All The Tropes Wiki
All The Tropes Wiki
WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Wiggum: Lou, you're promoted to chief of police.

Lou: Sweet.

Wiggum: And Eddie, you're promoted to Lou.

Eddie: Nice. And, uh, who's gonna be Eddie?

Wiggum: We don't need an Eddie. (Eddie is visibly saddened by his closing remark.)

No matter what country you're from, if you are in the military, there will be a ranking system.

Most of the time, military personnel are required to be in a certain rank for X amount of months or years before they are even allowed to be promoted. This justifies the reason why you don't often see military promotions in television or movies.

But this trope is about when a character is promoted in show. During season one, you may have known him as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Bob, but by the third season he becomes known as Captain Bob.

After this promotion expect the character, if he is not a protagonist, to go in one of two directions. Either his increase in responsibility makes him a more important character in the series, or his responsibility gives him less time to spend with his friends. The middle ground is rare.

Compare Took a Level In Badass, except this character's badassness has a title.

This is not simply a military trope. Large companies have a ranking system also, but these promotions have little impact on the story, unless the character is striving for it (in which most of the time he never gets it).

Not related to Level Up, where taking a level in badass includes numbers and stats, not titles and authority.

Contrast this with Limited Advancement Opportunities. See also Field Promotion and You Are in Command Now.


Anime & Manga

  • In Naruto, almost all of the Konoha 12 ninja are promoted in between the Time Skip. Naruto himself averts this, being now possibly the most powerful ninja in the village but having one of the lowest ranks.
    • Gaara, however, takes this further by going from Genin to the Kazekage, and his siblings and Neji become Jonin.
  • In One Piece, Captain Smoker gets promoted by the Marines to Commodore. Commodore Smoker is not too happy about his promotion as he feels he didn't deserve it, but he does use his new leverage to operate wherever he wants.
  • Between seasons in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the characters go up ranks. The Forwards start out with Subaru and Teana as Privates Second Class and Erio and Caro as Privates Third Class, but by Striker S Sound Stage X, Erio and Caro are Privates First Class, Subaru is a Corporal, and Teana is an Enforcer with equivalent rank to a Second Lieutenant. By Force, Subaru has been promoted again to Sergeant. In the same time period, Signum and Vita, Second Lieutenants, advance to Captain and First Lieutenant, respectively.
  • In Bleach, Rukia is promoted to Lieutenant after the time skip.
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes, most of the main characters were promoted at least once by the time the series ended. An example would be Yang Wen-li, who started out as a Commodore in series 1 and reached the rank of Fleet Admiral by series 3.


  • Anakin Skywalker rises through the jedi ranks throughout the Star Wars series. He does resent the fact that the Council gives him a seat (at Palpatine's insistence), but doesn't grant him the rank of Master.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: Darth Vader is strangling Admiral Ozzel.

 Vader: You have failed me for the last time, Admiral. Captain Piett?

Piett: Yes, my lord?

Vader: [gives instructions] You Are in Command Now, Admiral Piett.

  • In The Dark Knight, Jim Gordon ranks up to his comic book rank of commissioner.
  • Johnny Rico in the Starship Troopers film starts off as a private and gets promoted to squad leader, then sergeant, then lieutenant. The same for his ex-girlfriend, who goes from a lieutenant to a captain.


  • In Catch-22 Scheisskopf is constantly promoted. He begins as a Lieutenant, but by the end of the book, is a Lieutenant General in charge of the whole army.
  • The hero of Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love's story-within-the-story "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail" got promoted over and over again while never actually doing anything.
  • Happens lots in the Honor Harrington series, both to the main character (who has gone from a Commander to a full Admiral) and much of the cast--many characters from previous books reappear promoted. Those that survive, anyway.
  • Likewise her predecessor Horatio Hornblower, who went from Midshipman to Admiral
  • In the end of Animorphs, Ax is promoted from Aristh (cadet) to Prince (an officer of the Andalite army)
    • Elfangor's Prince promotion in The Andalite Chronicles probably also counts.
    • And Visser Three's ascension through the ranks, to eventually Visser One by the end of the series.

Live Action TV

  • In Chuck, Major John Casey gets promoted to colonel toward the end of Season Two.
  • In early seasons of MASH, Lt. Colonel Flagg from Military Intelligence was a recurring character. In the fourth season he became Colonel Flagg. This paralleled the head of 4077th going from Lt. Col. Blake to Col. Potter, because Flagg couldn't be subordinate to the CO; otherwise his orders could be easily countermanded.
    • Also, in the last two seasons or so Klinger, is promotoed from Corporal to Sergeant, and Father Mulcahey from First Lieutenant to Captain.
  • NYPD Blue: Detective Martinez takes the sergeant's exam and passes, so he can get Put on a Bus to another precinct. (Earlier he had been promoted from undercover officer to detective, but it was never shown or mentioned in much detail.)
    • Bobby Simone gets promoted to detective first class (or whatever it's called) in a big ceremony.
    • New Guy John Clark is promoted to detective for meritorious service; at the same time, Sipowitz is promoted to detective first class, which pisses off John Clark Sr.
    • Sipowitz takes the Sergeant exam; he passes and becomes the desk sergeant downstairs from the squad. In the final episode he gets promoted (ahead of others waiting) to be the squad commander, still as a Sgt. He promises that this will be his last job - he's not planning to try for another promotion or transfer.
  • Barney Miller: In the last episode, Barney gets promoted to inspector, and uniformed officer Levitt gets promoted to detective.
  • Jack O'Neill of Stargate SG-1 gets a double treatment: promoted from colonel to brigadier general in season 8, and to head of Homeworld Security in season 9.
    • Jack's first act as a general? To promote Sam Carter from major to lieutenant colonel. She had started the series at Captain before being promoted to Major.
      • Also, sometime between The Ark of Truth and Season 4 of Atlantis, she gets her promotion to full ("full-bird") colonel.
  • Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started off as a commander and was promoted to captain later.
  • On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Riker got a field promotion to captain when Picard was captured by the Borg. When Picard was rescued Riker got demoted back to Commander.
    • Wesley was promoted from boy to acting ensign to actual ensign.
    • In the episode "Lower Decks", several ensigns are concerned about who will be promoted. After the most likely candidate got killed in action, her friend was promoted but he didn't feel he deserved it.
  • More Star Trek examples:
    • Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation goes from lieutenant junior grade in the first season, to full lieutenant in the second season, to lieutenant commander in the third to seventh seasons, to commander in the movies. And in a flash-forward in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager he's a captain.
    • Major Kira Nerys gets bumped to lieutenant colonel in the Bajoran Militia (and then commissioned as a Starfleet commander).
    • Troi went for a promotion to commander; the test's Secret Test of Character was whether or not she'd send a friend [Geordi] on a Suicide Mission in order to save the ship.
    • Worf was promoted twice, starting as Lieutenant J.G., moving up to full Lieutenant off screen between seasons 2 and 3, then promoted on screen to Lieutenant Commander in the first Next Gen movie.
  • Gomer Pyle USMC: An episode revolved around Gomer and the rest of his platoon going for corporal. (Or maybe it was PSC to PFC, it's been a long time since I've seen the episode.) Gomer didn't want to at first, he "liked being the backbone." (Privates are - or were - called the Backbone of the Marine Corps.)
  • Babylon 5:
    • Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova is promoted to Commander and later to Captain. In the Distant Finale, she's a General.
    • Lieutenant JG David Corwin is promoted to full lieutenant.
    • Other characters on B5 to get promotions possibly include Captain Lochley (she is a colonel in The Lost Tales, but it's not clear if it was a promotion or just part of a rank restructuring) and Zack Allen (goes from officer to chief of security. Since Station Security is set up more like a police department than a military force, those appear to be the only two named ranks, though Zack does end up replacing Garibaldi's first right-hand man after the first one shoots Garibaldi in the back).
  • Capts. Tony Nelson and Roger Healey of I Dream of Jeannie were promoted to major late in the first season or early in the second.
  • In the show ~24~, Tony gets promoted to director of CTU in season 2.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart was promoted to Brigadier between his first two appearances, and to General between his last appearance in the old series and his first mention in the new. (For those who think the spin-off novels count, the latter promotion occurs in the New Adventures novel The Dying Days.)
    • Corporal Benton (coincidentally?) got a promotion every time the Doctor regenerated: Corporal Benton appeared with the second Doctor, Sergeant Benton with the third, and Regimental Sergeant Major Benton with the fourth.
  • On CSI: NY Danny Messer was briefly promoted to sergeant after passing the exam, but then he felt betrayed by his rookies and went back to the crime lab and his old detective rank

Tabletop RPG

  • Dark Heresy uses a system of ranks to represent the characters "leveling up" to a certain extent.

Video Games

  • Parker is promoted twice during the single-player campaign of World in Conflict: off-screen between the mid-story flashbacks and the beginning of the campaign (from Second to First Lieutenant) and after Bannon's death (to Captain).
    • Also, online matches promote you. Each online player gets a Rank Up after they have scored enough points in online matches, though officer ranks additionally have the "be in the top X% of the global ladder" requirements. While fancy insignia are largely just a Cosmetic Award, online players are much more inclined to follow a star-rank player's lead.
  • The entire Wardog Squadron in Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War is promoted from Lieutenants to Captains following their mission in the Razgriz Straights. Also, Chopper is posthumously further promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
  • The Red Baron series has a rank system incorporated into its Campaign Mode. By default, you start out on the lowest tier of your chosen air service, and your missions are assigned for you. As you successfully complete missions and receive promotions, you receive more opportunities to lead flights and choose missions for yourself.
  • Between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 3, Ashley is promoted from Gunnery Chief (somewhere between OR-7 and OR-9) to Lieutenant-Commander (OF-3), while Kaidan Alenko goes from Staff Lieutenant (OF-2) to Major (counter-intuitively, OF-5), technically outranking his CO, Commander Shepard, who remains at OF-4 throughout the trilogy.
  • Terran units in Starcraft II get promoted based on the number of kills they make.

Web Comics


 Old agent: Well done, Slick.

Young informer: "Slick"? What happened to "Sport"?

Old agent: You just got graduated to Slick.


Web Original

Western Animation

  • In Exo Squad, Lt. J.T. Marsh is promoted to wing commander mid-second season. Appropriately, this coincides with him assuming command over two more mecha squadrons, while the former Chick Nara Burns becomes the official leader of the eponymous Able Squad. (In practice, however, the two new squadrons rarely appear and Marsh still commands the Able Squad whenever it is sent on a solo mission.)
  • The Simpsons: When Homer became a missionary and went to a Pacific island, he promoted Bart to Man of the House, Lisa to Boy, and Maggie to Brainy Girl. "The toaster can fill in for Maggie." Marge, however, was a consultant.
    • As noted in the page quote, when police Chief Clancy Wiggum was promoted to commissioner, he promoted Lou to police chief, and Eddie to Lou.
  • Spoofed on The Penguins of Madagascar, when Private is promoted to private first class. "Of course, we'll still call you Private. First Class is implied."

Real Life