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There are two characters. Maybe one is never seen, or is only mentioned in passing, or whose face is never seen, or it's a book and the author ain't much for descriptions. These two never meet, are never in the same scene, and/or never interact with the same characters. Eventually it's revealed that they're actually the same person. Note that, contrary to what the trope name suggests, they do not actually need two aliases (i.e. pseudonyms) for this trope to apply - but either the characters in-universe or the reader/viewer (or both) need to believe them to be separate people, until The Reveal.
This trope also applies to Multiple Personalities, so long as characters/audience are unaware that they physically share the same body. It is possible to use this as Character Development if the character assume(s/d) a new alias unbeknownest to other characters, especially if the previous alias and persona are considered dead or status unknown.
This is often a source of Wild Mass Guessing, with fans trying to argue that two different characters are really the same person, usually with no given reason why this person would have another identity.
Contrast Collective Identity, which is Two Characters, One Alias.
Anime And Manga
- L in Death Note isn't just one of the top 3 detectives in the world, he's all of them under separate aliases.
- Also, early in the series the audience never sees Light's father around the house, being told that he's working. Turns out it's the police chief that's already been around a few chapters.
- Later example: After L's death at his hands, Light assumes control of the Kira Taskforce and presents himself to police around the world under the name "L" while still maintaining his identity as Kira.
- Masquerade/Alice in Bakugan. This is a shock even to her.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Selim Bradley is Pride.
- In a couple of arcs of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Shion combines this with Twin Switch and Mind Screw. She imprisons her sister and becomes 'Mion' to the public eye, but continues to contact Keiichi as Shion.
- In Baccano's Drugs and the Dominoes, Claire Stanfield not only has the reputation as the world's most violent and dangerous assassin, but is also the greatest challenger to that claim, Felix Walken. Gustavo then makes the mistake of hiring the latter to kill the former (along with his stepbrothers, the Gandors) and violent Hilarity Ensues.
- Misao Amano/Pixy Misa in Magical Project S.
- Used, and taken to its illogical presumptions, in Umineko no Naku Koro ni. Many theories imply that one person is impersonating/trading places with five different members of the family and the servants and an Unreliable Narrator keeps the personas separate. And everyone else is just being paid off.
- Double Helix in Wild Cards, who is a shapeshifter.
- The entire team of Thunderbolts in their first run.
- Silverhawk, where the actual identity of the hero was kept secret from the reader for a full year of the comic's run
- Goji and Abullah in both the original Astro Boy and Naoki Urasawa's retelling Pluto. (In the former, just a disguise; in the latter, an alternate personality.)
- In Watchmen, Rorschach is revealed to be the guy with the 'The End is Nigh' sign.
- Star Wars Legacy brings us Morrigan Corde and Nyna Callixte. It's unclear which one came first, or if they're aliases of a third identity.
- Betty Ross/Red She-Hulk in Incredible Hulk. Also General Ross/Red Hulk.
- In an early issue of Justice League of America Year One, each of the five superheroes makes an acquaintance in their civilian identities - Perez the coast guard stands up for Aquaman in a bar, Lora Denton investigates Hal Jordan's test flight for the FAA, Officer Sherman looks in on Diana Lance's flower shop, Detective Jackson starts working with forensics officer Barry Allen, and supercop John Jones is approached by reporter Cal Redmond and creepy fellow detective Vince Logan. It turns out all of these except the last two are J'onn J'onzz using his shapeshifting to spy on the others. It doesn't go down well.
- Keyser Soze/ Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects
- Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker
- Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, if you watch the movies in chronological rather than production order.
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The British Government official known as "M" who brought the League together turns out to also be The Phantom, their opponent. And then it's revealed that his real identity is Professor James Moriarty.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, there are several references to Scott's band wanting to attract the attention of G-man, an influential producer. Ramona also makes some off-hand references to her previous boyfriend Gideon. These two both refer to Gideon Graves, who is the Big Bad.
- In Tron: Legacy Castor, Zuse's gatekeeper, actually is Zuse.
- Also inverted and subverted. Clu allows Sam to believe he's Kevin, but by the time he reveals otherwise, Sam's in the process of working it out. Sam pulls this on top of the Encom tower, when he reveals to the security guard that he is Kevin's son, and as such is in charge of the company. Then he jumps.
- The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Originally, it was a big twist to discover at the end that Jekyll and Hyde were the same person.
- Chetter Hummin/Eto Demerzel/R. Daneel Olivaw of the Foundation series.
- Preem Palver, farmer/First Speaker of the Foundation. If you know Latin you could figure it out.
- The first Foundation one is also a pun Cheeter Hummin- he's not really human- he's an android.
- Scylla/ Henry Levy in Marathon Man. The novel makes a big secret out of it.
- In Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, Mrs. Hubbard is actually Linda Arden, Daisy Armstrong's grandmother. This is, to the best of my recollection, not foreshadowed in any way.
- Another Christie: in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, Mabelle Sainsbury Seale is actually Mrs. Albert Chapman, who herself is really Alistair Blunt's first wife, Gerda, who's been posing as his cousin! This is convoluted even by Christie standards.
- The Westing Game: the entire point of the game is that one man has set up three identities named for points of the compass, and the winner is the first person to realize this and look for a fourth.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel
- Fight Club: Tyler and the narrator. In fact, at one point, the narrator even wonders if Tyler and Marla are the same person, invoking this trope.
- In Dragaera Kiera the Thief is also Sethra Lavode. In this case, the two characters share some common friends, but The Reveal is totally a shock because they seemingly have little in common, although once the reveal is made, clues in earlier books become noticeable.
- In Gates of Ivory, Gates of Horn, by Tom McGrath, Cary and his nemesis/brother are different sides of the same person.
- Mr. World and Low-Key Lyesmith are both aliases of the god Loki in American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
- The twist endings in two novels of The Culture, The Player of Games as well as Surface Detail both make use of this trope.
- In the .hack// prequel novel AI Buster, the two main characters, Albireo and Watarai, turn out to be the same guy. The franchise does this a lot, actually, made easier by the characters' use of online aliases.
- In Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, the mysterious unseen leader of the villains turns out to be a seemingly sympathetic character. It's also done slightly differently in Digital Fortress. Dan Brown seems to love this trope.
- In 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making', the lost Good Queen Mallow is now the semi-villain Marquess.
- In Vampire of the Mists, Katya and Trina are revealed at the end to be the same person.
- Both the eponymous schemer of The Count of Monte Cristo and the philanthropic Lord Wilmore are aliases of the same character: Edmond Dantes.
- Sylvia Daisy the cruel governess and Mrs Pouncer the wicked witch in The Midnight Folk by John Masefield.
- 'The Last of the Venitars' takes this to the extreme. Tobias, James and the Beast are all revealed to be the same person, albeit in different time periods. Francis is also revealed to be 'the old man'.
- Aragorn as Strider/Thorongil/whatever name he uses for adventuring and Aragorn as Elessar the Isildur's Heir in Lord of the Rings. There's no surprise for the reader, but in-universe not many people know they are the same person. Barliman Butterbur particularly is very surprised when he learns that the King who Returned and Strider the strange vagabond he knew are one and the same.
Live Action TV
- Lost: Fake!Locke/Man in Black and the Smoke Monster were the one and the same, and in addition equal to Fake!Christian.
- Don't forget Locke's dad, who went by many names, including Sawyer.
- Life On Mars: The Morton Brothers/Vic Tyler.
- Tin Man had a mild example when the party went to find "The Seeker" in the realm of the unwanted, who could guide them to Ahamo, one of the Queen's helpers. Well, yes, they are the same fellow...and that same fellow's third alias was the Queen's consort (and DG & Azkedellia's father).
- Power Rangers:
- Power Rangers in Space: Astronema/Karone.
- Power Rangers Wild Force: Master Org/Dr. Adler.
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder: Mesogog/Anton Mercer and Elsa/Principal Randall.
- Power Rangers Mystic Force: Koragg/Leanbow.
- Power Rangers Jungle Fury: R.J./the wolf monster.
- Power Rangers RPM: Tenaya 7/Subject T-78.
- Tina and the Roadie from The Umbilical Brothers.
- In the third Sly Cooper game, Penelope and the Black Baron.
- King Krichevskoy and Mid-Boss in Disgaea.
- Manhunt 2 has Danny Lamb/Leo Kasper.
- In Tales of Vesperia, it is revealed that Raven, trusted member of your party and the guild Altosk, is actually Captain Schwann of the Imperial Knights.
- Bioshock has Frank Fontaine/Atlas
- In Mitsumete Knight, the enemy Generals love to pull this : Salishuan the Spy is Raizze Haimer ; Zeelbis the Bloody is Dolphan's High Priest ; and Wolfgario the Ravager is Dyunos Dolphan.
- Xenogears: The mysterious guy in the red gear who calls himself Id turns out to be your main character Fei's alternate personality.
- The Origami Killer in Heavy Rain is Scott Shelby.
- Devil May Cry 3 reveals Arkham is Jester.
- The new Raincoat Killer in Deadly Premonition is George Woodman.
- At the very end of Ghost Trick, it is revealed that Ray is an aged Missile from another, bleaker version of the timeline.
- In Tales of Vesperia, it's pretty damn obvious that Raven is hiding something. Cue jaw-drop from everyone as Schwann reveals himself to the party for the first time, and Repede, who hates everyone, actually welcomes him. And then...
Schwann: [in Raven's voice] *sighs* Guess you can't fool the nose of a dog...
- The World Ends With You has the Composer being Joshua.
- Zuko/Blue Spirit from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- Robin/Red X in Teen Titans.
- In earlier episodes; but then Red X becomes a sort of Enemy Without with no real explanation as to whom the new Red X is.
- There are two villains in the 2003 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Shredder and Ch'rell. Guess what is the result?
- In DuckTales episode "The Masked Mallard", there is the titular character of the episode gone rogue and a reporter named Lawrence Loudmouth bad mouthing him. It turns out he's the criminal.
- In the sixth season of South Park, we meet Lu Kim, the Chinese owner of the Asian restaurant City Wok. Nine seasons later, one episode introduced Dr. Janus, who suffers a severe case of Multiple Personality Disorder. The same episode reveals that his strongest personality was none other than Lu Kim.
- In The New Batman Adventures episode "Sins of the Father", "The Judge" is revealed to be Two-Face's new third personality.
- One of the famous Iga ninja is rumored to have done this to confuse his enemies, even going as far as having his subordinates pretend along with him (his alias was... a competing ninja leader in the same area).