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File:Nbnwtraitorshot.jpg
"I will employ some manner of surveillance so that when I leave a room and a traitorous comrade gives me the Malicious Scowl or Wicked Leer to my back, I will have ample warning of his impending betrayal."

So, you've got this character, Alice. Seems like a nice enough person, interacts pleasantly with the heroes, maybe offers them some help or advice. And then the heroes leave the room, or just turn their backs. The camera however, hangs around watching Alice for a few seconds. And sure enough, as soon as no one's watching, Alice starts looking shifty, or even downright evil. This is the Traitor Shot, a close-up on a character for no apparent reason, which is practically a guarantee that at some point, that person will betray the heroes in some way.

The Traitor Shot is a way to let the audience know that they should be suspicious of a particular character before that character has done anything to earn this suspicion. Depending on exactly how the character behaves during the few seconds that no one but the audience is watching them, it can either be a subtle clue or a giant, blinking "This Person is Evil" sign.

There are a few common ways to set up a Traitor Shot: changing from a side view of a hug to the front of one person's face. Changing from medium distance group shots to a close up of someone looking at the camera. The camera moving from a group of people in ensemble then moving across landscape and then settling on one person.

This trope is so common that a director can set up a Red Herring traitor just by giving them a few Traitor Shot moments, and then not making them evil. It also appears in Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary under the heading "Unmotivated Close-up."

Not to be confused with what happens when a character is Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves. For another way to find the guilty party before The Reveal, see Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize.

NOTE: Since this trope deals with betrayals, this page will contain spoilers.

Examples of Traitor Shot include:


Anime/Manga

  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni uses this very effectively early on. In the Cotton Drifting Chapter, closeups are used in the first episode to make identical twins Mion and Shion both look suspicious to the audience, although one of them is completely innocent. Also applied to Mion and Rena in the Spirited Away by the Demon Chapter, with Hidden Eyes combined with dangerous smiles to tip off the audience before Keiichi has any reason to suspect them. This turns out to be a subversion, as Mion and Rena really were harmless, and every Traitor Shot they were given was a product of Keiichi's escalating paranoia, which wasn't explicitly revealed until episode 25, a full 24 episodes after the series started treating the two girls suspiciously.
  • Minor case in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's with Admiral Gil Graham. The close-up of his discomfited expression after a conversation with Chrono is the first hint that he's up to something. Later on, it turns out that he is responsible for the actions of the masked men who keep screwing things up for Team Nanoha.
  • Sayaka from Ultra Maniac gets several of these in the manga. She usually gets these after striking up seemingly innocent conversations with other people, but especially with Nina and Ayu. Sayaka was planning on scaring Nina back to the Magic Kingdom by sending her anonymous letters, and when that failed, Sayaka confronted Nina herself, but to no result, since she befriended Nina and her group later on anyway.
  • An extremely subtle one in an episode of Black Lagoon. A minor mob boss, out of his element in the pirate city of Roanapur, is spazzing out that he needs Florida to send him more men after he got all his own men killed by Lagoon Company and other Roanapur denizens. The local expert on Roanapur keeps trying to tell him that things just don't work the same here and that it's not their turf, but the minor boss won't listen to reason. The advisor leaves the room, sighs, and as he leans we see a concealed gun in his coat. Another character strongly implies later that the advisor is probably just going to shoot the minor boss to clean up the mess rather than let him create a bigger one.
  • In Mai-Otome, Tomoe is given one of these after everyone finds out about Erstin's snake-bite injury during their "survival exam" expedition. After expressing her concern, Tomoe turns around and gives an evil smirk...while the teachers are still looking at her. Even though she actually confesses to (and brags about) doing it in a later episode, the hairstyle in the silhouette of the person that entered the tent the previous night only makes it more obvious that she was the perpetrator, even before the Traitor Shot.
  • Anthy Himemiya gets one in the first ending theme (around :46).
  • In the Pokémon anime episode "UnBEARable", the Teddiursa has five separate ones.
    • Iris's Emolga has a healthy supply of her own. Ash's Snivy is quick to catch on, though.
  • Light of Death Note gets these a lot, even though it's kind of a given that he's a mass murderer who doesn't really care about anything except his own success.
  • Tanya from the second season of Darker Than Black gets one of the hug variety, though it's pretty predictable.
  • Naruto has a variation early on. It's aimed at another, smaller-time villain as a Death Glare, but this still clues us in that Kabuto is not the Mauve Shirt he sells himself as.

Comic Books

  • In Archie Comics' Sonic Adventure tie-in storyline, Mayor Bullyani, the man in charge of the city, had a malicious Traitor Shot expression in literally every other panel in which he appeared (even when the main characters should have been able to see his villainous expression-not so much on the subtlety there, guy). Strangely, nothing ever came of it and he betrayed no one.

Film

  • Star Wars: Episode I. During Qui-Gon's funeral, Mace Windu confirms that Darth Maul was a Sith. Yoda states that "Always two there are: a master and an apprentice," and Mace wonders which one Maul was. The camera then cuts and focuses directly on Chancellor Palpatine.
  • In the horror movie Vacancy, the hotel manager (who turns out to be the main villain) gets a long, drawn out shot after the main characters check in, which he spends looking both evil and smug.
  • Watchmen has a subtle example. You won't notice it the first time through, but Adrian Veidt looks impatiently at his watch right before his own self-scheduled assassination attempt, as though he's wondering what's keeping the gunman so long.
  • A slight subversion of this trope would be Bishop in Aliens. You get the traitor shot effect as he stares intently through the microscope at a facehugger. But it turns out later to be false alarm as he displays TWO separate Crowning Moments of Awesome. Firstly coming back with the second drop ship and secondly saving Newt after getting halved.
  • Pretty much any close-up of Joe Pantoliano, in any movie or television show he appears in, is a Traitor Shot unless it's from The Fugitive, its sequel U.S. Marshals, or The Handler, the only three times in his career he ever plays good guys.
  • In the beginning of Cube, Worth gets a fairly extreme and suspicion-raising closeup. About halfway through the movie, he confesses that he helped design the cube the characters are trapped in.
  • In The Dark Knight, Ramirez gets perhaps the shortest traitor shot in history. Only a small meaningful look coupled with a camera push in as Harvey Dent is driven away after the Joker is arrested.
  • The photo at the top of the page is from Alfred Hitchcock's film North by Northwest, and is actually one of the more complicated uses of this trope. It's true that Eve is working for the villain, but she turns out to be double agent who is actually working for the US government, and she tries to balance betraying Roger with keeping him safe.
  • In the Ingmar Bergman adaptation of Die Zauberflöte/Trollflöjten/The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night has one of these in her first aria. She's singing about the horrible abduction of her daughter, and in the midst of the supposed mourning throws the hero a glance to check if he's buying it.
  • The close up on the cook, as they're taking the political officer's body from the wardroom in The Hunt for Red October.
  • Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. Two of Joe's guides look at each other while standing under Joe's plane and sinister music plays.
  • In Die Another Day, after Bond leaves Miranda in bed to investigate, the camera lingers on her as she watches him leave while putting her earrings back on. Although her expression doesn't change much, it's little surprise when she's revealed to have been working with the villain all along and was in fact responsible for Bond's capture in North Korea.
  • Heavenly Creatures is full of Pauline glaring psychotically at her mother, but it's really only this trope at the end, when she and Juliet have decided to murder her, and are acting pleasant and friendly to her face.
  • One of the most famous examples was in The Godfather Part 2. Fredo comes back to Michael after a falling out. The two hug and for one brief moment it seems like they've reconciled...until Mike makes a gun sign behind his back to his hitman Al.

Literature

  • In Lee Lightner's Warhammer 40000 Space Wolf novel Sons of Fenris, as Ragnor is leaving him, Commander Cadmus whispers that the Space Wolf will serve their purpose.
  • In the end of The Good Earth, a dying Wang Lung asks his sons to continue farming his land, and they seemingly agree, but the final sentence has them looking over his eyes and smiling at one another, indicating they are insincere.

Live Action TV

  • Two examples from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Once in For The Cause, with Commander Eddington, just before he reveals that he's working for the Maquis, and once in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges with Admiral Ross, who is, at the time, working with Section 31. Both of these are fairly subtle, showing the characters looking slightly suspicious just after some event significant to their betrayal.
    • After knowing about the betrayal and rewatching episodes where he appears, Commander Eddington was given quite a few of these, possibly the longest running cases of this trope.
  • From Lost is the Whole-Episode Flashback showing how the Tailies are doing on the island; one of them turns out to be an Other, and immediately after The Reveal (to the audience), the camera lingers on him being all shifty-eyed.
  • In 24, season 7, FBI analyst Sean Hillinger is set up as a potential bad guy from the very first time the audience is introduced to him. A dozen Traitor shots, a Kick the Dog moment and a few episodes later, it is revealed that Hillinger is indeed The Mole.
    • Most episodes of Season 1 started with a recap of the seasn, including "and people that I work with may be involved in both." This is immediately followed by a shot of Nina. And yet it still comes as a shock when she revealed to be The Mole in the penultimate episode.
    • 24 is made of this trope, to the extent that they would intentionally add shots of just about every character, mole or not, doing it to ratchet up suspicion.
  • Jonathan Creek does this for almost every Red Herring suspect.
  • Subverted in the first episode of Firefly, where Simon is lovingly showered with these in the first half of the episode, but The Mole turns out to be another passenger who came onto the ship at the same time, and spent the episode being inconspicuous and sharing other peoples' shots.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "The Illusion of Truth," a human journalist comes to the station - then in rebellion against Earth - to record a news segment that he swears won't be biased propaganda (hint: he's lying). Every time somebody says or does something that could look bad taken out of context, the reporter's camera gets a Traitor Shot.
  • A common staple in BBC soap series Eastenders. A kids' sketch show lampshaded it by having a third character show up and proclaim: "You're doing that thing where you say something you don't mean, and then you look awkward, and the theme music starts playing!", the three argue, and in a second take the music started playing again and the third character caught the first.
    • Taken to a sillier level still by the fact the guy of the scene gets upset that his girl was lying to him and asks the other woman to hug him and be sincere about it. She proceeds to do so... And the theme music starts playing and the woman looks awkwardly from side to side.
  • Noah's Arc: This is one of the clues that Guy's motivations aren't what they appear. Interestingly, he gets far more of these after he's revealed to be the bad guy.
  • In V-2009, every single scene featuring Anna ends with this. It's been long since established that she's the villain, but just in case anyone forgot...
  • In the third season of Merlin newly evil Morgana has at least five of these an episode, some of which will be revealing hugs with the characters she's planning on destroying.

Video Games

  • In the first chapter of Quintessence - The Blighted Venom, after Reivier supposedly 'saves' his wife Serai from the Aerian soldiers and everyone eats their dinner happily, a Traitor Shot of Serai with Hidden Eyes and a Psychotic Smirk was shown.
  • In the very first cutscene of the Rolling Thunder-esque game Code Name: Viper, your superior officer gets a bizarre sinister facial expression as he says "Good bye, Mister Smith." It turns out he's the Big Bad.
  • Used in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards in its "bad end." If you don't collect every piece of the game's MacGuffin, the fairy Queen will smirk evilly and have her glasses flash as she turns to Ribbon while the rest of her subjects wave Kirby and friends off. She's possessed by Dark Matter; grabbing all the pieces of the aforementioned MacGuffin will exorcise her instead and open up the real final boss fight.
  • Muppy from Mana Khemia.
  • Valkyrie Profile Silmeria has quite a few. Leone and Lezard, once they join the party, seem to get at least one lingering close-up in each cutscene when the topic turns to something related to their real goals. It also plays with their facial expressions: Leone's expression shows growing regret as it goes on, while Lezard's is just quiet satisfaction that things are going as planned.
  • Jenny at the end of the Splatterhouse remake.
  • Watch this video of Wei strategist Sima Yi smiling while watching his royal couple leave the military parade in Dynasty Warriors.
  • Partway through Last Window, Dylan gets one of these while Kyle is busy looking at something else.
  • Dawn of War: Isador gets these a lot, verging into Obviously Evil. Particularly blatant when he mutters "I will suffer no trespass", is visited by hallucinations of a Chaos Sorcerer, or tells a squad of Marines to follow him up a secret path. "Don't tell anyone. It's a surprise".
  • The last shot of Alyssa in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is one of these. Mog actually notices, but apparently doesn't know what to make of it, and doesn't warn the heroes.
  • In the Mass Effect 2 DLC "Lair of the Shadow Broker," Tela Vasir gets this look before it's revealed that she was the one who tried to kill Liara, and Liara is still alive.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Disney uses this a lot, as many of their animated villains are deceivers. Most of they go with the "smiles malevolently when no one is looking" variation.
  • Lampshaded on The Simpsons episode wherein Homer suggests changes to Mel Gibson's upcoming movie. Courtesy of SNPP:

 Gibson: You want me to replace the villain with a dog? I mean nobody will know what's going on.

Homer: They will if you set up that the dog is evil. All you do is have to show him doing this. [lowers eyelids and glances around in shifty-eyed fashion] The people will suspect the dog.

  • A villainous version appears in Justice League when Cheetah fires one at the audience during the revelation that the Injustice Gang is going to blow up the Watchtower and kill the Justice League (she appears to have gotten smitten with Batman). It is further compounded by the Justice League receiving an anonymous tip shortly after that saves them. It turns out to be a red herring -- there was a traitor in the Injustice Gang, but it was the Ultra-Humanite.
  • In Hoodwinked Too, Gretel to Red as the elevator door closes.
  • One could argue some of Palpatines scenes Star Wars: The Clone Wars come of as this. It´s treason, then?
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