate, the next time you see him, he's gone through some off-screen redemption, and is suddenly siding with the heroes. His reason for this will likely be explained later on, but it generally takes awhile to earn the heroes' trust, though it may be a mere necessary alliance.
Simply put, this is an odd variation of a Chekhov's Gunman with a dose of Heel Face Turn. This trope almost always applies to a noteworthy but technically minor antagonist, or occasionally to a Disc One Final Boss.
Warning: by their very nature, all examples of this trope are technically spoilers. Therefore, spoilers will be unmarked.
Anime and Manga
- Ryoko Asakura pulls one of these in the tenth installment of Suzumiya Haruhi, serving as a Boxed Crook. This is the same girl who tried to kill Kyon simply to get a reaction out of Haruhi! Definitely a Type V Anti-Hero.
- In Fairy Tail, when Natsu and his friends return from a mission, they suddenly discover that Gajeel has joined their guild. They are not amused.
- We do get a flashback that explains the details about why he went from enemy to a member of Fairy Tail, though, but he does play the trope straight by having some problems making the others trust him.
- Loki from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple was once a leader of the antagonistic group Ragnarok, and an all-around unrepentant Jerkass. In a later arc, he was shown spying on Yomi for Nijima.
- Yu Yu Hakusho: Hiei gets caught by Yusuke for stealing from his boss, but he returns a couple arcs later as an Anti-Hero Aloof Ally, and stays that way for the rest of the series.
- In this case it's explained early on that he's been assigned to help Yusuke as a condition of his parole. Refusal to do so would have meant jail time.
- Happens to Fidget the bat in a sequel comic based on The Great Mouse Detective.
- In Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the main villain. In Terminator 2, his seemingly otherwise identical character's goal is to protect John Connor against the main villain. This is because the second T-800 was captured and reprogrammed by the human resistance.
- Sort of happens in the third film as well (although the "heel" part was off camera) since the Terminator had killed John in the future before it was reprogrammed and sent back.
- Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean does this when he returns unexpectedly as one of the good guys at the end of the second movie. Also, to a lesser extent, Pintel and Ragetti at the beginning of the same movie, for no real reason other than to serve as comic relief.
Live Action TV
- Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, unless you saw her arc on Angel.
- Lytton does this in the Doctor Who serial "Attack of the Cybermen", as (possibly) does the Master in "The Five Doctors". The latter eventually gets so sick of nobody believing him that he just gives up and decides to kill everybody anyway.
- Dollhouse: In Epitaph 2, Alpha is one of the good guys, having experienced some redemption during the ten years between episode 2.12 and the first Epitaph, despite having been a psychopathic serial killer throughout the duration of the show.
- This happens a lot when a Heel (Triple H or Kurt Angle come to mind) leaves due to injury; when they come back they get a giant pop and likely as not are treated like Faces, at least until they do something Heelish - and maybe not even then.
- John Cena arranged for a double Heel Face Return in August 2010. Chris Jericho and Edge, who had been unrepentant Heels up until then (Edge had had an earlier Heel Face Return when he'd won the Royal Rumble in January, but he'd subsequently turned heel again after failing to win the World Heavyweight Championship and attacking Randy Orton.) were persuaded by Cena to join him in a coalition consisting mostly of faces (Bret Hart, Great Khali, John Morrison, and R-Truth rounding out the group) after they were all individually attacked by The Nexus. Edge quit the group out of parnoia, while Jericho's egotism and desire to be the leader of Cena's army led to a match between the two that he lost and left due to the match stipulation.However, they eventually decided to fight beside Cena at SummerSlam after all. However, both promptly turned heel again at the actual event (granted, it was largely due to a misunderstanding on Cena's part); Jericho remained a heel for what remained of his WWE career, while Edge turned face for a third time that year after a confrontation with the Raw General Manager shortly afterward.
- It doesn't always take an especially long absence, either. R-Truth, who was in a tag team with The Miz, fell victim to Miz's Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Miz gave him a sneak Skull Crushing Finale, which almost did (in Kayfabe) crush his skull. Truth was out with a concussion for an even four weeks. (Because the Miz remained a heel, it was R-Truth who was likely turning.) At his next appearance a month later, his wrath had turned on the Miz. And "Little Jimmy" - his apparent Arch Enemy during his heel run - was now his imaginary friend and spiritual advisor.
- Rufus Shinra is a major antagonist in Final Fantasy VII, who is last seen apparently being killed. In Advent Children, he shows up again and explains he's seen the error in his ways and is working to undo the damage he did. His repentance kind of makes sense in that the consequences of Shinra Company's activities were extremely dramatic by the end of the game, and nearly were even worse.
- Kevin was a recurring antagonist in Ben 10, but becomes one of the main three protagonists in its sequel series.