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"These two right now are just comic relief, but they play an important role later on. You'll see."

Any character who is innocuously and unimportantly introduced to the viewer, but who later proves to be important by the end of the episode.

In other words, they're a human Chekhov's Gun.

For example, consider a poolboy in the CSI mystery of the week who just happened to be at the scene of the crime just before the murder, where other leads overshadow that one until the last five minutes, when suddenly Grissom finds that one piece of evidence that conclusively proves it was him. (Of course, if the poolboy is played by George Clooney, everyone and their mother will know it was him the minute he appeared on screen.)

Or, in an episode with Two Lines, No Waiting, a character that seemed to be a Bit Character in the B plot suddenly becomes a large player in the A plot. On most Cop Dramas, this usually means the two teams are Working the Same Case.

According to Roger Ebert, you can often figure out who the murderer is (in a badly-written murder mystery, at least) by checking the Law of Conservation of Detail: The Chekhov's Gunman is the only character who doesn't seem to have any other reason for being in the story. Compare to Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize, which is based more on the actor playing the role than on the character in itself.

In video games, such characters are always obvious because they look conspicuously different from generic NPCs, and usually have a name.

When the Chekhov's Gunman is hidden by shadows, you've got yourself a case of Sinister Silhouettes. If a character in an adaptation is transformed into a Gunman by appearing earlier than in the source work, that's an Early-Bird Cameo. If a character originally conceived as minor becomes important through later Character Development, that's a Destined Bystander.

May overlap with The Dog Was the Mastermind. Sometimes used to refer to a writer who constantly uses and/or is particularly skilled with using Chekhov's Gun or its variants (including the Gunman), such as Eiichiro Oda, author of One Piece, although this isn't the primary usage.

Examples of Chekhov's Gunman include:


Anime & Manga Edit

  • In the very first few minutes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, we not only see a post-timeskip version of Simon, we also see what appears to be Boota's human form. Inverted in that when the plot actually reaches that point in time, the events are very different from those depicted in the prologue. Rumour has it that the writers were making it up as they went along.
  • In the first episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji sees a vision of Rei in the city before she's even introduced.
    • Kaoru Nagisa appears in the OP of every single episode, but goes unintroduced until episode 24.
  • In To Aru Majutsu no Index, Saten and Uiharu appear in the opening credits of the first season. Neither appear in the actual show, and only debut in the spin off, Railgun. Uiharu does appear in Index later though. In the second season, two years later.
    • Kuroko also makes an early appearance in episode 2, while she only makes her official debut in episode 10.
  • The two new tenants of the Hidamari Apartments, Nori and Nazuna, were de-Faceless Masses-ized among other admission exam takers in the second season OVA. They were actually introduced in the second episode of the third season.
  • Episode 39 of Futari wa Pretty Cure features reappearances by all the minor classmate characters up until then... along with Yui, whose debut episode was number 43. Episode 44 then gave a brief cameo by Chiaki, just before her starring role in episode 45.
  • In the Fairy Tail manga, before they are officially shown in the manga during the Oracion Seis arc, the Stellar Spirit twins Gemi and Mini are visible on two chapter cover arts. Given that it's done by Hiro Mashima it's possible that he drew them at random and decided to make them Gemini later.
    • Ur also counts as she was said to be alive at the end of the Galuna Island as a part of the ocean. Arcs later, Ultear falls into the sea and into her mother's memories, which is what convinced her to Heel Face Turn.
  • The manhwa "Faeries Landing" has quite a few characters that do this and later become important
  • Paranoia Agent has Lil' Slugger's victims (at least from the first few episodes) appear in the opening. At one point, they appear in order.
  • Naruto has Shisui Uchiha, who's only purpose is initially to be the person Itachi killed off-screen in order to gain the Mangekyo Sharingan. Over 200 chapters later, we learn that Danzo stole his Sharingan eye.
    • Later on it's revealed that he had a Mangekyo Sharingan and the crow Itachi gave Naruto turned out to be his jutsu.
    • Let us not forget Tobi, who initially was simply a goofy member of the Akatsuki. Later, we find out that he is the true leader of Akatsuki, and is also Madara Uchiha, and wow we can't even be sure of the second one, since Madara has been brought back from the dead by Kabuto's jutso and we are back to not knowing who Tobi is.
    • Chapter 19 of the manga has Kakashi in bed with two picture frames. One of his current team and one of the team he was in as a kid. We don't see this team in action until chapters 239-244 of the manga and episodes 119-120 of Naruto Shippuden.
    • At the end of part I, Sasuke explains to Naruto during their battle that the Final Valley was created when the First Hokage fought his best friend who betrayed him, such is the explanation as to why there are statues of them there. Way late into part 2, we find out that said best friend was Madara Uchiha, the big bad for the series.
  • As the page quote states, Sai, Kaede, Madoka and Arisu from Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer. They don't have as big of a role as most examples, though, save Sai, although Kaede does make an appearance in Chobits (dead).
  • In the D.N.Angel anime, Krad is shown in the very first scene (even giving the first spoken line!), but doesn't get a proper introduction until a few episodes later. (And in the manga, his introduction was delayed even more.)
  • Selim, son of King Bradley in Fullmetal Alchemist. Seems like a harmless kid, but later revealed to be the most dangerous Homunculus of all seven, Pride.
    • In a more minor example, with more immediate payoff, Roy Mustang is initially introduced in Chapter 4 of the manga as seemingly nothing more than an extra to set the scene for the current story, before being revealed as a major character at the end.
    • In the chapter with Winry arriving at a train station, Izumi and her husband can be seen in the bottom right of a panel perusing the timetable. When they both arrive later, the author even puts a little footnote that encourages the reader to check back in the earlier volume.
    • Probably the most extreme example would be the Gold-Toothed Doctor, an unnamed alchemist that shows up very irregularly.
    • Kimblee shows up for a short aside really early, but isn't seen until something like three years later (in real life time). A lot of people don't realize how long a gap there is, because he escaped from prison and was much more active much earlier on in the 2003 anime. That, and he showed up in the flashback volume of the manga, before he was released from prison. Arakawa was clearly itching to get to him.
    • The 2003 anime version is fond of this trope, bringing back characters from the beginning of the series who seemed like Filler Villains as important characters towards the end.
    • Selim is this in the 2003 anime too; the difference is he ends up being directly responsible for Mustang beating Bradley.
    • And let's not forget the even more minor Lyra, who appears in episode 4 of the first anime as Yoki's assistant and later has her body stolen and becomes host to the biggest of the Big Bads.
  • In an early story arc of Blade of the Immortal a character is introduced, but disappears at the end of the arc with their story apparently self-contained and complete. Many, many volumes later, guess who shows up at the side of Complete Monster Shira? Kawakami Araya's son Renzo.
  • Mishio in Makoto's arc of Kanon, and in the Kyoto Animation version, all the major girls.
  • In Princess Tutu, the character Autor is always hanging around the library and later on in the background of scenes with Fakir. He later not only divulges an important plot point, but saves Fakir from a cult with a book.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, the girls are given a seemingly pointless "mascot", Mokona, to accompany them on their quest. In the second series, it is revealed that Mokona is literally God.
    • Pointless? How many other mascots are both a Bag of Holding and a camper, all in one?
  • In Shakugan no Shana, a distinctive, heavily-burdened Meido is occasionally shown trudging through exotic locales without any explanation; she eventually appears in the main setting and is introduced as an important character. In the movie, which is a remake of the first arc, she walks past the camera (and turns to look at it) in two news reports in the span of a day -- once in the Gobi Desert and once on Mount Everest.
  • Pokémon plays this card quite a few times: Nando seems like your run-of-the-mill character of the day, but he ends up as a recurring rival for Ash and Dawn -- competing in both the Grand Festival and the Sinnoh League.
    • The Sandile with sunglasses from the third episode of Best Wishes appears again in episodes 12 and 20 (in the latter, it evolves into Krokorok).
    • Look closely at the matchup screen showing the competitors at the start of the Sinnoh League -- Tobias is on there.
    • An earlier example would be the fact that one episode occurring near the end of the Kanto arc involved Gary Oak fighting Mewtwo. The episode that followed has a scene with Mewtwo escaping from the Team Rocket headquarters, therefore setting the scene for Pokémon the First Movie.
  • The spirit of the Millennium Ring in Yu-Gi-Oh! is introduced as a recurring but ineffectual villain, usually defeated within a single episode in his appearances in the first two seasons, and he was apparently killed off for good at the end of Season Two. Some foreshadowing at the end of Season Three implies he got better, but otherwise he's never mentioned after Season Two. Then Season Five came -- turns out he's the Big Bad of the entire series and was just waiting for his chance to strike.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Darkness takes a page from the spirit's book--introduced in the first season as the Super-Powered Evil Side of Fubuki, he's defeated and forgotten partway through Season One, save for a single episode where he came back in Season Two and was defeated again. Then in Season Four, it's revealed Darkness is actually an Eldritch Abomination that was just using Darkness as a host, and he becomes the final Big Bad of the series. His host Fubuki is also a Chekhov MIA.
  • The Pokémon Special manga is full of them. Nearly every minor character introduced early on becomes important to the plot later. The biggest example would be the little girl Red saves randomly in one chapter of the first Arc who later turns out to be Yellow, the main character of the second arc.
    • Similarly the Gold/Silver arc ends with Professor Oak confronting an offscreen child who wants to be a Pokémon trainer, in what is seemingly a throwaway homage to his opening monologues from the first Pokémon games. However, a few hundred chapters later in the Emerald arc, it's revealed that the nameless child was actually Emerald and that confrontation was part of his long journey towards becoming a Pokémon trainer.
  • In Sailor Moon, the episode that introduced Sailor Venus had her appear (in civilian form) in the background of a scene earlier in the episode. The camera also did a long pan on her and Artemis to make sure you didn't miss her. So it wasn't much of a surprise when she showed up later saving the Sailor Senshi. Of course it was more of a surprise in the English dub, because they cut the long pan entirely and only the most eagle eyed of viewers could have spotted her before she got covered by a CGI screen transition.
    • A shot of her as Sailor V actually appeared in the first episode (cut from the dub sadly) while Usagi and Naru are talking about her latest heroic deeds. She's referenced every so often from then on until she appears many episodes later in person briefly as a civilian and then Sailor Venus (wearing the Sailor V mask) as mentioned above
    • Much later, Setsuna/Sailor Pluto is introduced in a very similar manner to Minako. True, in her case Sailor Pluto had been introduced in the previous season, but her appearance on Earth was a surprise -- unless you spotted her in the background.
    • On the Manga side, throughout Codename: Sailor V the other Sailor Senshi appear with minor background speaking roles, though not directly interacting with Minako. The Live action has a similar prequel known as Act Zero: Birth of Sailor V where they have minor background roles (Except Usagi who is saved by Sailor V)
  • Many, many people in Mahou Sensei Negima. A few of the more notable ones:
    • The first time Evangeline is mentioned, it's in a note written by her picture in the class roster. Two volumes later, she appears again as the manga's first real antagonist. A few volumes after that she saves Negi's butt during the Kyoto arc. After that, Negi eventually begins training under her. She is one of the most powerful mages in existence, after all
    • Takamichi is introduced as merely the teacher that Negi takes over for. Turns out he's an extremely famous mage, and exceptionally powerful combatant who knew Negi's father. There's also a few panels of him transporting into Mundus Magicus. This isn't mentioned again until 70+ chapters later.
    • Chao Lingshen. Yes, merely saying the name is a spoiler. First seen hawking her restaurant's food in the first chapter of the manga, she goes on to be the Big Bad of the Mahora Festival arc. She's also Negi's descendant.
    • A picture of Ala Rubra appears as early as chapter 53. In it, of course, are Jack Rakan, Albireo and Zect. Plus Takamichi's mentor Gatou. We still don't know what's up with that guy, only that he taught Takamichi and Asuna kanka and erased Asuna's memory. Right before dying, which is his exclusive domain in this series, even in flashbacks.
    • Zazie in one of the earliest artworks is dead center with claws for hands. Cue the least development of any character and all of ten lines in the series until almost 300 chapters later she appears in the middle of the Magical World. Bricks were shat; lampshades rained from the skies. And it was actually her identical sister who's also a demon queen. Not long after, in Mahora, Zazie starts talking.
  • One Piece is chock-full of these, given that Oda planned the whole story from the start and had all characters ready in place since he planned One Piece to last only five years, only to find himself enjoying it too much and having far more support than he imagined. People that were chilling in the background or just mentioned in passing will turn out to be vitally important to the plot. There are a lot of examples, but perhaps the best example is also the most recent. During a battle, Buggy the Clown relates his relationship to Shanks in the form of a flashback, and it opens with an argument between him and Shanks being broken up by the ship's first mate, who appears in two panels and is not mentioned again. Almost 500 chapters later, we learn that this man is Silvers Rayleigh, who is both the man that the straw hats need to alter their ship for undersea travel, and the former first mate... of Gold Roger!
    • Almost equally sneaky is the Laboon arc. The Straw Hats end up meeting a depressed whale the size of an island, and Crocus, the old man who takes care of the whale. We find out that Laboon's depression comes from the fact that his old crewmates left him and never came back. It's assumed that they all died or fled the Grand Line. As we learn in the Thriller Bark Arc, the entire crew did die. However, one of them came back. Brook's Devil Fruit revived him as an afro-sporting skeleton, whose only remaining purpose in life is to fulfill his promise to Laboon, which leads to him joining the Straw Hats. Oh, and Crocus was another member of Gold Roger's crew at some point, or knew him, or something. And later with Crocus, Luffy asked him to be their doctor soon after learning he'd been a ship's doctor once, and was turned down. Rayleigh reveals that Crocus journeyed with them for three years, with the goal of locating Brook's crew, to keep Roger's illness at bay. These major points are just a few of the big problems with 4Kids' choice to cut the Laboon arc out of their dub of the anime.
    • Oda loves these so much that he might even be sleeping with them. A presumably bad Marine official that was introduced in Koby and Helmeppo's Chronicle of Toil, was many chapters later shown to not only be the person that cornered Gold Roger several times, but also Luffy's grandfather. Then there was the mysterious Dragon that helped the Straw Hats in chapter 100; he was later revealed to be a famous revolutionary and (much later) Luffy's father.
    • Coby and Helmeppo themselves qualify. They were introduced in the very first arc, and came back almost 450 chapters later after they Took a Level In Badass.
    • In the beginning of the Arlong Arc, Jinbei, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea was mentioned. This was in 1999. He made his first appearance in the Impel Down arc. In 2009. And now, in 2011, he's fighting alongside the Straw Hats in the currently-ongoing Fishman Island arc. Plus there are several fan theories that he'll be the next new Straw Hat member, with a huge body of supporting evidence for the idea.
    • On Jaya Island, three men appear causing trouble around a town. Not only are they part of the Blackbeard Pirates, an incredibly powerful pirate crew, the random bar patron that Luffy almost got in a brawl with is one of the series' Big Bad.
    • Nami is seen in the first episode of the series, but isn't introduced until the Buggy the Clown arc. She's also in the very first color spread in the manga, before either she or Zoro appear in the story.
    • When fighting Zoro, Hatchan mentions that he's the second-best swordsman on Fishman Island. Five hundred chapters or so later, we meet the best Fishman swordsman at Fishman Island, who's been hired by the Big Bad.
    • After Thriller Park, the Risky Brothers tells the crew how mermaids' beauty on Fishmen Island even made the Pirate Empress Hancock jealous. We would meet mermaids on Fishmen Island and the Pirate Empress later on.
    • Buggy the Clown tends to drop in once in a while just as the audience has forgotten about him.
  • AIR has a crow (raven?) that is introduced early on and inconspicuously follows the main characters around throughout the first 3/4ths of the show. After the show invokes Anachronic Order, the story starts over from the beginning focused around the crow, a reincarnation of Yukito named "Sora", and his instrumental contributions to the plot.
  • A major antagonist in Katekyo Hitman Reborn largely responsible for the hunt on the hero's family (and the hero's death-in-the-future) is revealed to be Irie Shouichi, a seemingly random kid who appeared in one chapter to be traumatized by the wacky antics of the hero's family fourteen volumes ago.
    • Subverted now, since it was all a very, very complicated Batman Gambit, co-produced by the allegedly deceased hero himself.
    • But now you have the even more inconspicuous Kawahira-ojisan who was only mentioned in passing by I-pin OVER 20 VOLUMES AGO as a man she DELIVERED RAMEN TO!
  • Kamemon in Digimon Savers. All he does is silently wander around DATS headquarters serving tea, until it turns out he's just shy, and is actually the Digimon partner of Yushima, local head of DATS and the Cool Old Guy who randomly shows up to give Masaru advice. Even after that, he and Kudamon are revealed as agents sent by Yggdrasil to spy on humans. Doubles as Let's Get Dangerous when he gets to show off his later evolutions, Gawappamon and Shawujingmon.
  • Kyouran Kazoku Nikki features an odd girl with pink hair dressed like a butterfly who can often be seen in the background for the first 12 episodes. Then comes episode 13, where she is finally introduced: she is Hiratsuka Raichou, considered by Ouka's Supernatural Phenomenon Treatment Bureau to be their biggest mistake and "The Empire's biggest traitor". Despite this, she has somehow become the Head of the Bureau, and is therefore the person in charge of "Operation Cozy Family", with all signs pointing to her as a future Big Bad.
  • Maruko "Marco" Reiji, quarterback of the Hakushuu Dinosaurs, is introduced at the beginning of the Kantou arc in Eyeshield 21 as a smooth, though somewhat cowardly player. Later on, his team becomes the final and most challenging opponent the Devilbats face in the Kantou Tournament.
    • Not to mention Musashi, the player who won the Christmas Bowl for the Devil Bats, who was originally introduced as the no-name carpenter working on the team's club house long before it was revealed that he was one of the founding members of the Deimon Devil Bats.
    • The Ha-Ha Brothers, as well, were originally the nameless bullies tormenting Sena in the first chapter before disappearing for some time and eventually being pressured into joining the Devil Bats as offensive linemen during the game against Zokugaku.
  • In the 9th volume of the manga Rave Master Lucia Raregroove appears in a flashback. He and his mother are promptly killed off as part of his father's Freudian Excuse for Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. However, in the very same volume King pulls a Heel Face Turn, leading to the obligatory Heroic Sacrifice, leaving the manga without a Big Bad, with the story less than 1/3 completed. A few chapters later, guess who shows up to take over the role of Big Bad for the rest of the story's run? Turns out, Lucia was Not Quite Dead, after all. His mom was Killed Off for Real, though, as far as anybody knows.
    • Also Resha, who gets mentioned by Deerhound a little while before her massive significance to the story is revealed, and Saga Pendragon, who comes up as the one who made the prophecy about the 'two winds meeting' and later turns out to be the reason Resha faked her death to be able to aid the future.
  • That young, redheaded train conductor from Baccano! doesn't seem remotely important at first. He's just a Red Shirt whose only distinction is being the first to be killed on the train, right? Er, not quite. In episode nine we learn that neither of the corpses that Jacuzzi found were his -- they were his victims'. Conductor guy turns out to be the Rail Tracer that has been picking off the Lemures and White Suits throughout the series. And that's not even half of it...
    • And then the man in the trenchcoat in the scene where Isaac's ear gets crushed is is the Martillo Family's Ronnie Suchiart, aka the devil from the Advenna Avis. He plays a larger role in the light novels.
  • If you thought that Michelo Chariot and Sir Gentle Chapman were one-time rivals for Domon Kasshu... boy, were you wrong. Michelo joins the Devil Gundam group and later Gentle Chapman is revived as a DG zombie by them
  • In the first chapter of GetBackers, there's this snotty brat who shows up when Ban and Ginji are ten yen short of the fee to get back their recently-towed car. He says he'll give them ten yen if they retrieve his Final Fantasy game, and they end up getting beat up and never think about it again... until volume 14, when the exact same thing happens, and Ten Yen-kun turns out to be a missing kid that our heroes will be hired to "get back" later that day.
  • In Monster, Johann and Anna Liebert are briefly shown on Tenma's TV as the children of a foreign trade adviser who successfully managed to flee East Germany.
  • Godannar has three examples that span the entire series:
    • The first is Tetsuya Kouji, whose mech gets blown to smithereens in episode 1, leaving him in the hospital for most of the series. He shows up as a Big Damn Hero in the last arc.
    • The second is Anna's missing father, who is mentioned in an early episode and then pretty much does the same thing as Tetsuya is the final arc. And the kicker? This is a double example, since he was also the priest performing the main heroes' wedding in the first episode.
    • Thirdly, the mecha technician Hayashi, who has a Distressed Damsel moment in episode 2, and thereafter serves no purpose other than a comically perfect relationship with fellow tech Morimoto. Turns out in the Distant Finale that she is the key to the human race's survival, precisely because she had that Distressed Damsel moment at the start.
  • Bleach: At the end of the Soul Society arc, Aizen leaves Seireitei via negaccion and the shinigami left behind observe that there's something in the garganta behind the gillians, the only sign of which is a giant eye. Hundreds of chapters later during the battle for Karakura Town, Wonderweiss appears with his giant pet, Fuura, a misshapen being with one giant eye and the ability to destroy Yamamoto's flames that are trapping Aizen. It's revealed Fuura was the creature that was hovering behind the garganta at the end of the Soul Society arc.
    • And who could forget that in the first chapter of Bleach, on the colourpage, one can find Shinji Hirako... who doesn't get introduced until nearly 200 chapters later.
    • Aizen himself counts. He's introduced early in the Soul Society Arc as one of the Loads and Loads of Characters who are brought in, and promptly gets murdered. He turns out to be the Big Bad.
    • In the 4th episode of the anime and chapter 7 of the manga, Ichigo's dad Dr. Isshin Kurosaki is on the phone with the local hospital demanding they open up beds for patients he cannot treat in his tiny clinic. Isshin tells the clerk to tell his manager its a personal request from Kurosaki and that will free up the beds he needs. The hospital's chief administrator is Ryuken Ishida, Uryuu's father, Quincy, and an old friend of Isshin's, which isn't revealed until manga chapter 241 and anime episode 143!!
    • In manga chapter 27, which introduces Don Kanonji, a person who looks conspicuously like Ishida is seen in the crowd on the same page where Rukia starts doing Don Kanonji's signature BOHAHAHAHA laugh. Ishida does not "officially" appear in the manga until chapter 33. Also in chapter 29, another person is seen moving toward the roped off area where Don Kanonji's exorcism is turning a soul into a hollow, but stops because Ichigo jumps over the rope first. At first glance it might appear that this person, shown only with close-ups on his hands and feet is Ichigo, however Ichigo is wearing jeans (which are a light shade of gray in the manga) and a t-shirt with a black collar. The figure clearly has black pants and a white-collared shirt and dark hair. The back of this person is clearly visible (but his face is not) on the page where Ichigo jumps over the rope separating the audience from Don Kanonji. Word of God later confirms that this in fact Ishida. Credit to pointing this out (before Tite acknowledged it in an interview) goes to the now-defunct webpage "Kubo Tite is your GOD."
      • Kanonji himself might be an example as well. He's introduced as a one-shot character, but he shows up a few times in filler. (Normally filler doesn't count, but this filler is based on Omake segments done by Kubo, so it's debatable) He does show up later though, when Aizen and Gin invade Karakura Town, he steps in to protect Tatsuki and Keigo. Aizen planed on killing them just to infuriate Ichigo, so that his rage would increase his power.
    • Iceringer and D-Roy, believe it or not. Their first appearance is after Grand Fisher is beaten by Ichigo, with the former healing him and the latter yelling at him for failing. This also gives proof to Aizen's claim that he's been pulling Ichigo's strings since before he ever entered Soul Society.
    • Chapter 56 sees Byakuya tell Rukia he understands her desire to protect Ichigo because of Ichigo's resemblence to "him". Although this is an obvious portent of Kaien's backstory entering the manga 77 chapters later, this chapter also sets up the introduction of Hisana 123 chapters later as proof that Byakuya told the truth: he really does understand the desire to protect someone who resembles a loved one. Not only that, but the chapter's cover page is, on first reading, viewed as a snapshot of a dead or unconscious Rukia with an oddly shaggier version of her normal hairstyle. Hisana's introduction into the story reveals she resembles Rukia with a shaggier version of Rukia's normal hairstyle. Cue a reinterpretation of the picture in Chapter 56 as being Hisana not Rukia.
      • Later it is revealed that Kurosaki Isshin is in fact former shinigami captain named Shiba Isshin (thus Ichigo is closely related to Kaien, so his resemblance is understandable) and his mother is Quincy (and cousin of Ishida Ryuken to boot).
  • Ange Ushiromiya is very conspicuously name-dropped in the first arc of the Umineko no Naku Koro ni VN, but is not seen in that arc at all. She only starts to play a role in the third arc, and is in fact one of the most important characters (excluding Battler and Beatrice themselves) in the fourth arc.
    • Ange isn't the only one. In fact, Episode 1 contains references to every other Episode so far. Other notable character namedrops include Gaap and Goldsmith, which actually are pretty inconspicuous at the time.
    • The TIPS for Eiserne Jungfrau in Episode 5 mention the "SSVD" and its leader, "Wizard-Hunting Wright" or "Twenty Wedges". Guess who shows up in Episode 7, armed with S.S. Van Dine's 20 commandments?
  • The main character of Mai-HiME, Mai, is conspicuously absent for most of Mai-Otome, which features almost all of the characters from the former. She only shows up a couple of times: once on a poster in the background of a shot, and as a silhouette during a narration of her untrue tragic backstory. She shows up in one of the last episodes and becomes a key character in the final battle. Subversion: Tate (Mai's love interest in Mai-HiME) also appears as a silhouette during said backstory, but the story isn't true after all and he never actually shows up or becomes important.
  • In an early chapter of the Soul Eater Baba Yaga arc, Kid and Maka notice the presence of two people following them. One of whom is a monkey, which both find funny. All we're told is that, though Shinigami told Medusa otherwise, the Shibusen group is being followed by Death Scythes and their meisters, although it appears to just be Azusa with her long-range communication/sniping skills. Chapter 59 sees Maka being saved from Medusa by the appearance of a monkey and a man in a bear suit, who turn out to be the South American Death Scythe Tezcatlipoca and his meister Enrique (the monkey).
  • The woman whose skirt keeps getting flipped in Gate Keepers. She saves the Commander and his secretary in the final episode.
  • The first shot in the first episode of Darker Than Black shows a girl in a white dress standing at the edge of a lake and looking at the stars. This isn't given any explanation, and as the scene immediately cuts to a Batman Cold Open, viewers are likely to ignore it... until episode 11, when Hei starts panicking when he sees an illusion of her in the Gate. Turns out she's his Dead Little Sister: a Person of Mass Destruction, the reason for the Heaven's Gate explosion, and the reason for both her brother's powers and his personality.
  • In Death Note, Light goes through a period of dating other girls much to Misa's chagrin. We get a good look at one of them, Kiyomi Takada, who shows up again near the end of the series and proves pivotal to Light's defeat.
    • You know those nameless extras standing around in the background of Episode 23? Turns out that a good portion of the plot hinges on their presence.
    • In the pilot, Miura is first shown being questioned by the police. Much later, when main character Taro Kagami gives up the notebook, more people get killed, including the detectives, and Miura is the second Death Note user.
  • In Dragon Ball, Kame Sen'nin's first appearance doesn't amount to much. He happened to have a Dragonball and he gives Goku the Kintou'un. His next appearance he's revealed to be the Muten Roushi and the trainer of both Gyuu Maou and Grandpa Gohan. After that he plays a major role training Goku and Kuririn. Sadly, he was Demoted to Extra by the Majunior saga and it was just downhill from there.
    • Chi Chi's an even better example. She first appeared as a minor character who had a crush on Goku, and in the manga after her first appearance she was never seen nor mentioned again until the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai twelve volumes later where she's reunited with Goku and they wind up getting engaged. The anime screwed this up however by having her appear every now and then in a couple filler episodes.
  • Dana Sterling, the teen protagonist of Robotech's "The Masters" cycle, is one of these, as she first appears as a baby during the "Macross Saga" cycle.
  • Schrödinger in Hellsing appears relatively early on in the manga and OVA series, and has the interesting but passingly mentioned ability to be "everywhere and nowhere". His ability comes into full effect in the final volume of the manga, where he commits suicide and allows his body to fall into the river of blood Alucard is absorbing. The Major explains that Schrödinger's ability depends on his ability to perceive himself as an individual; if he becomes one of the many millions of souls within Alucard, however, he is unable to distinguish himself and is thus unable to truly exist. This quandary, in turn, causes Alucard to cease existing in the real world, which was the Major's Evil Plan all along.
  • Azumanga Daioh's Kagura makes a few experiences before her introduction, the greatest of which is in the first sports fest.
    • Kagura gets a little weird here. She appeared in the manga a few times before joining the main cast too, but the anime expanded on how often she made appearances a good deal.
    • That's because the anime mixed up the order of a few events, like the pool episode, so that they came earlier.
  • Code Geass had Schneizel make an appearance at Clovis's funeral at least a dozen episodes before he actually enters the story.
    • Also had Mao appear early in both episode 12 and 13, even though he's not officially introduced until episode 14. In hindsight, though the first cameo becomes pretty damn significant as it explains how the hell Mao knew Lelouch was Zero, knew C.C. was with him, knew Shirley liked him, and knew her father was killed by Zero, all of which become important parts of his Batman Gambit.
  • An early episode of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 featured Neil Dylandy's estranged twin brother of sorts, Lyle visiting their family's grave while the former hides behind a tree to glimpse on his brother. Lyle became Neil's Backup Twin in the second season.
  • In K-On!, Yui can be seen running past Ritsu, Mio, and Mugi on her way to school in the first episode before they all are introduced later.
  • In DOGS Bullets and Carnage, during the first story that introduces Mihai, there's a panel showing a red haired guy with an eye patch trying to get past him and get out the door. Guess who's introduced as the subject of the next story?
  • The most recent arcs of The World God Only Knows consist of the protagonist looking for the remaining Chekhov's Gunmen, i.e. the girls that remember their capture.
  • In the first chapter of Until Death Do Us Part, a woman is pictured in one panel, with no explanation given for her. Five years of real-world time later, in a flashback arc about the main character's past, she is revealed to be, among other things, the last thing the main character saw with his actual eyes; her violent death, and the circumstances of it, were major factors in making him how he is now. Along with, y'know, blindness. See here.
  • In Hajime no Ippo we're introduced to Yamada Naomichi, a weighty, timid young man who admires Ippo. Yamada trained in Ippo's gym for several months, and became a pro boxer before moving away, and we sort of forget about him after that. Two years later, he returns as 'Hammer Nao', Ippo's opponent for his second title defense, with a shaved head, scary demeanor, and lost enough weight to end up in Ippo's weight class, and everyone lampshades this drastic change.
  • Zigzagged in Berserk. Since the manga starts off as an In Medias Res, Puck is introduced as a primary character in the Black Swordsman arc. After the Black Swordsman arc is over and the story switches to the Golden Age Arc - which is a flashback - Puck has not been introduced. However, after Guts and Casca are rescued from an ambush by the Blue Whale Knights of Tudor, Judeau gives Casca a bag of elf dust, saying that an elf he use to know while traveling with a band of performers gave it to him as a gift. The elf in question is indeed Puck, but he is not referred to again until the events of the Eclipse, in which Rickert, who was left behind during the Griffith rescue operation, was traveling with the same band of performers that Judeau accompanied in the past, with Puck still in their presence. After the two year time skip at the beginning of the Conviction Arc (which the Black Swordsman Arc overlapped chronologically) Puck is presented as a larger character.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Ribbons Almark. He spends season one as Alejandro's quiet minion, then backstabs him in episode 25 and takes over his role as the Big Bad.
  • In Tiger and Bunny, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi has a young daughter who doesn't see much screentime, as he unfortunately has to live away from her. Then the second half of the show rolls along and a certain little girl starts developing superpowers just like her father...
  • Oniisama e...: Years ago, there was a little girl who played in the rain and she once saw a pre-teen boy and she tried to talk to him, but he ran away. That young boy's name? Takehiko Henmi, the tutor and stepbrother of the aforementioned girl, Nanako Misonoo.
  • Inukami! There's this kappa that hangs out in the background for a few episodes. In the climax he saves Keita's life.
  • Eyeshield 21: Kongo Agon, one of the most memorable antagonists in the series makes his debut appearance watching the Devil-Bat's second ever match. Later on, while trying to find and recruit Musashi as a kicker, the Devil-Bat's run into Kotaro, who becomes their last opponent in the Tokyo Tournament. Than during the opening of the Kantou Regionals, Sena is approached by Reiji Marco who plays quarterback for the Hakushuu Dinosaurs, and wants to know if Sena would like to trade opponents (upon finding out Sena will be facing Agon he backs off); he seems like something of an afterthought compared to some of the other players there, but he and his team end up being the Climax Bosses of the arc.
  • There is a general rule about The Prince of Tennis: If you can remember their name, they will probably be back.
  • In Code Breaker, Aoba. She is Sakura's best friend,and apart from tat, just an attractive female character. She later is discovered to be Code:Revenger, one of the top agents of Eden. That makes her a major bad guy. Since she is supposed to be Sakura's friend, this could be viewed as a Face Heel Turn

Comics Edit

  • Scott Pilgrim volume 3 features a cameo of a mystery man who then turned out to be Gideon Gordon Graves.
  • John Constantine's official first appearance is in Swamp Thing #37. But in #25, there's a background character in a crowd scene who looks suspiciously similar to Constantine.
  • Bunnie Rabbot of Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog first appeared in a pin-up in the original four issue mini-series before appearing in the comic proper some issues later. She also looked markedly different.
    • Dr. Finitevus first appears during the "Return to Angel Island" arc as just another member of the Dark Legion. About 40 or so issues later, he joins the Big Bad Ensemble by manipulating damn near everyone in order to ensure Knuckles becomes the new Enerjak.
  • In Spider-Man, Norman Osborn was originally introduced as a nameless member of Mr. Jameson's club, and got upgraded to nameless friend of Jameson a while later. While he got a good deal of mostly non-speaking background appearances, he was barely noticed until he was revealed to be Harry Osborn's father about 2 years after his first appearance. 2 issues later he was revealed as the Green Goblin, who had been an active villain in the series for years.
  • In the Fall of Cthulhu comics by BOOM! Studios, a character with no speaking lines at all who can be spotted in a lot of backgrounds throughout the whole story turns out to be the final overmind (though not a villain per se) who orchestrated the whole story through a Gambit Roulette.
  • The Joker during Infinite Crisis. First seen torturing King and asking him why he wasn't invited to join the Society. Is told that he's considered too unpredictable, and kills King out of anger. Not seen for the next hundreds of pages or so. Guess who kills Alexander Luthor Jr.?
  • A zombie Deadpool appeared in Marvel Zombies, but only as an extra without dialogue. Later on, he plays a main role in the series. Similarly Black Bolt appeared numerous times in the series, but doesn't get an actual role until much later.
  • The first page of Watchmen features a red-haired man holding a sign that reads "The End Is Nigh." He appears a few more times and doesn't seem very important-- until Rorschach's mask comes off halfway through.
  • In the Blackest Night event, Tales of the Lantern Corps #3 gives Kilowogg some Character Development by showing his own training as a rookie lantern by Lantern Ermey. In Green Lantern Corps 41, we see Ermey return as a Black Lantern
  • Empowered has Ocelotina a female hostage Emp tries (and fails) to save from ThugBoy in Volume 1 appears again in Volume 2 trying to kidnap Empowered for Les Yay-related reasons. She then becomes a recurring character as a deliberate model for the fetish crowd that Emp keeps unintentionally feeding. Deathmonger and Fleshmaster may also count.
  • Practically anyone who has ever appeared in the Prelude but not in the graphic novel of Dreamkeepers is suspected to be one of these.
  • The locust swarm that causes the Bone brothers to get seperated in the first issue of Bone seem like just some natural, albeit random, occurence. After the scene where the swarm seperates the Bones the locusts disappear and don't seem to have been all that important. That is until later when we learn about who the Big Bad is. He's called The Lord of Locusts.


Fanfiction Edit

  • In Downfall, Zommari shows up in chapter 16, casually meantioned: "The most senior of these artificial Arrancar, a bald, dark-skinned, sinister-looking man, was kneeling on one knee, silently, at the perimeter of the force." -he goes on to be a pivital fighter in the subsequent battle, never meantioned by name. This is especially notable, as it gives him a much needed moment of true badassery.
  • In Time Braid, Demon Sakura is this. You think she's gone after a forced merge early on, but then she's discovered in a kind of 'inactive aspects' area of Sakura's Mental World, and Sakura uses her to guard the box containing the memories she doesn't want Sasuke to see. Later, her mastery of the Sharingan is used to give Sakura the chance at her Heroic Sacrifice, and afterwards she becomes half of Sakura's new demon/kami split axis.
  • In Hogyoku Ex Machina, after Ichigo's time traveled, he and other characters try to avoid future crisis' by planning ahead and/or making peace with would-be enemies. This includes anime filler arcs and movie continuities, so it wasn't unusual to see Muramasa involved. At the final battle, though, he saves Ichigo's life which completely thwarts Aizen's plans. Without him there, the bad guy would have won. Yep, a former filler villain was that important.
  • In Forward, Ashley Frye bumps into a drunk man in a bar while looking for information about her sister Kaylee. This later turns out to be John Garis, an agent of the Academy who's after River, and he saves Ashley from Jubal Early.
  • In Calvin at Camp, Calvin throws a water balloon at Sally, early on in the episode "Champion Charlie Brown." She comes back later and has him arrested by the Urban Rangers for it, playing right into Lucy's hands.


Films -- Animation Edit

  • In Yellow Submarine, Jeremy Hillary Boob Ph.D is introduced very conspicuously, complete with a character-introduction song. He then plays no role except light comic relief, and is kidnapped shortly after his introduction. In the end, he defeats the Blue Meanies once and for all, causing their leader to pull a Heel Face Turn by... making flowers grow all over his body.
  • The cat in the film adaptation of Coraline.
  • In Shrek the Third, Shrek needs to find Arthur, and in his search, he has reached a football-alike field, to find out a brave, strong, handsome warrior riding a horse, attacking with a lance a poor excuse of a man. You have found the one and only King Arthur, showing off his supreme skills with a lance against a faceless, dull boy... oh, wait, is the other way around...
  • Just right before the Big Lipped Alligator Moment from the infamous animated film Tom and Jerry: The Movie, Puggsy actually gets captured by a pair of dogcatchers. Those two are later revealed to be working for none other than Doctor Applecheeks.
  • The dragon incense burner from Mulan. He's actually Mushu.
  • Mother Gothel from Tangled, according to the film's prologue.
  • In "Lady and the Tramp", the Rat appears seemingly at random in the beginning. By the climax, it's the last thing on anybody's mind, until it reappears to do harm to the baby!
  • When you're watching Toy Story 3 remember the cute little girl playing with a monkey who has cymbals, because she'll be coming back, as will the monkey with cymbals.
  • If you look very closely at the crowd attending Bob/Mr. Incredible and Helen/Elastigirl's wedding near the beginning of The Incredibles, you can actually see several superheroes such as Gazerbeam, Dynaguy, and Stratogale among the crowd. Those superheroes are later revealed by Edna Mode to have been killed by either the Omnidroid or by some cape-related accident.
  • Boingo in Hoodwinked.
  • The bird from A Bugs Life She is first seen attacking Flik and the circus bugs on the way back to the anthill, but she doesn't return again until the end of the film where she actually comes back to kill Hopper.
  • If you look very closely when Simba runs up to wake his father Mufasa near the beginning of The Lion King, you can actually see Nala sleeping with her mother Sarafina for a few seconds.
  • During the scene where the explorers are travelling to Atlantis via an ancient highway through several underwater caves in Atlantis the Lost Empire, several masked warriors can be seen running away from their trucks as they approach. One of the warriors looks at the passing trucks before she runs off into the caves. This warrior is actually the film's heroine, Kida.
  • The Big Lipped Alligator from All Dogs Go to Heaven.
  • Oogie Boogie, the main villain of The Nightmare Before Christmas, actually first appears as a singing face on the Moon during the song "This is Halloween."
  • Doctor "The Shadow Man" Facilier, the villain of The Princess and the Frog, is first seen as a customer at the restaurant Tiana is working at as a waitress.
  • Pixar likes to do this a lot with characters from their future films starting with Monsters, Inc.. In that case, it's Nemo.
  • The Three Stooges has a little orphan named Teddy who gets adopted by a rich couple at the beginning. Turns out that Teddy later shows up when the Stooges are adults- and is at the center of the film's plot, without his knowledge!


Films -- Live Action Edit

  • Cube includes a seemingly detrimental character, Kazaan, who turns out to be an idiot savant, and critical to solving the formula needed to escape.
  • Billy Madison provides quite a literal example with Steve Buscemi. When Adam Sandler calls him to apologize for being a jerk to him when he was a kid, Buscemi seems as if he'd only be in that one scene as a random oddball for comedy's sake. But just as Sandler is about to be killed Buscemi comes out of nowhere to shoot the would be assassin, saving Sandler's life.
  • Master and Commander: The French captain is not seen by the audience the whole time (The Faceless), until Aubrey finds his body in the sickbay. The ship's doctor could not save him from death, but hands over the captain's sabre to Aubrey. Though later, Aubrey reckons, that the Ship's doctor died months ago, and that the captain therefore must have dressed up as the doctor. The film ends with Aubrey pursuing the french ship once again.
  • Throughout the movie Office Space, Milton's storyline is seemingly unconnected to the main plot, as inconvenience after inconvenience roll his way and he occasionally mutters a threat to burn down the building. In the end, he makes good on his threat, destroying the evidence of the main cast's embezzlement (while also stealing the money himself) and setting up for a happy ending.
  • In The Dark Knight Saga, the camera pays a certain amount of attention to Jim Gordon's fellow police officer Ramirez. Near the end, cue The Reveal that Ramirez is the corrupt cop who drove Rachel to the place where she would die. The viewers who were completely sure she was a Captain Ersatz of Rene Montoya were either outraged or relieved.
    • A bit of a Double Subversion in fact. At one point in the film, Joker says he'll blow up a hospital if citizens let a certain man live. Batman asks Gordon to look for cops with relatives in hospitals, thinking they may attack the man. Observant viewers will remember that Ramirez's mother is in the hospital. She does not attack the man, subverting Chekhov's Gunman for the moment.
  • City of God features this type of character in Knockout Ned's story. The character Otto is seen briefly when Knockout Ned murders his father at the bank. In this case, the gunman is literally a gunman.
  • In the film The Hunt for Red October, the submarine's cook suspiciously lingering in the background when the political officer's body is bagged is at last revealed to be the saboteur.
    • Played by the same actor who is finally revealed to be the hitman in The Bodyguard!
  • Lampshaded in The Amateurs. Two characters are having a discussion about who they want in their porn movie (don't ask), and discuss that one character's brother is out of town, and worry about how tough the brother is and what he would do if he found out. Eventually, the narrator steps in and says, "OK, we know you're not idiots, you've probably guessed by now that the brother is going to be important later."
  • In the first two Home Alone movies, Kevin encounters a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold who creeps him out at first, but later befriends him. Naturally, they both end up saving him from Harry and Marv in the end.
  • Wayne's World parodies the Scooby Doo version by introducing "Old Man Withers" briefly and early; later on, in one of the endings, he turns out to be the villain.
  • In Training Day, Hoyt breaks up an attempted rape early on and picks up the victim's dropped wallet. Later, when Hoyt is trapped by the Latino gang, they find the wallet on him and it saves his life - the girl he saved was the cousin of the gang leader.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, while the movie is introducing the main character, Harold Crick, it also introduces two seemingly unimportant characters for flavor: a boy that has just been given a new bike, and a woman searching for a new job. Throughout the film they appear randomly as they go about their day-to-day lives with very little fanfare, until the end, when Harold is nearly killed saving the boy from being hit by a bus (driven by the woman on her first day on the job) after he falls off his bike in front of the bus stop. It turns out that the writer of the story Harold was the main character of had been foreshadowing their appearance the entire time.
  • In Changeling, a young Canadian on a warrant for illegally entering the US is briefly mentioned. He is later pivotal to the plot, when he says he was coerced into killing several children, and identifies Walter Collins as one of his victims..
  • Why would The Rock be playing a seemingly unimportant, friendly agent in Get Smart? It's not because he's the mole, is it?
  • In Saving Private Ryan, the squad releases a lone captured Nazi machine-gunner. In the final battle, he is personally responsible for at least two American deaths before he is gunned down by the same American translator who advocated his release.
  • In American History X a seemingly unimportant character kills the protagonist, with a gun.
  • Charlize Theron is a bit too big of a star to merely play a disapproving housewife in Hancock.
  • A literal example of this trope reveals the hero of The Good, The Bad and The Weird.
  • Jigsaw from Saw is almost the poster example of this trope. He gets introduced and shown in the middle of the movie for 5 seconds as a dying cancer patient and poses dead throughout the entire movie in the bathroom, and then at the end of the movie gets up and confirms Adam having lost his game.
    • Also played with at the end of the movie: Zepp first appears in just a split second scene in which he reminds Gordon of Jigsaw's name. The movie then hints at him being Jigsaw.
    • There's also Detective Hoffman, who first appears in Saw III for all of thirty seconds, then becomes an important character in IV, the end of which reveals that he's Jigsaw's second apprentice. He then becomes the central antagonist of the remaining films.
      • But the ultimate example in the series is Dr. Gordon, who is one of the main protagonists of the original film, then disappears until the final film (six movies later), where it's revealed that he was Jigsaw's true apprentice, which he demonstrates by locking Hoffman up and leaving him to die.
  • In Cemetery Man, Francesco's friend Franco seems a bit character. All that happens between the two is a bunch of phone conversations in which they muse about life and the very slow churn of gossip in the town. However, every time Francesco meets his friend in person, Franco doesn't seem to acknowledge his presence. This is a very important detail.
  • In Casa De Mi Padre DEA Agent #2 seems like a throw away character until he shoots DEA Agent Parker whose about to kill the protagonist Armando near the end of the movie.
    • The two ranchhands also serve as such, as when Armando runs out of bullets on his rifle the two come just in time to bring a second rifle to him so he can kill Onza.
  • Carlitos Way. Benny Blanco (from the Bronx), the guy Carlito roughs up kills him as he was about to escape.
  • Scudder in Maurice. In the book he's foreshadowed subtly several times; in The Film of the Book, he gets one awkward scene where he (as a random servant) is asked by name to do some menial task.
  • Mickey in Scream 2 is bafflingly revealed to be the killer at the end of the film. Prior to this, he was a minor character who occasionally got into semi-amusing arguments about movie sequels.
  • One of the strangest appearances of a Chekhov's PERSON, in the horror-porn film One-Eyed Monster. Veronica, the old whore who has spent most of the entire movie in an unconscious coked out stupor, saves the day by intercepting and preventing Ron Jeremy's detached alien-possessed member from cumming, causing an incredibly huge explosion that takes out her and the alien. As she puts it "Have you ever heard of what I can do when I'm on my cankles? I can catch a bullet with this thing. (flexing legs back and forth suggestively)" As to the reason for her sacrifice? She's "47 and the world is no place for senior citizens."
  • Jim Rash's character in Sky High. We first see him as the love interest's father; he has two lines and then disappears. When he next shows up, it's in the climactic school dance scene, and if the viewer notices him at all (unlikely, as he's in the background and the viewer is probably looking at Kurt Russell), they will probably assume he is just chaperoning his daughter. Then the Patrick Warburton-voiced Big Bad's identity is revealed, and Jim gives an incredibly creepy smirk...
  • In Devil, the old woman goes largely unnoticed thanks to the other elevator occupants' behavior and her dying second. At the end she's revealed to be the titular Devil. Also Tony, who at the end is revealed to be the man who accidentally killed the main cop character's wife and kid in a car accident five years earlier.
  • In Predators, the character of Edwin seems like an immediate candidate. Initially, he stands out as a normal person in a group of badass killers, leading the genre savvy Royce to wonder why Edwin was kidnapped along with them. For much of the film, he lives up to his normal reputation, with the only major break in action being briefly stabbing a Predator in a moment of desperation. Brilliantly, Royce almost manages to subvert the trope by theorising that the Predators took Edwin in order to add a "human" element to the group, that may end up dividing them. He's almost right...
  • In the execrable Christopher Lambert movie Knight Moves, the killer is the computer tech from near the beginning of the film.
  • Mallrats: All Willem wanted to do was to see the sailboat in that picture. Through a chain of circumstances, however, his frustration at being unable to see the sailboat is what ends up saving the day for TS and Brodie.
  • The Oracle in The Matrix, who seems like a harmless old lady when she first shows up in the first movie but turns out to be the co-creator of the Matrix itself.
  • After Dr. Gordon survives his game in the first Saw movie, he is never seen again until Saw 3D, where he becomes an in-movie Chekhov's Gunman as he's first seen cauterizing his amputated foot and later shows up at a gathering of Jigsaw survivors. At the end of the film, it turns out he had been nursed back to health by Jigsaw, given a prosthetic foot, and trained as an apprentice, turning out to be the only truly faithful apprentice when Hoffman kills Jill Tuck and Gordon, acting on Jigsaw's orders, captures Hoffman and leaves him to die in the same room he himself had survived in the first film.
  • In Pulp Fiction you can (Just barely) hear Vince and Jules conversation in the background during "Honey Bunny" and "Ringo"'s conversation before they rob the restaurant. You can also see Vince walking to the bathroom in the background (you have to look closely.)
  • The recent adaptation of Voyage of the Dawn Treader has Jill Pole mentioned as coming to visit Eustace at the end of the film. Should they make The Silver Chair into a film Jill will be a main character.
  • In the 2008 Thai action movie Chocolate, the protagonist is a autistic savant girl who becomes a tremendously skilled martial artist by observing muy thai boxers and watching martial arts movies. About halfway through the movie, a severely mentally handicapped boy is seen amongst the villains and told to leave them while they conduct business. Guess who the most challenging opponent to the main character turns out to be?
  • Sucker Punch examples contain Wiseman who turns out to be a kind bus driver that gives Sweet Pea an alibi to evade the police, the young British soldier that catches Sweet Pea's attention in the trench warfare sequence who is a passenger on the bus that she rides on at the end of the film and The High Roller who is actually the doctor who performs the lobotomy on Baby Doll.
  • Robert, Eric, and Jordy in Mystery Team.
  • Quorra from Tron: Legacy.
  • Thor has The Destroyer.
  • In Unconditional Love, the killer turns out to be the window washer, who'd been seen in the background earlier in the film.
  • In UHF, there's a few apparent throwaway scenes of a bum going around asking for change. Said bum turns up at the very end and manages to help the station at the very last second.


Literature Edit

  • In When You Reach Me, the laughing man seems to have no purpose in the book, but in the end, we learn that he's one of the main character's friends who has traveled back in time to save one of her other friend's lives
  • Lampshaded in the first Artemis Fowl book with the introduction of Chix Verbil, whom the narration says will become important in sequels, but "for now his only function is to press a button to activate the time-stop".
    • Played straight with Turnball Root, appeared in a short story and reappeared in the Atlantis Complex.
      • That sprite who told Turnball how to re-acquire some magic? That's the first supernatural being who ever appeared on-screen: the fairy who loaned Artemis a copy of her Book way at the beginning of the series. Given that she hadn't appeared since the first chapter of the first book, and this was the seventh, this probably is also a Brick Joke.
  • China Mieville's loves this trope in his Bas-Lag novels.
  • In a party scene in Arrows of the Queen, the first of the Heralds of Valdemar novels, a throwaway line mentions Queen Selenay sitting next to a Herald with streaks of white in his hair at either temple. This turns out to be Herald Eldan, who has a significant role in By the Sword.
    • Similarly, both Herald Lavan Firestarter (Brightly Burning) and Herald Vanyel (The Last Herald-Mage) are mentioned as historical personages long before Mercedes Lackey wrote a book/trilogy about them.
  • In H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds, an unnamed artillery gunner appears in the main character's house and informs him of the martian fighting machines, They go to a town together which is later attacked by the martians, and he disappears in the chaos. Later he re-appears, speaking about how they can build a whole world underground. Which is, over the course of the chapter. Pivotal to the unnamed main character's decision to kill himself by running up to the martian fighting machine, which leads to him discovering it being dead. Resulting in the final chapter of the book.
  • Also done in books two and three of Cinda Williams Chima's High Fantasy smash hit, The Seven Realms Series. In book two, Han convinces Action Girl Catarina to study at the temple school at Oden's Ford, an area of the school known for producing the most refined maidservants in all of the Seven Realms. In book three, Han needs someone he can trust near Raisa, but someone that can also defend her. Turns out those skills Cat got came in handy.
  • Something of a bizarre usage in Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40000 novels, where his early Gaunt's Ghosts stories namedrop characters who he would later develop in future novels, but his Word of God reveals that he hadn't actually planned so far ahead. For example, comments made regarding Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor, who would eventually get his own novels, from the Gaunt's Ghosts Omnibus The Founding:

 "... first mention of Ravenor (who could have guessed where that would lead to)...."

  • The Harry Potter books did this to death, along with the other Chekhov's tropes. There were characters introduced in every book who became plot critical later, both in each individual book and across the series. There were even numerous instances of character actually being revealed to be important more than once.
    • Sirius Black, mentioned in passing in the first chapter of the first book and revealed two years later to be the title character of the third book.
    • After five books, Ginny is promoted from "Sidekick's little sister" to "Love Interest".
    • Also from Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter fans sussed that RAB was Regulus Black, the brother of Sirius briefly mentioned in Order of the Phoenix, with so little trouble, some fans argued against it because it was too obvious. Note that Regulus was mentioned all of twice in the series up to that point; we're talking some very attentive fans here.
    • Also, if you pay attention, the Lovegood family gets mentioned early in book four, while Luna didn't become an important character until book five.
    • Mundungus Fletcher has been getting small, one-time mentions as early as Chamber of Secrets, only becoming even slightly important to the plot in Order of the Phoenix.
    • Mrs. Figg is introduced in the first book as Harry's babysitter, and we hear very little of her afterward. She's revealed to be a Squib in book five, and is the lone witness in Harry's Ministry Hearing.
    • Aberforth Dumbledore first appears as the barman of the Hog's Head Tavern in Order of the Phoenix, although he isn't mentioned by name. Earlier, Dumbledore does mention him by name in Goblet of Fire.
    • The film makers wanted to leave Kreacher out of Order of the Phoenix entirely, but JKR told them that he would become very important later, as revealed in Deathly Hallows. (The Deathly Hallows film, however, cuts so much of Kreacher's role that he could have been left out entirely without loss.)
    • Even Neville Longbottom could be considered one of these as outside of book one, where even in that he has little to do with the overall plot, remains a Bit Character until Order of the Phoenix where he is pretty important to the plot after that. In Deathly Hallows he cuts the head off of Nagini the final Horcrux. He probably could have been introduced later like Luna was and it wouldn't have made much difference to the plot.
    • The savvyness of Potter fans in general meant many were delighted to realize, on rereading, that "that awful boy" Petunia refers to in Phoenix who taught Lily about Dementors is not James, as is assumed by Harry and the reader, but Snape.
    • Another living Chekhov's Gun comes in the first chapter of Goblet of Fire, which seems like an unnecessary bit of exposition regarding Voldemort's ultimately-unimportant Muggle father and the fact that Wormtail has found Voldemort, in which the two of them kill a Muggle. However, this is also the first appearance of Voldemort's snake Nagini, who later takes on a more important role. Each of the next three books makes this chapter more clear. In OotP, Voldemort sends Nagini to attack Arthur Weasley -- and Harry, who has been having visions in which he sees what Voldemort sees, is somehow able to see the scene from Nagini's perspective. The chapter itself is explained in HBP, when we learn that a murder is required to create a Horcrux -- what we were seeing was Voldemort turning Nagini into a Horcrux, using the murder of the Muggle as the impetus. Finally, in DH, we learn that Harry is also a Horcrux, which is why he was able to see through the eyes of both Voldemort and Nagini.
    • Scabbers is another prime example, making the rather unorthodox transition from Sidekick's Pet to Henchman in the third book.
    • Griphook, who has a total of two appearances throughout the series, six books apart - the first as a classic Underground Bank Cart Pilot, the second as a Temporary Ally In Bank Robbery.
    • Bellatrix Lestrange is the unnamed woman on trial with Crouch Jr. in the Pensieve Flashback in Goblet of Fire. By the end of the series she's the most prominent and loyal Death Eater.
    • Grindelwald, who was mentioned briefly in the first book in Dumbledore's Chocolate Frog Card description as an evil wizard whom Dumbledore fought. The last book gives him a lot of backstory, including the revelation the he was once Dumbledore's friend.
    • Both Broderick Bode and Sturgis Podmore were offhandedly mentioned throughout OotP, and were thought to be the most insignificant of characters until Hermione brilliantly pieced it all together and figured out what had happened. (Bode even had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it introduction in the previous book.)
    • Rufus Scrimgeour is offhandedly mentioned by Order of the Phoenix members in the fifth book before taking over as Minister for Magic in the sixth.
    • The fans' attentiveness was so extreme that when a "Mark Evans" showed up in Order of the Phoenix as a kid Dudley beats up, fans assumed he would turn out to be a crucial character since his last name was Lily's maiden name. Turns out he was just a throwaway character. JK Rowling apologized for this in her FAQ
      • Though Fans Attentiveness payed off when Harry gets the fake locket with a note By R.A.B. Fans were attentive to guess that R.A.B. was Regulas Black based on the fact that Regulus was mentioned to have run off to be a death eater then was seemingly killed By Voldemort for Getting Cold Feet. which would have made him a good fit to be R.A.B also having the same initials though fans weren't told Regulus's middle name.
        • Rowling's response on the theory was "that's a really good guess"
  • CS Lewis in the fourth volume of The Chronicles of Narnia has a particularly devious one. Jill and Eustace are sent to look for the kidnapped King Caspian's son. Halfway through their journey to the place where the prince disappeared, they find a delightful young damsel escorted by a silent knight who doesn't show his face. If you haven't read the book, you have correctly guessed by now that the knight is the prince that they were looking for. However, the damsel is, in fact, the Big Bad that appears to the children to point the direction of a castle inhabited by giants for whom, humans are refined cuisine delights. And the children never even suspect about the identity of the two strangers until the climax of the book.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's first Ciaphas Cain short story, we are introduced to Cain's rather smelly and loyal aide Jurgen, who doesn't look like he'll have much relevance except for jokes on how he puts people off with his atrocious hygiene standards. Later on, it turns out Jurgen is an extremely potent "blank," someone who negates psychic powers and harms daemons simply by being in proximity to them, and his becomes a constant and critical plot point throughout the rest of the novels. His absolute loyalty and obedience to Cain also play important roles.
  • The Dresden Files is very prone to this - the main opponent of a book will almost definitely be someone who was introduced in an earlier book, quite possibly Grave Peril.
    • Turncoat has another major one: The obnoxious little secretary wizard who tries to get Harry to sign for a folder he was getting off the record turns out to be (one of) the traitor(s) on the Council. And he was actually trying to get Harry to sign because he was using special ink for signatures to screw with the wizards' minds.
    • Said character was actually introduced as far back as Summer Knight in passing.
  • Butcher also does this a bit with Codex Alera -- only the gunman turns out to be a "gunspecies". Tavi and Kitai go into the Wax Forest for a test and end up not only encountering the wax-spiders, but also an unusual new creature The Vord queen. They're mentioned in passing during the first book -- but show up in each new one, getting more dangerous each time.
  • Early on in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Sissy chats with a nameless policeman who tells her his wife is an invalid. A few years later, her sister Katie meets a policeman named McShane, whose wife has tuberculosis. He keeps track of her, and they marry several years later after both their spouses have died.
  • American Gods: Shadow's old cellmate, Low Key Lyesmith. Keep in mind that Norse gods play a huge role in the book, and he is actually Loki Lie-smith.
  • In the Discworld book, Thief of Time, the milkman Ronnie Soak is mentioned here and there. Later, it turns out that Soak is Kaos, the fifth horseman of the apocalypse who left before they became big.
    • Also, in Feet of Clay, we are introduced to the "The Dragon" when Vimes goes to get his coat of arms. It turns out that he manipulated the whole difficulty with the golems..
    • There's generally about one a book, it's Simon in Equal Rites, the Fool in Wyrd Sisters, Lupine Wonse in Guards Guards, etc.
  • In Tad Williams' Otherland series, the side plot involving Olga Pirovsky is treated with a great deal of significance even though it's not initially apparent how her mysterious headaches have anything to do with the main story. Even when she's tasked by Sellars to infiltrate the headquarters of J Corp, it seems like her role is fairly straightforward. Then comes The Reveal, and she turns out to get the biggest Crowning Moment of Heartwarming in the whole series.
  • Ezra Jennings from Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone is the assistant to Dr. Candy, himself a side character. Both of them, but especially Jennings, are more important to the plot than the reader might first think.
  • Emile Zola loved to use this trope in his Les Rougon-Macquart series. A character mentioned in passing in book one and described by his father as a forgettable good-for-nothing shows up as the main character in books 10 and 11. Another one mentioned in passing in book 3 is the main character of book 14. The pattern repeats itself throughout the books. Things get even more confusing when you find out that the books do not follow in chronological order and that the timelines of most of them intersect in one way or the other. Trying to keep up with who is doing what and is important in which book can become a nightmare.
  • Early on in The Lord of the Rings, Old Gaffer Gamgee mentions his son, Sam.
    • Not to mention Boromir's passing references to his father, the Steward of Gondor, who becomes a major character in The Return of the King.
    • Gandalf mentions Aragorn and the Nazgul in the second chapter. Gandalf even points out the fact that he mentioned the Nazgul to Frodo before any of the characters even met them.
    • The Necromancer is given a passing mention in The Hobbit. It is only in the sequel that he becomes important since he is actually the reborn Sauron.
  • In Silas Marner, the character Godfrey Cass is seemingly of no direct importance to the main plotline, until his brother robs Silas, and then his secret daughter ends up in Silas's care. Small world!
  • InThe Wheel of Time every named character in the book will return with greater importance latter on. Every. Last. One. It's even justified by the fact that the three main characters bend chance, circumstance, and the fabric of the universe itself simply by existing.
  • Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt? The unnamed minor character standing in plain sight for six hundred pages, rather than a rhetorical question.
  • The Stars My Destination, in a way. Just keep an eye out for the doctor in the dream Dagenham subjects Gully to.
  • A head of one of the smuggling organizations with a subplot in The Thrawn Trilogy has bodyguard, and in one line he calls her Shada. She's good at her job. Zahn later wrote a short story called "Hammertong", in which she was an all-around agent who was one of the many people who helped get the Death Star plans to Leia. In the Hand of Thrawn duology written five years after The Thrawn Trilogy, Shada Du'kal accompanies Talon Karrde on his search for a certain document, and has her own Mystral subplot.
  • In J.C. Hutchins' 7th Son trilogy, characters like Special K, Peppermint Patty and Klaus Bregner get throwaway mentions only to become very important later on.
  • When first introduced in Warrior Cats Into The Wild, Littlecloud is just a small, seemingly unimportant apprentice from ShadowClan, but later becomes the ShadowClan Medicine Cat after Runningnose and a good friend to Cinderpelt.
  • In The Silmarillion, Lúthien Tinúviel is introduced off-hand by Tolkien simply as the daughter of Thingol and Melian, but later, as we all know, plays a major part in retrieving a Silmaril by owning Sauron's face and tricking Morgoth himself and proving herself to be totally Badass.
  • In Red Storm Rising, the Soviet Union, suddenly faced with a crippling oil shortage, decides to conquer the Middle East for oil. To do this, they first need to eliminate the threat NATO posed to the operation. Their plan was to detonate a bomb within the Kremlin, killing several staff members and 8 children from the city of Pskov, then blame it on West Germany and invade, hoping that the other western nations would object to being bled white to defend what they would see as a terrorist regime. The funeral is described in great detail, and the viewpoint character of the segment, a non-voting politburo member named Sergetov, focuses on a grief stricken captain of paratroopers, whose daughter's body was so mutilated that her face was draped in black silk for the open-casket ceremony. Near the end of the book, the chairman of the KGB and Sergetov join up with the most senior surviving Soviet general (most of the rest had been shot for failure) in a coup to prevent the deployment of nuclear arms at the battlefront. After taking power, the general turns to the KGB man and the following conversation takes place (paraphrased):

 General: By the way, Comrade Lidov, have you met my new aide? He had a daughter in the Young Oktoberists.

KGB Chief: Your point?

General: His regiment is based in Pskov.

Aide: For my little Svetlana, who died without a face. (fires)

  • Matthew Reilly tends to introduce these early in the book when they become useful.
    • Ice Station has Trever Barnaby, Jack Wash and Chuck Koslowski mentioned in Schofield's thoughts about his mission. O. Niemeyer also turns up early in an investigation about the events of the book and is currently MIA, but turns out to be a subversion because he died in a plane crash.
    • Temple has Will's brother Martin Race, supposed to be working with the team remotely.
    • Six Sacred Stones introduces Jack West's brother in law and previous neighbour in a flashback.
  • In the Young Wizards books, there are a decent number. Two of note are Ponch, who in an incidence of Chekhov's Gun does indeed get stranger the more time he spends with Kit, as wizards pets do. He crosses into and even creates alternate realities and is implied to maybe be God. Who apparently likes palindromes. The other is Biddy in A Wizard Abroad who is the local smith and farrier and turns out to be one of the Powers That Be and helps reforge a powerful artifact that has been lost.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms inconspicuously introduces Sima Yi as Cao Cao's secretary, and you might not expect much from him in a novel with Loads and Loads of Characters (especially considering how the founders of the eponymous Three Kingdoms are introduced). However, Sima Yi eventually becomes Zhuge Liang's rival, before staging a coup during the reign of Cao's great-grandson. His grandson becomes emperor.
  • A particularly impressive one from David Eddings. In The Ruby Knight, the second book of his Elenium trilogy, Zalasta is introduced in what is practically a throwaway scene; literally, he's seen for less than a page. He's not seen or mentioned again in the entire trilogy... and then he shows up in the Tamuli trilogy as one of the major characters, and ultimately turns out to be the closest thing to a Big Bad for both trilogies.
  • In Elizabeth Honey's Remote Man, the book's antagonist is introduced in Chapter 5 as an unpleasant American tourist who buys seven paintings from Ray's gallery in Arnhem Land. A few chapters later Ray's daughter Kate comes to suspect that he was responsible for stealing a rare python, based on the fact that her cousin Ned unwittingly told him where to find it. About halfway through the book, Ned learns that he's a retired Hollywood stunt driver running an international smuggling operation.
  • In The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, The Walker, a crazy old man, is introduced in the 1st book, but it isn't till the sixth that we learn he is the 7th Soul Eater. He did give us some hints, though, like when he said that before he went insane, he was "a very wise man".
  • In The Caves of Steel, R. Sammy, a robotic courier, is the first "person" we meet in the book, but he seems more of a simple narrative device to provide an opportunity for Exposition about the Earthmen's dislike of robots. Much later on, he is found destroyed, and it turns out he was a critical part of the book's murder plot - the one who sneaked the murder weapon into the area before the crime.
  • Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar mysteries have a tendency to mention elderly relatives of the protagonists in passing who will become crucial to later books in the series. The first book, Thus Was Adonis Murdered, mentions that Cantrip has an uncle who's a Second World War veteran; he ends up providing some crucial exposition and a Big Damn Heroes moment in the third book The Sirens Sang Of Murder. The Sirens Sang Of Murder in turn mentions Julia's Aunt Regina, who narrates a sizable fraction of the fourth book, The Sibyl In Her Grave.
  • Robert Rankin's The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse has a literal example when Jill shows up to shoot the Big Bad and rescue Jack at the very end.
  • A few of the main characters in The Pale King go unnamed in their introductory chapters.
  • In Death: At one point in Loyalty In Death, an old man mentions how he has met with two guys with dead eyes who are just the muscle and working for terrorist organization Cassandra. The two guys become the murderers to hunt down in the Survivor In Death story. In Judgment In Death, a blonde-haired assassin working for Max Ricker kills off a mook who was going to reveal a lot of details. The blonde-haired assassin turns out to be Max Ricker's daughter and she becomes the murderer to hunt down in the Promises In Death story.
  • The first Dinotopia book featured a minor character named Lee Crabb. He ends up becoming the antagonist in all the subsequent books (barring First Flight, which is a prequel).
  • In Craig Shaw Gardner's "Cineverse Cycle," several minor characters from the first and second books were later revealed to be disguises used by a superhero called Captain Crusader, whose decoder rings could transport the wearer into and through the different worlds of the Cineverse whenever they said the code phrase.
  • In Shatter Me Plucky Comic Relief Kenji is heard but not seen talking to Adam a few chapters before he makes an appearance in chapter 35.
  • Many examples in Septimus Heap: Syrah Syara, Merrin Meredith, Agnes Meredith etc.
  • In Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, it is mentioned that Princess Selene of the moon had died in a fire- but that no body had been found, just some pieces of burnt flesh. Turns out that Cinder- the cyborg protagonist- was really Princess Selene, who had been rescued successfully and had been given artificial replacement parts!
  • In Dangerous Fugitives, Wilson appears to just be a deputy to the Big Bad. He ends up saving the day.


Live Action TV Edit

  • In the first season of Dexter, Rudy is introduced in a justified manner but then given strange amounts of attention, developing his character until it is revealed that he is the Big Bad known as the Ice Truck Killer and, ultimately, also Dexter's brother, Brian.
  • Lots of characters in The Wire, most notably Clay Davis.
  • Just who the heck was that no-name crewman on Star Trek: Enterprise?? Nobody important, just a time-agent from a thousand years in the future who's secretly defending the Enterprise and its crew from interference from other time-agents trying to alter the timeline. Nothing really big...
    • Though this is a particularly inept version as he'd never actually appeared in the series before, so his sudden prominent role was a big tipoff that something was going on.
  • ICarly: Jeremy aka "Germy", a student who always coughs and sneezes is the prime example in Season 1. In "iNevel", after Nevel gave iCarly a dishonest review, the trio employs Jeremy to force Nevel to tell the truth, knowing his hate of germs. In "iWill Date Freddie", he also appears early in the episode, and later gets recommended by Freddie "who knows tech stuff" as his replacement when he left iCarly.
  • NCIS is a bit of a repeat offender on this one. If someone gets a line but doesn't seem to be contributing to the main plot otherwise, they did it. (If the writers try to hide their non-involvement by stuffing them into a romantic subplot with a main character, they definitely did it.)
    • Subverted in a recent episode, where the villain of the romantic subplot had not done it, even though he was suspected by a majority of the cast.
      • Oh, The Prime Suspect Never Did It. (Unless the prime suspect changes before the final ad break, in which case it was definitely the original suspect what done it.)
    • This can also be used in reverse... if there ARE no outstanding single line characters, the villain MUST be one of the major characters for the week. This is easily seen in a first season episode where the villain turned out to be David Keith, the sympathetic father and husband of the kidnapping victims and the very target of the plot!
  • This is the easy way to spot the murderer in CSI. In the first 10 minutes or so there will be a completely unimportant background character, often who has one unimportant line. They add nothing to the plot, and would not be missed. Example: in one episode the owner of a diner is being questioned in her own establishment. Halfway through the chat she turned to tell the "short order chef" to get on with his work. I turned to my wife and said "It's the cook." It was.
    • The Miniature Killer, anyone? She appeared for about three seconds at the end of an episode, cleaning the floor in the lab, and later went on to be revealed as the killer.
  • Criminal Minds loves this trope so much they pulled it twice. In the same episode. The villain in Mayhem is actually two villains: the young teenage citizen who calls 911 to help Hotch, and the paramedic who comes to save them, violating the FBI's direct orders not to interfere.
    • Not to mention the second episode of the first season. the very innocent looking chemistry girl who explains the chemicals that could be used in arson is the one who actually stole the chemicals to commit the crimes.
  • Like Harry Potter, Lost loves casually mentioning random names who become important characters years later. Probably the most notable is Jacob, first mentioned in an offhand line of dialogue and who becomes mentioned dozens of times over the years as the Others' godlike figure. After numerous possible sightings, he finally appears in full for the first time in the season 5 finale. Radzinsky, Kelvin's former hatch partner who shot himself, became an important character three seasons later (due to time travel).
    • Ethan Rom, who had a brief appearance in a season one episode before the next episode revealed him as one of the Others. He then makes several other appearances throughout the series (despite being dead).
  • The same thing happened to some random Mook of Apophis' in the Stargate SG-1 pilot. He didn't even get any lines until he saves all of the main characters near the end. Teal'c went on to join SG-1, and become one of only two characters to remain a main character for all ten seasons.
  • Meanwhile on Stargate Atlantis, the Ancient that becomes known to SG-1 as Merlin (Moros) slips in a cameo appearance nearly three years before he's even alluded to on SG-1.
    • In the Stargate Atlantis pilot "Rising", O'Neill's pilot (pun not intended) initially seems like a throwaway character... until he waltzes into the Antarctic outpost and it turns out that he possesses the Ancient gene, and is immediately recruited into the Atlantis Expedition. Turns out the pilot, Major Sheppard, is The Hero of the new series.
  • In later seasons of Battlestar Galactica a main plot point became that Starbuck had drawn a "mandala" religious symbol in her room which was visible in early season 2; they would then see this symbol on ruins they found, or in clouds as a "sign from God" and Starbuck would state she'd been doodling it since she was a child. However, in behind the scenes interviews, the writers admitted that the ring-shaped mandala symbol in her room in season 2 was just something the art department doodled, even they didn't think it was a "mandala" (just three rings), and the writers came up with the idea by rewatching old episodes and used it as a justification for major changes in the storyline...which in fact, were never planned out from the beginning. Fans eventually realized there was no over-arcing "Plan" to the series...
    • Another example from this show is the character Helo, who was meant to be a one-shot character in the pilot movie. He was well-received by fans, and there were enough inquiries about the fate of the character that they decided to keep him alive. He ultimately became an important character in the overall mythology of the series.
    • This might be evidence of a complete lack of planning, or just a willingness to change course based on feedback or spontaneous ideas that crop up later, while keeping other previously planned details intact. Word of God was generally quite open about explaining in the podcast when something was spontaneous rather than planned, even down to changing the script based on actor improvisation.
  • Weeks before Dominic Monaghan was confirmed to be joining the cast of Flash Forward 2009, his character Dr. Simon Campos makes an appearance in this installment of ABC's "ABC House" ad campaign, complete with an Actor Allusion to Lost (a show that Monaghan previously starred in).
  • Early episodes of The Sarah Connor Chronicles often showed someone watching the Connors, although usually all we could see was an arm with a barcode tattoo. Derek Reese (and, yes, he is related to Kyle) eventually became one of the series leads.
  • Frasier Crane's first appearance on Cheers (Season 3, Episode 1: "Rebound, Part 1") was as a nameless bar patron, until Diane sprung it on Sam that her shrink happened to be at the bar, observing them the whole time! Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) eventually stayed on long after Diane (Shelley Long) left the show, and eventually got his own spin-off.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, when intergalactic blancmanges attempt to win Wimbledon. Two characters are introduced as "not the kind of people to be the centre of one of the most astounding incidents in the history of mankind... So let's forget about them and follow instead the destiny of this man." The couple then prove to be key to the resolution of the plot, and complain to the camera at the end of the sketch: "We tried to tell you at the beginning of the film but you just panned off us."
  • Subverted by the "Man in Members Only Jacket" in the last episode of The Sopranos.
    • Maybe not, considering how many people think he actually shot Tony.
      • Apparently, Steve Perry only let the show use "Don't Stop Believing" if no one died so in a way, Word of God says Tony survived.
    • Played straight by Tony's cousin, Tony Blundetto, whose actions in the fifth season are arguably the main catalyst for the New York-New Jersey War in the last season.
  • In the first episode of Firefly we see advertisements for the Blue Sun Corporation. A little bit later on, we see the characters using various products from them. It turns out that Blue Sun is one of the Big Bads that are peppered throughout the show, and their agents are a serious threat to our favorite crew.
    • Blue Sun was one of the results of Executive Meddling. Fox wanted a Big Bad, Fox got a big bad. They put the Blue Sun logo on the cargo containers in the pilot post-production.
  • Eagle-eyed viewers of the classic Degrassi Junior High will spot numerous "extras" milling around the school that would later go on to play a major role in the series. One of whom was Spike, who wasn't even named for some time despite evolving into the crux of the drama at the end of the first season and turning into one of the franchise's longest running characters. You can see her at the school dance in the second episode as a throwaway character... making out with the guy who would later be the father of her child.
    • The OC did the same thing with Taylor Townsend, who didn't become important until the third season but was clearly present in a number of earlier school scenes.
  • In the first half of Power Rangers Turbo, there was "A Drive to Win", which featured a soccer match. It unusually focused on a player named Carlos and a cheerleader named Ashley. A few episodes later, in "Passing the Torch", we are introduced to Cassie and T.J. who were riding a bus to Angel Grove, and later on we meet Carlos and Ashley again, and at the end of the two-parter, all four replaced the veteran rangers. It was revealed in an unproduced script called "Rangers in Concert" that Tommy, Kat, Tanya, and Adam did see the Millennium Message, thus knowing who their replacements are.
    • Similarly back in Season 2, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha were introduced long before they ended up becoming the new Red, Black, and Yellow Rangers.
  • In Kamen Rider Kabuto, for a good half-dozen episodes, a "tricked-out" rider, bearing a strong resemblance to Kabuto appears and even assists in fights (by out-doing the other riders' own Clock Up). We find out a bit later that this mystery rider is, in fact, Kabuto after his Mid-Season Upgrade.
  • In the fifth season of Angel, Wolfram and Hart's mailman is inexplicable wearing a Mexican wrestling mask at all times. A few episodes in, we learn that he was a member of a team of demon-hunting luchadores who fought an Aztec demon and a robot built by the Devil.
  • Very common in Monk. The office episode has to be a particularly Egregious example: the guy didn't even talk before Monk suddenly singled him out as the killer. The baseball episode is a pretty extreme example as well, considering that the killer turns out to be someone Monk had seen appearing in an advertisement for a few seconds, not speaking, earlier in the case.
    • Another episode pulled this with the "gunman" being beneficial to the heroes. Monk and the detectives are investigating a bank robbery when Randy questions a living statue who was working outside the bank. Randy then is inspired to become a living statue himself and practices the trade throughout the episode, thus implying that the statue's role in the story is over. Later, the heroes are locked in the vault by the perpetrators. They later open a box which turns out to contain the controls for the electronic message board on the front of the bank. They use it to request help. Guess who relays the message to the police.
  • In Space Sheriff Gavan, during one episode Gavan manages to get to the victim of the day before the monster of the week kills him and gets him to safety. He'll live, but only if he gets medical treatment at Gavan's home planet. So he's shipped off to Planet Bird and never spoken of again, until he shows up during the final battle in a Big Damn Heroes moment as Sharivan the newest Sheriff. Turns out Da Chief of the Space Sheriffs approved of his toughness and had him inducted into the Sheriff (actually it was because they found out while treating him that was really the Chosen One for a supposed lost race of people.) He would go on to be the hero in the next series Space Sheriff Sharivan.
  • The Observer in Fringe appears as a bald Man In Black in the background of every episode that nobody seems to notice. In Episode 4 we learn more about him, and that he's somehow connected to the odd incidents that the main characters are investigating.
  • The season two finale of Chuck had Chekhov's Assault Squad, which was important both for a Big Damn Heroes moment and to introduce some new villains.
  • "Doctor Saunders" in Dollhouse. Not only do we find out that she's a doll, but when she reappears in a recent episode ("Getting Closer") she closes the episode by shooting Bennett Halverson (Summer Glau). So she's literally a gunman.
  • A one-off villain who tries to get Angel to off himself in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's third season, plus its minions who live under a Christmas tree lot, seems like a relatively innocuous villain of the week, until it all comes back four seasons later as the Big Bad.
    • The astute viewer probably should have been suspicious, though, since the baddie in question is apparently the "first evil", and you don't get to be the source of all evil without having something going for you.
    • Early in the series, we meet Jonathan repeatedly around their high school. He's usually in some sort of distress and needs to get rescued, until he falls in with Warren and becomes part of the trio of villains for one season
  • An early episode of Babylon 5 introduces a Love Interest for Londo Mollari who leaves him to work out her personal life. Two seasons later, she reappears and is summarily killed as part of a plot by Morden to manipulate Londo into resuming his alliance with the Shadows. It works -- meaning that a character who appears in three episodes (and spends one episode as a corpse, and another as a ghost) turns out to be critical in shaping the entire second half of the story.
    • Another very literal example is Jack, Garabaldi's second in command, who is present in his minor role through much of the first season. At the end of season 1 he is revealed to be involved in a plot to assassinate the President when he shoots Garabaldi in the back to prevent him from warning anyone.
  • Lucy Saxon from Doctor Who, quite literally. For almost two full episodes, she's nothing more than one of Harold Saxon's assets. Then she picks up the gun.
    • We first meet Wilfred Mott as he's running his newsstand on Christmas Eve during Voyage of the Damned, then he becomes much more important later on.
    • In the episode that introduces Martha Jones, an old lady keeps appearing in the background, asking various people for help while aliens are causing chaos, making the audience think she's just a confused and clumsy old lady. Then it's revealed that she's actually the blood-sucking villain the aliens are looking for.
  • Supernatural viewers may remember Adam Milligan, a boy that Sam and Dean meet who is teased at in Season 4 promos to possibly be their half-brother. Turns out, even though he was their brother he was Dead All Along and the boy the Winchesters meet is a Ghoul trying to kill them. Very few people expected to hear from him again... until a Season 5 episode reveals that even though Dean is the Archangel Michael's preferred vessel, he is not his only vessel. Being a vessel is In the Blood... and Dean just happened to inherit the trait from his father. Since Dean won't consent to possession (and he apparently has to, to be used by Angels), guess who is suddenly brought Back From the Dead? HINT: It's not John.
    • It's also implied that the only reason that this worked at all was because the time period was so short.
  • Sherlock: Molly introduces her new boyfriend, Jim, early in the last episode of the first series. In the last scene, he is revealed to be Moriarty.

  "Did I really make such a fleeting impression? But then, I suppose...that was rather the point."

  • Merlin includes a straightforward Chekhov's Gun with Excalibur, which is burnished by dragon's fire during the episode and thrown into a forest lake at its conclusion. The next season introduces a Mysterious Waif called Freya, who dies during the course of the episode and taken by Merlin to the same lake where he sets her body adrift in a small boat upon the water. The episode in question is called "The Lady of the Lake." You connect the dots.
  • Castle used to be in love with this trope. The killer was always the one person they didn't interrogate (especially if it was the grief-stricken relative). It's gotten better in the third season, though.
  • Charmed's third season had the background character of Abbey who worked in Piper's club who was there for about five episodes. Then in the episode Sight Unseen she is revealed to be Prue's stalker.
  • Eureka has a minor example in the episode 'Minor Nobel'. Two elderly scientists shown trying to explain nuclear fission to Zoe later turn out to be members of the title character's team, without which he cannot save the world from an accidentally activated particle cannon.
  • In Community episode "Cooperative Calligraphy", it turns out Troy's pet monkey, who was seen in one episode the previous season, was the thief stealing Annie's pens.


Music Edit

  • "Daughter of Evil" by the Vocaloid Kagamine Rin gives us this example: Early on, the song mentions that the princess has a "Servant with a like face". Turns out that that servant had substituted himself out for the princess and died in her place.


Newspaper Comics Edit

  • Eugene from FoxTrot was this, as the page image suggests. He started out as a minor character in the 1997 Camp story arc, but 3 years later, the Wus, including him, returned, but aside for one strip early on, he never appeared. That is, until it turned out that he was the one who stole Phoebe's camp journal, and left a bunch of fake clues from everyone, setting up the events of the arc.

Professional Wrestling Edit

  • Also happens in Professional Wrestling as companies will use local talent or developmental wrestlers as crowd plants for heels to attack or other roles as police officers or security. Also happens if wrestlers have matches on the B-Shows before having a proper debut on A Shows.
  • Molly Holly actually made two appearances on episodes of WWF Heat back in 1998 under the name Starla Saxton. This was before she joined WCW and later WWE permanently.
  • Candice Michelle was introduced as a backstage make-up artist late in 2004 and appeared in random backstage segments for a while before becoming a prominent character on TV.
  • Another one that shows how well WWE creative team can plan stories in advance is the character of Tori (not Wilson). She was introduced as an obsessed Sable fan at the 1999 Royal Rumble helping Sable win a match and eventually feuding with her going into WrestleMania XV. Watching old Sable matches will show Tori sitting in the front row of the audience regularly for at least two months before she actually debuted on TV.
  • In 2003 the La Resistance stable was your typical Evil Foreigner heel team and one episode had them make their way to the ring and insult a man who appeared to be a US pilot. Later on in the match, the pilot jumped out of the crowd and entered the ring to help La Resistance win their match. Next week he was added to their stable as Rob Conway.
  • The NXT rookies from season 1 could count given that when the season was over, they rampaged WWE and formed The Nexus.


Tabletop Games Edit

  • In Role Playing Games, most RPGA tournament events followed this trope in that if someone was introduced passively, but by name, then that person would return by the end of the event either with the Superweapon or as the Big Bad. One player was heard saying at Gen Con: "Of course I knew he was the bad guy. He was the first NPC we met who was an ass to us."
  • Amara Li was named as a random museum donor in Pathfinder Society's 2nd season. In the 3rd season, she is the leader of a major faction.


Theater Edit

  • Early on in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Chief of Police Andre warns Lawrence, a master conman, that there is an infamous con artist even more skilled than him in town, known as the Jackal. This is promptly forgotten about for most of the show until "The Reckoning," at the climax of the story: after Ms. Colgate, Lawrence and Freddy's con target whom both men had fallen in love with, leaves the scene, having supposedly been swindled out of $50,000 by Freddy, Lawrence and Freddy find that they are the ones swindled out of $50,000, with the lone suitcase they have remaining to them merely containing Freddy's clothes and a note from Ms. Colgate that says "Goodbye, boys; it was fun! Love, The Jackal."
  • Rehearsal For Murder the killer is the man in the back of the auditorium. Also true in the TV movie it's based on.
  • Inverted in the play Rumors when the two biggest players in the show never actually appear on-stage, with one of them only showing up with one line from off-stage at the end.
  • In Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, the one who called the ghosts into the house and is keeping them tied there turns out to be the maid, an overeager girl who for most of the play has just been your typical simple servant played for laughs.
  • Played with a bit in Tom Stoppard's mystery parody The Real Inspector Hound, where both the murderer and the victim are Chekhov's Gunmen.
  • In Hamlet, Laertes is introduced briefly as a character in the first act, before departing for most of the play's storyline. He returns in the fourth act and plays a major role at the end of the play.
  • In Pippin, the torch-wielding player who will play a part in the grand finale makes a false entrance near the beginning of the play.


Video Games Edit

  • The boss of the first dungeon level (Shrine Island) in Skies of Arcadia turns out to be an old and beat version of robotic guardians on Soltis, the sunken continent that Shrine Island is actually a part of.
  • In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh shows up very briefly mucking about in the Prologue. Kuzuki also shows up briefly in the first day of the Fate route, and wouldn't go on to become important until halfway through the UBW route.
    • Similarly, the Avenger class is mentioned in passing as being something of a mistake that happens in the Grail War occasionally as well as the existence of Angra Manyu. These details aren't fully followed up upon until the sequel Fate/hollow ataraxia.
  • The Mortal Kombat action game spin-off Mortal Kombat Mythologies Sub Zero featured the first appearances of a few of the playable characters from Mortal Kombat 4: namely Quan-Chi, Shinnok, and Fujin (who appears as a nameless Wind God). Sareena from the same game was never intended to be a playable character in the fighting games, but became an Ascended Extra when she was reintroduced in the GBA game Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition.
  • Final Fantasy IX has one of these in the form of an Easter Egg. When Baku is describing the plan to Tantalus on the ship at the start of the game, Zidane has the option of saying "That's when I kidnap Queen Brahne, right?" or "That's when I kidnap Princess Garnet, right?" Saying the "Queen Brahne" option a total of 64 times will eventually make Ruby come in and chastise Zidane, long before Ruby is ever properly introduced.
  • Xenosaga Episode I features an Early-Bird Cameo of sorts for one of the major villains of Episode III, the android T-elos. Plans for T-elos are visible scattered around a U-Tic Organization battleship that Jr. and his crew storm. The mysterious young boy Abel also gets a split-second Early-Bird Cameo in the game's ending. Also, several scenes from Episode I's "8 Minute" trailer showcased key events like Jin and Margulis' epic sword fight and the unveiling of Proto Omega, which don't occur until well into Episode II.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has this with the main characters from The Ballad of Gay Tony, Luis Lopez, and The Lost and Damned, Johnny Klebitz. Niko meets Johnny at a party and both are tasked with a drug trade that goes south for both of them. The main game deals with Niko's escape while Lost shows how Johnny escaped. Later Niko helps hold up a bank where Luis is taken hostage. Next Niko and Johnny meet up again at a smuggled diamond exchange at a museum, which also goes south when Luis shows up and shoots up the place. Each game deals with how they got out of there. Finally Niko and his friend Patrick exchange a hostage with Luis and his boss Gay Tony for the diamonds. Then in Lost Johnny has a mission where he sees Luis, Tony, and Tony's boyfriend, new character Evan Moss get the diamonds initially, and steals them.
  • Xion appearing as Ven to Xigbar in Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2.
    • Similarly, Xemnas and "Terra"[1] appearing as Bonus Bosses in the Final Mix Updated Rereleases.
      • Don't forget Aqua's armor and Keyblade in the Chamber of Repose within Hollow Bastion also in Final Mix.
  • In Persona 3: FES you can see most Social Link characters as well as Akihiko being pestered by fangirls during your character's first walks from the school to the dorm.
    • You can also meet all your school Social Links on the first day of school, and even talk to them.
    • Yukari and her Evoker appear briefly in a couple of shots in the first anime cutscene of the game.
    • There's also a non-character example: the music the protagonist is listening to on his headphones during that scene is "Burn My Dread -Last Battle-". This track later plays as a proper BGM (rather than being all muffled and distorted) during the final battle with Nyx.
  • Rise appears in the opening cutscene of Persona 4 in an advertisement before becoming a party member later.
    • The gas station attendant who shakes your hand at the beginning of the game turns out to be the True Ending's Big Bad about 70 hours of gameplay later.
  • In Elite Beat Agents, sometimes, characters will pop up in stages prior to their first appearance. For example, Sam and Max (no, not that Sam and Max) appear in the "Rock This Town" stage, and Bill Mitchell, Tex and Amanda appear in "Sk8er Boi".
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation Divine Wars features a number of cameos by characters from the second OG game, even though Divine Wars touches only the story of the first.
    • Used for hilarious results in OG Gaiden where Touma (Alpha 3 protagonist who has yet to appear in the series proper) appears as a Soba Delivery man, and in a voice acting joke, later on gets harassed by the Shura General Magnaz Ald, who happens to be voiced by the same seiyuu of his future rival Baran Doban (do note that Touma has yet to take a level in badass, so it is very plausible that he offers so little resistance). There's also Aqua Centrum (SRW MX protagonist) as a regular Federation soldier, in a Continuity Nod, Aqua says that she would never wear anything as Stripperiffic as Lamia Loveless' clothes. She's right: In MX, she wears even less.
    • There was also a Gunman in the Alpha series, in the first installment, you get to meet Mio Sasuga, one of the Elemental Lord heralds and she tells you to 'wait up for the next game', because she's going to appear. Guess what, she DOES appear in Alpha Gaiden (along with the rest of the Elemental Lords crews).
    • Also, in Super Robot Wars W, Yumi Francois, David Krugel and Natasha Pablociva from Tekkaman Blade II make an early cameo being visibly taken over by the Radam tree near the end of the first half, and later appearing in the second half as playable characters. They certainly didn't appear visibly (taken over off-screen) in the original first Tekkaman Blade.
    • In the same game, Mwu La Flaga, Gai Murakumo, and Yohko from Detonator Orgun all appear in the first half of the game as playable characters, even though their storylines technically don't even happen until the second half.
  • Genesis Rhapsodos, the principle antagonist to Final Fantasy VII's prequel game, Crisis Core, first appears in the secret ending of its sequel Dirge of Cerberus nearly a year earlier.
  • Baten Kaitos has one with an important villain for a good portion of the game being visible while the player selects his/her name and gender. This is later shown when the player witnesses the same scene as part of the story.
  • Perhaps the best example of this trope is played in Troika's Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, where Jack, the first person you interact with, along with The Cab Driver responsible for getting the Main Character around Los Angeles, turn out to be responsible for everything that has happened throughout the game. The Cab Driver is even heavily implied to be Cain, the Father of all Vampires! Amusingly, if the player chooses to play as a Malkavian, this plot twist is Lampshaded during dialogue with some characters, though it is difficult to spot without having played through the game at least once.
  • This is the primary means of identifying people you can recruit for your army in Exit Fate.
  • In Dragon Age, an unnamed Circle mage at Ostagar objects to Cailan's plan to have The Warden and Alistair light the beacon for the army - and is promptly slapped down for his impudence by a nearby priestess. He turns out to be Uldred, a blood mage who later becomes the demon-infested stage boss of the Circle Tower.
    • And in Dragon Age II, during the first scene of Act I, an imperious armored woman with blonde curls glares down at a pickpocket as she passes by. Much later, she turns out to be Knight-Commander Meredith, head of Kirkwall's Templars and the game's Final Boss.
  • In Breath of Fire III, there's Peco, seemingly unimportant to the plot, with all his lines being pretty much comic relief. Then, out of nowhere, he saves your entire party from total annihilation simply because he's Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life.
  • At the beginning of Fahrenheit (2005 video game)/Fahrenheit, we are introduced to a homeless man who watches Lucas flee the diner. If you talk to him as Carla and ask the right questions, he'll tell you his name is Bogart and he saw the "Devil, himself" leave the diner. At the end of the game, it turns out Bogart was the head of a secret organization of homeless people, battling the bad guys.
  • Zack in Final Fantasy VII is only mentioned off-handedly by Aeris/th, and an old couple early in the game, but of course he holds the key to figuring out Cloud's past. He's now considered important enough to warrant starring in a short anime and his own game, he even gets a last name (Fair). Even though anyone who's played FFVII knows how it will end...
    • And on the subject of Cloud's past, there's the Shinra soldier that is seen throughout Cloud's flashbacks of the Nibelheim incident. It turns out to be Cloud himself, as Zack was REALLY the one that was in SOLDIER and was Sephiroth's partner.
  • In Final Fantasy X a creepy and random child would appear every now and then, mainly forming in the main character Tidus' dreams. Eventually, he is revealed to be the Bahamut Fayth.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, the first flashback (right after the party gets turned into Pulse l'cie) briefly shows a Hot Amazon having a drink and talking to Lebreau. All that's mentioned about her is that she's looking for someone. Later on, she becomes the Sixth Ranger of the group, one who was involved in Pulse's initial attack on Cocoon that started the whole fear of Pulse l'Cie in the first place.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network 2, every so often, a gray haired kid who doesn't speak when you talk to him pops up in random places. Sure enough, he's the Big Bad.
    • Same thing happens with a certain Russian scientist in Battle Network 3...
      • Also, a possible subversion... In the Mega Man Star Force anime, as the FM-ians are outside the TV station ready to gate-crash Libra's show, Hope Stelar/Akane Hoshikawa (Geo's/Subaru's mum) is seen walking nearby behind them (And with an arrow pointing her out in a style similar to how every Chekhov's Gun in Ouran High School Host Club is pointed out). Amusingly enough, she DOES end up as a contestant in Libra's show and beats Cancer at it, but she ends up losing all importance afterwards.
  • The first meeting with Shandra Jerro in Neverwinter Nights 2 seems to serve no purpose and feels like filler. Then her grandfather becomes important to the plot. She's held Hostage for McGuffin, is rescued, joins the party...
  • When players first meet Tabatha in Tales of Symphonia, they are quick to write her off as a background NPC, or if they are savvy enough a failed vessel for Martel. By the end of the game she fulfils her original purpose; hosting the soul of Martel and becoming the guardian spirit of the new Tree of Mana.
    • Likewise, Yuan. First appears prior to Kratos's first Face Heel Turn, repeatedly, and definitely looks important. Remarkably, he manages to pull it off again in the second game, where he looks sufficiently different enough that you can't be sure if that's really him or not when you first meet him in Asgard, very early in the game. Right near the end, it proves to be him.
    • A bit of an aversion comes from the fact that many of the important characters have a theme song that plays when they show up, which kinda ruins the surprise if you figured that out early on.
  • In Red's Scenario in Saga Frontier, Dr. Klein is connected to a Terrorist Organization known as Black X mentioned early on in the story, at the very end he says that he is the one behind everything. Not the case as the Real Leader is another being completely
  • Valant Gramarye in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.
    • Ditto Daryan Crescend.
    • Lang's assistant Shih-na, who barely says a word throughout the entirety of the case she first appears in, is Calisto Yew, murderer and The Dragon to the head of the smuggling ring.
    • Special mention goes to Misty Fey, who was only mentioned in passing at the beginning of the first game, then shows up as both major character and victim in the last case of the Phoenix Arc.
    • Honestly, there's always at least one witness that turns out like this, if not the killer himself. If the game is trying to keep you from paying attention to them, they probably did it.
    • Investigations 2 plays with this trope with Ryouken Houinbo. The first time he's introduced, Edgeworth is sure he's the killer, but he's not. Then you find out while he didn't commit the murder, he was pretty much the indirect cause of it. But just when you think you've seen the end of him... he turn out to be vital to the plot of the last case.
    • Also Sota Sarushiro, introduced in the same case as a seemingly wrongly accused person, turns out to be the Big Bad of the game.
  • In Wild Arms 3, you'll occasionally notice a purple-haired little girl. She might just walk by for a second as you enter a town or dungeon, or show up standing near a plot-important character as he begins conspicuously talking to himself. She is, of course, the Big Bad Manipulative Bastard.
  • Of course, THE example in video gaming would be the G-Man in Half-Life who's seen in almost every level from the very beginning of the game in quick and silent appearances. Of course he turns out to be the most important character in the game.
  • Secundo, the Ambiguously Gay and Ambiguously Spanish AI from Beyond Good and Evil. He appears briefly in the first half-hour, then slinks back into the shadows, mostly just spewing pre-set lines... Of course, in the end, he's able to hack into the broadcast satellite on the moon and project the evidence of the Alpha Section's atrocities to all of Hillys.
  • Melchior in Chrono Trigger manages to pull it off twice. He's first introduced as a sympathetic merchant living near Medina, but turns out to be the only blacksmith capable of repairing the Masamune. Then it later turns out that he is one of the displaced gurus from 12,000 B.C.
    • The game's first boss, Yakra, is a great example of this trope. Although initially introduced as just a commander in Magus' army, and killed very early on, it is actually his defeat at the hands of the heroes that causes his descendant to seek revenge on Crono, by impersonating the Chancellor of 1000 A.D. and staging a fake trial, which ultimately pushes the heroes to escape to 2300 A.D. and learn about Lavos, setting the game's story into motion. What is amazing is that it is not until very late in the game--and in an optional sidequest--that you actually learn that the reason Crono was arrested and sentenced to death upon arriving home from 600 A.D. was not because the Chancellor was overzealous about Marle's safety, but because you "just" (well, 400 years ago) defeated a seemingly unimportant monster
    • Heck, Chrono Trigger requires its own folder for all of the examples of Chekhov's gunmen. There's the old man at the End of Time, who introduces the mechanics of time travel and magic to the party...and then, much later, we find out that he is Gaspar, the Zealian Guru of Time, and also creates the Chrono Trigger designed to reverse the flow of time to revive Crono after his Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Magus takes this concept Up to Eleven. He gets introduced as simply being the Big Bad of the Middle Ages, but his real significance to the plot is revealed slowly over the course of the game. He is revealed to be the reason why Frog is in his amphibian form, then we first meet him trying to summon the Final Boss. And then we meet him in 12,000 B.C., in two forms at once. He is conspicuously introduced as both a bizarre prophet who is using his own knowledge of the future to manipulate the Queen of Zeal, and the young Prince Janus (who is a Chekhov's Gunman in his own right), who is later shown being blasted into the Middle Ages, after (in his adult form) both he and the player party lose a Hopeless Boss Fight against Lavos. And then again, he is later recruitable.
    • Think you can pick out a Gunman just because of his custom sprite? Not so fast. Famously, Flea, one of Magus's generals, will first appear as a generic Juggler Enemy (coupled with a "Flea?" name during battle). It is until after the battle, however, that you learn that the true Flea has been there the entire time, as the tiny, generic little bat that's been following you since Magic Cave.
    • Several of the people at Millennial Fair can also qualify as Chekhov's Gunmen. Although they do not affect gameplay directly, helping/leaving them alone will help prove Crono innocent later on.
      • Speaking of which, The Trickster Norstein Bekkler is an inversion of this trope combined with a Guide Dang It: He appears as a special character, but is simply the introduction to several minigames, which have almost no impact on the actual game. However, later you are required to find someone who can produce a Clone of Crono to save the poor boy from oblivion. Guess who you have to find? If you never played any of his minigames, you would never figure it out. Granted, you don't actually have to accomplish this task to continue with the game, but reviving the main character is kinda important.
  • Subverted in Chrono Cross: the element shopkeeper in Termina has virtually no plot significance, despite being one of a small handful of characters with portraits that aren't playable characters. In fact, there are plenty of characters who are more important who don't get portraits, such as the Chrono Trigger kids' time crash ghosts.
  • No One Lives Forever features a middle-age drunk civilian who appears in almost every level of the game. In the After the Credits reveal, he's shown to be the Big Bad Director of H.A.R.M., and serves as the main villain in the sequel.
  • In the sandbox-style open-world First Person Shooter Boiling Point: Road to Hell, a patron in the bar at the beginning of the game turns out to be The game's Big Bad. Because most of the people in the game are Signpost NPCs with identical dialogue, it's very likely you'll ignore him and miss out on talking to him entirely, and thus have no idea who the character is supposed to be when he suddenly becomes relevant to the main plot towards the end of the game.
  • The first few days in Persona 3 have over half the future Social Links making quick appearances.
    • True, but none of those pretend to be anything other than what they are, and players who are aware of the Social Link mechanic would naturally see any character they meet as a potential link. A better example is Ikutsuki, a conspicuously inoffensive character who is introduced early on, does next to nothing of note for much of the game (he's one of the few characters who fails to exhibit any obvious signs of a Dark and Troubled Past), and surprises absolutely no one when he turns out to be The Man Behind the Man.
    • In Persona 4, the gas station attendant, who is the third character you meet at the very beginning of the game in a seemingly throwaway appearance punctuated by controller vibration turns out to be the one directly responsible for everything that happens. You don't find this out unless you're on the road to the True Ending. This is also particularly well hidden because the player has been trained by this point to assume that anyone without a portrait is irrelevant to the plot -- up until the reveal, the gas station attendant only has a normal, inconspicuous character model. He only gets one after The Reveal.
      • Made all the more effective by the fact that while players will note the vibrating controller, plus the fact that the MC feels nauseated after meeting him, the game is so long, plus the fact that any other contact you can have with the Attendant are the optional mini-conversations that you can have with any other NPC, that most players will forget about meeting him at all before the first in-game month is out!
    • In a smaller sense, Naoto Shirogane only appears as a relatively minor character just before the second dungeon, and later becomes your final party member. Then there's Taro Namatame...
    • Don't forget Rise Kujikawa, who appears in a short commercial in the beginning then later becomes your support character.
    • As well as Adachi, who is ultimately revealed as the murderer despite being a mere inept detective up to that point. The game's main plot practically runs off of this trope.
  • Captain Wesker in Resident Evil fits this quite well. He poofs off at the start of the game and then turns out to be the Big Bad of the entire series, except for Resident Evil 4. Kind of.
    • Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine also qualify. In Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Claire mentions that she had never expected to use her brother's training whilst in zombie-occupied Raccoon City, meaning that she learned how to survive from him. In Jill's case, being infected with the T-Virus and surviving thanks to Carlos producing an antidote in Nemesis isn't that big of a deal...until it is discovered after tackling Wesker through a glass window before Resident Evil 5 that her bloodstream held a rare strain of T-virus antibodies which Wesker uses for his Uroboros research.
  • When you beat Garland as the first boss of Final Fantasy I, before the adventure properly begins, did you really think you'd ever see him again? And as the last boss, no less?
  • In Conkers Bad Fur Day, the three cavemen punks you see in the Rock Solid level standing next to the giant keg serve only as decoration. You later see them again when they mug you and challenge you to a hoverboard race. Ironically enough, the fourth member that you don't see in Rock Solid is the one that falls off his board and dies.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the seemingly generic Dark Jedi to whom Trask Ulgo sacrifices himself so you can escape is later revealed to be Darth Bandon, Malak's apprentice. You also meet Mission, Zaalbar, Canderous, and Calo Nord in the Taris Lower City before they become important characters.
    • Malak's former master Darth Revan is shown in flashback a couple of times, only for others to mention that Revan is dead now. They're wrong. Revan is the player's character.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, The Hub Level has one Thorntail that doesn't speak to Fox, grumbling that he's tired. Turns out he's the fourth and final Gatekeeper.
  • Stage 2 of Touhou Project game Perfect Cherry Blossom features the nekomata Chen as midboss and boss. She is written off as an unhelpful nuisance, like most bosses before Stage 4. In the Extra Stage, she returns as the midboss - she's the shikigami of Ran Yakumo, the Extra Boss and herself shikigami to Phantasm Boss Yukari Yakumo.
    • But wait! It gets better with Kogasa in Undefined Fantastic Object. Surprise! And again in Ten Desires!
    • In Subterranian Animism, the cat miniboss in Stage 4 turns out to be Orin, the main boss (AND miniboss) of Stage 5. And she shows up again as the miniboss of the final stage.
    • Goes Up to Eleven with Nue. To her credits she's an Extra Boss in Touhou 12, but by her own admission, she's not directly connected to the story. Who would have thought that she has connection with Mamizou, who is supposed to defeat Toyosatomimi-no-Miko in Touhou 13.
  • Vyers Mid-Boss starts out as a speedbump and doesn't get much better. Sure, he can pick up Flonne's holy pendant without getting burned, but that's probably because he's too lame to actually be evil. At the end of the game, it turns out he's the spirit of King Krichevskoy, Laharl's father, who's been working with the Seraph to test if Laharl is ready to be the Overlord.
    • Earlier in the game, the castle's monster occupants show up to save your underleveled butt after it gets kicked by an Alternate Netherworld monster. Before and after that they're pretty much decorations.
    • In the third game, Geoffry seems minor, but he's the Big Bad of the game.
  • Ryuji Yamazaki was introduced in Fatal Fury 3 as a Psycho for Hire under the Jin twins. In the later series The King of Fighters, it was revealed that at least some of his madness is caused by his Orochi blood; he's a member of the Orochi clan central to the main plot in The King of Fighters series. Subverted somewhat in that he just doesn't care.
  • Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door played this trope pretty commonly. Of note are Flavio and General White, who both debuted at least five chapters before they were needed. Another example is Goldbob, who appeared in several chapters in different locations with his family before his major role. The game had a running gag about Mario running into several unimportant recurring characters each time he arrived in a new locale, and Goldbob blended in perfectly.
    • The original did this with Parakarry.
  • In the original Super Mario Bros game, killing the Fake Bowser with fireballs at the end of World 3 will actually turn him into a Buzzy Beetle. Buzzy Beetles actually do not appear until World 4-2, and unlike the one mentioned above, cannot be killed with fireballs.
    • Another example is the first Fake Bowser, who is actually a gray Goomba. In the final level, all Goombas there are colored gray.
  • Ghost Trick has a habit of making the most innocuous characters turn out to be extremely plot-relevant. This includes Missile, who comes back as ghost and ally in chapter fourteen and Ray, who makes The Dog Was the Mastermind literal, but the most egregious is that black cat who shows up in the junkyard for two seconds. Not only is that the Big Bad possessing the cat's body, but the body is Sissel's actual corpse.
  • Command and Conquer: That bald guy in the third mission intro? He's the Big Bad for the entire series.
    • In Red Alert, every so often, a bald, goateed man appears and tells Stalin various things, though players don't get to hear his lines. Then the ending appears, and you realize said bald, goateed man is quite the Magnificent Bastard.
  • Paladins Quest has Duke, a party member who only stays with you for roughly the first five minutes of the game. He turns out to be Zaygos, who was using you to awaken the destructive creature Dal Gren.
  • Marx, from Kirby Super Star, is introduced at the beginning when he tells you the objective for Milky Way Wishes, wishes you luck, and you leave. You don't see him again until the very end, when he reveals that he set up the whole thing so he could rule the world.
  • In The Spirit Engine2, you can see the Big Bad walking through the background in Chapter 3, if you keep your eyes open and know what to look for. Also, later on, he makes a brief stint as Mr. Exposition.
  • Subverted in Grandia II by Tessa, who might fool you into thinking she may be recruitable, or secretly a bad guy, but is in fact neither and dies for real within 10 minutes, despite having a VA and profile picture.
  • In the DS game The World Ends With You aka It's A Wonderful World, a slightly different sprite can be seem in a crowded scene at the beginning of the game, chillin' and not even having a line. Or moving. Or doing anything, for the matter. He's in fact the fourth main character, and the one who set up everything in the game to happen.
  • Mother 3 gives us Leder, the incredibly tall, silent guy standing by the bell at the start of the game who you probably ignored. Turns out that he was entrusted to be the only one to retain any memory of the events that lead up to the settlement of civilisation on the Nowhere Islands. Who knew?
  • The grave digger in God of War. When you first meet him he's just some weird guy digging an arbitrary hole. Several days later you're fighting your way through the Underworld when he pulls you out of the hole, right outside where you need to be (which would've taken a hell of a lot longer to get to if Ares hadn't whipped a pillar into your chest from several miles away). He's also Zeus.
  • The Kid in Jak II isn't just the lost heir, he's Jak's younger self. Also, Veger may have kicked Jak out of Haven, but it wasn't personal... except he knew that Jak was the little kid, he knew who Jak's father was, and he was responsible for separating the two of them in the first place.
  • Amy of the Soul Series first appeared in a minor role in the Attract Mode of Soul Calibur II hiding Raphel from Guards. She returns as a playable bonus character and Raphel's main motivation in the next game, revamped for the arcade version into a full character and then revamped again for Soul Calibur IV as a full character.
    • Also, Algol in Soul Calibur IV; he's been mentioned as the "Hero King" who created Soul Calibur in pretty much every game beforehand, finally getting a fully-playable reveal in IV.
  • The Blood Omen Series has a brilliant example of this. Janos Audron is only a passing detail of flavor text in one of the items' descriptions in the very first game of the series, never mentioned anywhere else. He reappears to be a mentor to Raziel in the second game, then we learn that his species, of which he is the last specimen, are actually ancestors to the vampires of this universe.
  • In Metroid Fusion, Samus mentions that her new ship's onboard AI reminds her of her old CO, Adam Malkovich, who had died. It turns out that he actually is Adam, revealed when he says Something Only They Would Say.
  • In Star Control II, a player's very first encounter will most likely be with a "drone-vessel" of the Ur-Quan. When you talk to them, in the corner of the screen is a small, frog-like animal which translates for them. It's there just to add flavor, right? So very wrong, as they later turn out to actually be the Dnyarri, an ancient race of evil psychics, who enslaved the Ur-Quan ages ago. The Ur-Quan have since rebelled and managed to free themselves, then proceeded to take their revenge by turning the Dnyarri into mindless animals. An "awakened" Dnyarri has a rather major role in the game.
  • In the Story Mode opening for Blaz Blue: Calamity Trigger, one scientist offhandedly refers to the failed subject eleven. Guess who becomes one of the playable characters? Less offhandedly, you have Tsubaki Yayoi and Hazama, who start as NPCs but are playable in Continuum Shift.
    • And now we have Makoto Nanaya and Valkenhayn via DLC.
  • Fire Emblem is full of these, often in the form of characters giving you items in villages, and even in the houses scattered about the battle field. One example in particular that stands out is the Bishop Renault, first encountered giving you a small item in one of the early chapters. Turns out he joins the party in the last two chapters. Furthermore, you can find out via support conversation that He murdered Lucius' parents, was Wallace's battle instructor, and he was Nergal's Guinea Pig in developing his morphs.
    • There's also Finn from Genealogy of the Holy War, who was fairly unimportant in the First Generation but comes back in the Second Generation and in Thracia 776 as a father-figure to Leaf and one of the figureheads of Lenster's liberation movement.
    • Path of Radiance has one too: In one of the early chapters, in which you rout a bunch of pirates from a port, there is a house you can visit with a man that gives you an Elixir. That man is none other than Nasir, who just so happens to be a rather important character in the game, as well as a pretty decent unit to play with.
  • In the Game Boy Color game Magi Nation, there is one who is practically a Chekhov's boss. In the third Shadow Geyser, you are suddenly stopped by someone named Warranda who summons a creature (and is practically a joke boss) She says a few things to you and then vanishes...making you wonder what the point of that was (unless you didn't return the Key to Ashkar). Then in the fourth Shadow Geyser, she appears to be the guardian of it, but gives you an offer. She'll either give you the Plot Coupon and let you go without a boss fight (making it the easiest Shadow Geyser after the first one) or you can fight her. If you take it and leave, you'll seemingly avoid a boss battle. HOWEVER, if you do this, in the fifth shadow geyser, she mysteriously appears out of nowhere and tells Tony that he promised to leave, and didn't, so it was time to fight her. (Whether or not she's more powerful at this point isn't really known)
  • In Killer 7, while running through the early stages your character is constantly being contacted by a man named Johnny Gagnon, his messages arriving by carrier pigeon. This wouldn't be too unusual if he didn't address every letter to someone named Emir and wasn't writing about the Smith syndicate you play as. Later, you learn about a man named Emir Parkreiner, who is the most important character in the game and the murderer of the Killer7 in their past lives. It would make sense that Emir hired Gagnon to get information on the seven assassins so as to have some intel on his targets.
  • In Starcraft, we have Duran, the ghost who betrayed the UED and disappeared sometime during the Zerg campaign of Brood War. Turns out he's been taking the alias Narud in Wings of Liberty seeking Xel' Naga artifacts and is in league with the true Big Bad of the series, the Fallen One.
  • World of Warcraft has a bunch of characters like this. Some of the more notable cases include:
    • Tirion Fordring, who made his debut in the Eastern Plaguelands all the way back in the original release. Here he was a disgraced former paladin who gave you a couple of quests, culminating in him taking up his sword again. Two expansion packs later, he shows up again as the Supreme Commander of the Argent Crusade and is one of the most important characters in Wrath of the Lich King. His shiny new levels in badass come complete with his own unique legendary blade pulled straight from the Expanded Universe and a few one-on-one battles with no less a figure than the Lich King himself.
    • Gryan Stoutmantle, a low-level questgiver who hangs out in Sentinel Hill in the original content and leads the Westfall Militia. Come Wrath, he's been upgraded to Captain Gryan Stoutmantle, leader of the Westfall Brigade and commander of the Alliance's military efforts in Grizzly Hills.
  • In Tales of Legendia, the first time Senel encounters the Bantam Bouncers, you can spot someone who has a unique model in the bottom of the screen - it's actually Grune, a later party member and is pretty much God.
  • The original Fallout doesn't so much have a Chekhov's Gunman as it has a Chekhov's town. The game's First Town is a quaint little village where you perform a few mini quests like giving pointers to the town farmers, clearing out a nearby radscorpion den, helping create an antidote to radscorpion venom, and dealing with the local Raider threat. This small village goes on to become the New California Republic, one of the most powerful and influential factions in the setting.
  • The second Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game features Torkoal, the local elder, who the heroes meet at a hot spring at the end of Waterfall Cave. He turns up again when the heroes and the guild need a lead on where to find the Hidden Land; being the oldest Pokemon in Treasure Town, Torkoal supplied his old wisdom to the guild, and thanks to him, they managed to find where it is.
    • Drowzee, the second boss and first outlaw that the main characters arrest. In the post game, he helps the main characters get into Azurill's nightmare after being let out of prison and being sorry for what he did to Azurill before.
    • Cyrus in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, as well as Platinum. He's introduced relatively early on in Diamond and Pearl, and very early in Platinum, but you don't find out who he is until later. In Pokémon Black and White, the same thing was done with N Harmonia.
    • Arley, Hocus, Kasa, and Edward from Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs. They are introduced at various points in the game, Arley and Edward are introduced at the beginning. The player dismisses them as pointless NPCs. Towards the middle of the game, they all gather and have a tea party. Towards the end of the game, they raise a giant fortress into the sky, and they destroy the island that they player started out in. It turns out they were controlling the evil group of the game, and they wanted to take over the world. They are the final bosses of the game.
    • In both of the Gamecube Pokemon games, you meet a stout and kind old man 15 minutes into the game. They are the leaders of Cipher, the crime syndicate terrorizing Orre, and they are the final bosses of their respective games.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has an example that only pays off in the ending credits. Remember that creepy withered tree near where Link is cursed into Deku Scrub form? Remember how, if you take the "chase the Deku Butler through the maze" sidequest, he'll mention that you remind him of his son? The credits shows him sitting in front of that tree, grieving.
  • Dr. Harlan Fontaine in LA Noire only appeared in some newspaper flashbacks where the early ones usually showed him doing seemingly innocuous things. It turned out that he was one of higher up members of the Suburban Redevelopment Fund which was responsible for the events of the Arson section.
  • Janos Audron is mentioned in precisely two lines in Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, presumably to never be seen or heard of again. Two games later, he became a major character and the main driving force behind the Big Bad's actions.
  • The Orion Conspiracy introduces you to a tough female pilot named Brooks. She seems to have only a small role in the game. Later, she gets killed off trying to stop a berserk Ward and LaPaz drags her body out of the corridor. Later, when you get to the shuttle, you find out that the NavCom chip was destroyed, effectively crippling the shuttle. However, LaPaz reveals that there is a backup chip...located in Brooks's brain! Squick, but it does explain why LaPaz dragged Brooks's body out of a corridor that had to be sealed shortly afterwards.
  • At the very start of Guild Wars Prophecies, you meet a friendly, innocent 10 year old girl named Gwen. You can talk to her and she will follow you around. If you give her flowers and a new flute, she will even give you a tapestry shred as a sign of friendship. Then the Searing happens and Ascalon is destroyed, ending the tutorial and beginning the game for real one year later. Gwen is not mentioned again, although you can find a broken flute and a torn girl's cape, implying she had been a victim of the Searing. Two full follow-up games and an expansion pack later, you meet up with Gwen again, now 8 years older and a cold-hearted, ass-kicking Mesmer, after spending years as a slave. She goes on to be a major character in the Eye of the North expansion pack and the subsequent Guild Wars Beyond missions.
    • As a bonus, the tapestry shroud she gave you kicks off a quest where you go on a mission with her to find, you guessed it, the flute you gave her 8 years ago. Chekhov's Gun, indeed.
  • Castlevania: Lament of Innocence has Elisabetha Cronqvist, Mathias' wife. Her death basically kicks off the whole series.
  • Heihachi Mishima. The guy locks up his dad, tosses his son into a ravine, adopts another kid which becomes his first son's rival, and guns down his grandson. Yeah, it's safe to say that Heihachi's actions drives the series.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, while optionally talking to your boss at the courier agency, you can find out you weren't the first pick for the Platinum Chip job that got you shot. The first guy for the job, a fellow named Ulysses, saw your name on the list, forfeited it and said you should have it. In the DLC, he turns out to be...rather important.
  • Mass Effect 1 has a Sidequest in which Shepard has to deactivate a rogue Alliance VI that has apparently achieved sentience. Very late in Mass Effect 3, it's revealed that the AI was actually a very early prototype of EDI, the Normandy's artificial intelligence in the second and third games and a squadmate in ME3.
  • Sindel falls under this trope as well. Revived by Quan Chi's necromancy, later powered up by Shang Tsung's soul by Shao Kahn, which leads her to slaughter her daughter and most of the Forces of Light, with Nightwolf killing both him and Sindel in the process.


Web Comics Edit

  • Mike from Bob and George made a brief appearance at the very end of Mynd's introductionary storyline. In a later animated strip, he and Chadling make an appearance as potential characters Proto Man could be teaming up (who turned out to be Roll). Both characters are properly introduced in the second storyline featuring Mynd.
  • The very first strip of Ozy and Millie features background characters who would become important later.
  • Jones from Gunnerkrigg Court. Her first mention in the comic was so subtle that no one noticed it at the time. Then she was introduced standing next to the Headmaster at the parlay, watching the proceedings silently. As it turns out, she's responsible for training the future Medium, and she's a valuable source of information.
  • In Tales of the Questor, there is a small story where Linneaus, a Raccoonan pastor learns that the Alligator people in the swamp were looking for information about God and he volunteers to go to them as a missionary. While that story seems like a postscript story to the strip's first major continuity, there is a later story where a wizard tells of a boy with a powerful talent for magic who goes half-crazed in horror of his power and the people who tried to exploit him and he was last seen running into the swamp, never to be seen again. These stories may be unrelated, but given the religious allegory nature of the strip, it would seem that the boy is inadvertently heading for the one Raccoonan who can help him.
  • Girl Genius: Krosp the emperor of all cats is in the last panel of This page among Dr. Demitri's teddybears.
    • Moloch von Zinzer at first appears to be just a throwaway enemy. In just a few short pages, he comes back to play a larger role. The clank in the time window doesn't actually come into being until years (our time and comic time) later. Von Zinzer's true importance is hinted at when Dupree gives her phenomenon report to Klaus.
    • Merlot is of minor importance, when we first meet him, and then one last time years later.
    • The Geisters... they first appear in the above-mentioned phenomenon report from Dupree.
    • Franz, a huge lizardlike monster who lives in the sewers of Mechanicsburg was introduced trying to have a nap in june 2008. In december 2011, he awoke, and came to the defense of the Heterodynes.
  • During the Sister arc of El Goonish Shive, Tedd and Elliot found the diary of the wizard who created the diamond that had "created" Ellen. Guess who the antagonist of the arc Sister II is, six years later.
  • In an early Order of the Stick strip, Sabine mentions that she is a servant of "the archfiends" sent to aid (and get sex from) Nale. Later on, we see a brief flashback of her in the Lower Planes, where she receives orders from three rather ominous looking cloaked figures. These three figures have recently been introduced as characters in their own right, the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission, and look to be shaping up as very important villains...
    • And now we have Elan and Nale's father Tarquin, who only appeared in a single panel of a cutaway gag in one of the early strips.
    • For his early appearances in the story, Blackwing is the subject of jokes about how DND players neglect their familiars when playing as arcane casters. Then he plays a crucial role in O-Chul and Vaarsuvius' plan to destroy Xykon's phylactery, and gets a promotion to major character.
  • In Eight Bit Theater, the little kid who is orphanized by the Light Warriors is introduced and makes some minor appearances, until it's revealed that it's Sarda's past self.
  • Incidental characters in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob usually wind up with something more significant to do later on. Rocko Sasquatch is probably the best example, being introduced as just a quick joke--the huge scary guy Bob has to share a jail cell with for a couple of strips--and then returning two years later as a major character.
  • In Ménage à 3, one of the many passer-bys who are impressed by DiDi's assets shows obvious A-Cup Angst in the first panel here. She returns as a psych student who thinks she can treat Yuki's problems. The author uses a Brick Joke to establish that she's the same person. When first we see her again, she's reading a pamphlet about breast enlargement.
  • Drowtales has been running since 2001 so naturally has plenty of these, but perhaps the best example is Sha'sana, who narrates the prologue and is seen for one page, and was implied to have been killed by Snadhya'rune, until 25 chapters later when she's revealed to have survived.
  • In Homestuck, from very near the debut of the first troll it was revealed that there were twelve of them, and in some panels of the kids' Pesterchum chumlists you can see their trolltags. All were introduced later; some stayed minor characters, others... didn't.
    • Then there's the alternate John who Terezi tricked into flying to his death. His death led to the Dave in his timeline going back and becoming Davesprite, but after that he was completely forgotten until dead Vriska meets him with a dream bubble, and thinking he's "her" John, takes him on a tour/date.
    • Oh look, it's a little guy walking across the desert. Oh, he's found something with a spirograph on it, hey, is that John? Oh, this Wayward Vagabond guy was the one talking! Aaaand he's going to be the one who fights Jack Noir.
    • John is described early on as having a deep-seated hatred for Betty Crocker. It's mostly played for laughs, until the Doc Scratch intermission of Act 5 Act 2, where it's revealed that Betty Crocker wasn't human, and is mostly likely the Troll Empress, working for Lord English.
      • The Empress herself is also a Chekhov's Gunman, having been referred to in Feferi's introduction.
    • In Act 6, we meet Jane Crocker, Nanna's teenage alternate. Her appearance was first previewed back in Act 4, two thousand pages and about a year and a half prior.
  • In one strip of Shortpacked! a nameless woman working at a supermarket shows up. A while later she begins dating one of the main characters and became one herself. When the author went back and titled some of his earlier strips he called the one she appeared in "She'll Show Up More Later".
  • In one of the first story arcs of Demon Eater, we see a white giant. Later on, she's revealed to be a member of one of the strongest Demon Societies in the story.
  • In Prophecy of the Circle this happens to a couple of tekk characters, mostly because the first chapter is told from the perspective of the tikedi, who are their enemies and can't communicate with them.
    • Renn'tekk, who first appears as a random, nameless tekk wrecking havoc in a tikedi village, but becomes an important character after the first perspective-flipped chapter.
    • Shan'rekk too doesn't get a proper introduction when he first appears, although in his case it's plainly visible that he's important, or at least a very unique tekk.
  • Like the FoxTrot example, in a Pv P Online murder mystery arc, Francis is briefly shown, then fades as suspicion shifts to "Tom Bolero." Francis turns out to be the murderer.
  • In Spacetrawler, the apex speaker (and apparent Big Bad) Kuu-Drahc is accompanied by an unnamed personal assistant when he heads a meeting of the GOB. Later, the protagonists learn that Kuu-Drahc is not the big bad, but takes orders from a Man Behind the Man named Qwahntoo. Then they find out that Kuu-Drahc's "personal assistant" from earlier was actually Qwahntoo.
  • The Other Grey Meat has a character named Chekov, who happens to be one of the few survivors of a failed raid on the Big Bad.


Web Original Edit

  • Iron Liz makes her first appearance in the Atop the Fourth Wall/The Spoony Experiment Crossover Warrior #2 and #3, saying "Wait. Who am I?", She made her first official appearance in the Atop the Fourth Wall review of Chain Gang War #1
    • During a Christmas review, Linkara refuses to do Yet Another Christmas Carol, even though the spirits keep arriving. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come gets a reaction from him... "Is that a robot hand?" It's the first appearance of Mechakara within the reviews.
  • Two of them in Broken Saints. The first is the hobo Raimi meets near the alleyway, who seems to be nothing but another one of his hallucinations. The second is the supposedly dead Lear Dunham, one of the co-founders of BIOCOM. In the end, they turn out to be the same person. The freakin Big Bad.
  • Many, many people in Whateley Universe works. Given that the stories center around the 600 or so students at the Whateley Academy and their connections (plus the fact that the number of novels, novel chapters, short stories, novelettes, and vignettes now numbers over a hundred) it is sort of inevitable that characters seen in passing can become major players in later stories. Examples: Beltane (Kendall Forbes) gives the protagonists the campus tour on day one... and much later gets her own leading role in "For Whom the Belle Tolls", as well as other appearances. The Headmistress gives a speech on the first day of classes... and then turns out to also be the greatest superheroine around (in her spare time).
    • One of the hot blondes that Phase sees in the cafeteria on her first day at Whateley Academy - the one who really stares angrily at her -- turns out to be an old enemy. Who then in later stories turns out to be the blackmailer. And then in a later story actually gets people to try to kill Team Kimba. And then in a later story takes over the Alpha clique and runs the student body, so she can really go after the heroes.
    • At first, Cavalier and Skybolt only get mentioned to show how dangerous The Don really is, and why The Don runs the campus. They're central to the Fey and Generator story "Christmas Elves". And then what they do next drives a lot of the plots for Winter Term.
    • One of the throwaway jokes early in the universe is about some girl at school who has the spirit of the squirrel and is a campus joke. She has now become a protagonist with her own stories, and in her combat final, she managed to beat one of the most dangerous bullies at Whateley in a simultaneous Crowning Moment of Awesome and Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • div This five minute skit uses it twice! (Pay attention to the chaos that effects 2 characters...)
  • During The Irate Gamer's review of Super Mario Bros 2, he makes a joke about the game only having one player by having another Irate Gamer briefly appear, asking if he could play. Towards the end of his review, he comes back, revealing that he's an Evil Twin.
  • Two in There Will Be Brawl. Game and Watch had been seen around the city doing various tasks. He actually is an Eldritch Abomination, and is the "End of Days" meant to bring about the end of the world.
    • Ness and Lucas were seen playing in an alley, and served to remind Luigi of his motivation for fighting. Then it gets turned on his head when he discovers they are the murderers.
      • And that feeling of hope Luigi got from seeing them was artificially planted by their telepathy to keep Luigi fighting - which they found entertaining.
  • From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe: The tall, impressive looking woman standing just behind and to the right of crimelord Baron Samedi in the early story that introduced Samedi as a Diabolical Mastermind? Yeah, it turns out that she's more than just Samedi's Dragon. It turns out she's Battle, the mother of Stone, the former Global Guardian.
  • The Descendants does this a lot: Elizabeth von Stoker is introduced in Volume 1 as a Girl of the Week and becomes recurring villains Freaque in volume 2. Callie Kreiger is first seen as an almost faceless part of a Girl Posse in Volume 2, becomes an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in Volume 3 and finally helps save the city in Volume 4. Finally, Jay Willis starts as a random Gang Banger in Issue three and becomes the Descendants version of The Juggernaut in Issue 48!
  • Lance M Donovan who had made appearances earlier in I'm a Marvel And I'm a DC before his significance showed up. In literal terms, we also have the Punisher who shot the Joker when he was holding Harley hostage to use as his escape. You know when he said "I'm waiting for an opportunity to present itself", it was going to be awesome.
  • Averted with the Professor in Romancing SaGa 3. They have a unique sprite, are conspicuously introduced, and have two different quests associated with them. Most other characters with all these traits can join your party... but the Professor is just a minor NPC with no relevance outside their associated quests.
  • The Questport Chronicles: So, that mage who shows up in the first quest of the third year? Yeah, turns out that he was responsible for the destruction of Questport.
  • Survival of the Fittest: Evolution has Khalid Shamoun, a "winner" of a previous experiment run, who first appeared in the prologue, being shot by the scientists after mouthing off to show that they won't allow rebellion. Later he's put on the island as a player for the second time partway through. Another example, this time from the main site, would be Yelizaveta "Bounce" Volkova, who first appeared as a character in the in-universe chat and later made a appearance in the main game.
  • Eric Rosethorn from The Quest for Geekdom makes a brief appearance as a one shot character. Later he becomes the big bad.
  • Early in Project Million, Diamanda pops the balling of a little boy at Disneyland, then steals his lollipop. He later shows up to club her over the head and save Robert. Though he's really only after his lolly.


Western Animation Edit

  • In Futurama, Leela's parents are in the background of a large crowd of Mutants in an episode some time before they were revealed in the plot, Nibbler's shadow appears in the first episode, and the Number 9 Guy from ITWGY appears at various points during the series...
    • The Number 9 Guy was actually planned to be important in a canned storyline before that major appearance.
    • Nibbler's shadow does not appear in the original pilot. It was added later. Sometimes the unedited version still airs.
    • Also, Amy Wong, Dr. Zoidberg, Hermes Conrad, Kif Kroker, Zapp Brannigan, Scruffy, and Smitty all flash past during the opening credits of the first episode. Smitty shows up with Url later in the episode, Amy, Zoidberg and Hermes don't show up until the second episode, Kif and Zapp don't show up until the fourth, and Scruffy doesn't appear until the sixth.
    • When Nibbler is introduced as a character, he just appears to be a pet for Leela and we're led to believe his eventual significance is to make fuel for the ship, as his bodily waste comes out as dark matter. But that's still not it. Not even close. he is an alien from a highly advanced ancient race that has been at war with the floating brains. And he was responsible for making Fry get frozen.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Leaky Leona appears briefly in the crowd of kids attending the DC's party in "Operation: Date" a whole season before getting her very own story ("Operation: Fountain"). The future 4th grade president appears briefly in "Operation: Archive" trying to eat a candy bar and forgetting he's wearing a fishbowl helmet (he's on the moon).

 Phoebe: Scooby snacks are on me.

    • It always seems to be the very first person whose full name is given, especially if it seems irrelevant at the time.
    • Lampshaded to Hell and back in an episode in a relatively new series, where Velma pins it on the myth-obsessed old tour guide for precisely this reason... and then it turns out to be someone they hadn't met at all. She then complains about the unfairness of this.
  • Mildly subverted in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, with Bill Ken Sebben, Phil's twin brother. His introduction is so brief that it is even accompanied by the voice-over, "... and his twin brother Bill, who was not worth mentioning up until this point." However, many episodes later he is mistaken for Phil, who died in the previous episode.
    • No he didn't, everyone just thinks he did.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the episode "The Storm", you see a younger girl standing close to Iroh and smiling as Zuko gets scarred in the Agni Kai. This lets you know two things: one, she's family, and two, she's gonna be trouble when she finally shows up. Ladies and gentlemen, you just met Azula.
    • Even before that, she was the firebender in the opening.
    • Azula is just one of many examples; the show loves this trope. The Giant Lion-Turtle who finally unlocks the Eleventh-Hour Superpower for Aang was mentioned as early as the pilot, appeared several times as a statue, and showed up on a suspiciously conspicuous scroll in the ancient library.
    • The regular opening of Avatar: The Last Airbender has a bender for each element. The airbender is Aang. The waterbender is Pakku, who wouldn't show up until episode 18. The firebender is Azula, who wouldn't be seen until episode 12 and wasn't properly introduced until episodes 20 and 21. The earthbender was meant to be Toph, but Toph was changed into a small girl by the time she actually appeared (though the model was reused for the Boulder and Roku's earthbending teacher, Sud).
  • In WITCH, Elyon, who would eventually become the focus of a major part of the series is first introduced as a classmate of the main group, and is even introduces herself with another character that would remain a background character.
    • During the second season finale we're introduced to a man that is a major part of the next story in the comics, but as the series didn't get another season, it's technically a Continuity Cameo.
  • In Disney's Gargoyles, a lot of characters would be introduced like this. For example, Elisa Maza appears for a few seconds in the first two episodes before being formally introduced in the third. Matt Bluestone can be seen driving the police chief Maria Chavez around, one episode before we're actually told who he is. The Archmage at first seems like a one-time villain to use in a flashback, until he returns with a vengeance. The uber example of this, however, has to be Vinnie, who is occasionally seen in the background having bad things happen to him thanks to the gargoyles, until he is focused on in an episode where he decides to get revenge by shoving a pie into Goliath's face.
    • Titania is first introduced as Anastasia Renard, Fox's mother, several episodes before she appears on screen, where she comments that Goliath earned her favor due to previous services rendered. About two episodes later, Anastasia and Titania are revealed to be the same person. Similarly, in his debut episode, Puck mentions that he works for humans, one in particular ("the human" in Demona's words), because they are fun. Nearly 40 episodes later he is revealed to be Xanatos' right-hand man, Owen Burnett, who had been a recurring minor character since episode two. Word of God insists that many of these developed around mid-season 2, mostly after the writing staff realized how much stuff said offhand came together with the newer stories.
    • And you have Brendan and Margot, two recurring victims of events involving the gargoyles. Margot then later becomes adviser for the NYPD Gargoyle Task Force when the clan is revealed to the world, and she is an Assistant District Attorney in the Goliath Chronicles.
  • Kim Possible has a few of these. When Ron Stoppable had a speech Dr. Vivian Porter was briefly seen in the audience; in the next episode she got a main supporting role. Also in that episode Justine Flanner was scene in another set of an audience, and she got a main supporting role several episodes later.
  • In Code Lyoko, William is introduced as the token "bad boy", played to be a romantic rival for Ulrich and not much else. However, in the third season finale, he's inducted into the Lyoko Warriors, gets possessed by XANA, and ends up being the enemy for the next season.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has a mobster that appears in the back of an old photo and is seen when Andrea and Bruce are about to talk to Andrea's father about the engagement. Turns out that's the man that would later become the Joker.
  • Porter C. Powell in Transformers Animated is an accidental example. He was twice in the first season: the first is as one of Prometheus Black's financiers letting him know that his funding is being cut and he's not getting anymore test subjects, the second is as a random bystander when Professor Sumdac unveiled the improved Dinobots. In the first episode of season two we find out that he's Chairman of the Board of Sumdac Systems and proceeds to take over the company in Sumdac's absence and kick Sari out of her home for using money to try and find her dad, solidifying his role as both a Corrupt Corporate Executive and the most important human villain. However, his role and his position on the board only came into being when the show's staff members took a liking to his character design and bugged the head story editor into featuring him in a larger role.
  • A similar accidental example, though not in the same series, can be found in The Ren and Stimpy Show, which had a character named George Liquor, who had a starring role in the episodes "Man's Best Friend" (kept off of Nickelodeon) and "Dog Show", as well as some cameo appearances here and there. Nickelodeon didn't like the character, and gave the rights to him to John Kricfalusi once he is fired from the series' production. George Liquor has starred in his own webseries since then, which is currently getting a revival.
  • In Danny Phantom, a girl named Valerie appears a couple of times. She gets maybe four lines of dialogue at max and seems to be nothing more than a standard Rich Bitch who wouldn't give the main character any time of day. THEN her "debut" episode came. From that point on, she becomes the series' Anti-Hero.
  • On several old Looney Tunes and Tex Avery shorts, a silly little character who keeps walking by on every other scene is revealed at the end to be the hero.
  • The Venture Brothers practically runs on this trope. At the end of season one, The Monarch's cocoon base is destroyed. It is rebuilt surprisingly quickly at the start of season two, and this is Handwaved by having Monarch say he used parts he stole from an unknown character named Sargent Hatred. At the end of the season, Hatred makes an appearance at The Monarch's wedding, but it's essentially a one-off gag. Then in season three, Hatred becomes Dr. Venture's new arch-enemy, and it turns out his entire motivation for doing this is to get back at the Monarch for stealing from him (by stealing Monarch's nemesis.) This leads directly to Hatred becoming the new Venture bodyguard and a main character in season four.
    • Then there's Captain Sunshine, who is given a passing mention in season one (Monarch tells his Mooks to "send the charred remains of Wonder Boy to his beloved Captain Sunshine.") More than two seasons later, that line of dialog spawns an entire episode, in which we meet Captain Sunshine, and see that the loss of Wonder Boy has caused him all sorts of mental problems.
    • Phantom Limb started off as a throwaway character attending the Venture yard sale, but he ended up coming back and becoming season two's Big Bad.
  • The frequent Early Bird Cameos in The Spectacular Spider-Man function this way for a viewer unfamiliar with the Spider-Man mythos, as ostensibly tertiary characters are developed into supporting cast and antagonists.
    • Done to great effect in Spider-Man: The Animated Series in the early 90's. Nearly every character who later becomes important as a villain or another hero appears first as an acquaintance of Parker. Dr. Connors, Felicia Hardy, etc. Eddie Brock in particular appears often in the first few episodes, and becomes Venom later in the season.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, both General Molotov and Saffi were originally background characters before being revealed as Lucius' dragon and Beezy's girlfriend, respectively.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures lives off this trope. Villains who made first appearances in filler episodes of one season usually ended up becoming the Big Bad of later seasons.
  • In Teen Titans, Trigon has a minor appearance in the first season episode "Nevermore". He shows up again in the fourth season as the Big Bad, commanding the loyalty of the previous Big Bad and preparing The End of the World as We Know It.
  • The first episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic introduces Applejack's little sister Apple Bloom in passing during the extremely crowded Apple Clan reunion. Later on, there's a brief shot of her with two other fillies. Later in the season, Apple Bloom plays a key role in the events of "Bridle Gossip", and gets the spotlight in "Call of the Cutie", which also officially introduces the other two fillies, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.
    • Big Macintosh and Granny Smith from the family reunion; the former seems well on his way to becoming a regular.
    • When Twilight first arrives in Ponyville, a pink mare gasps and bolts. Turns out she's bolted to organize a welcome-wagon party.
    • Time will tell if the Prince and Princess from Hearts and Hooves Day are this; there has been considerable Wild Mass Guessing on the subject.
  • Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons, who started out as simply being Krusty's assistant during Season 1 of the show, until a certain episode later in that season ("Krusty Gets Busted" Which featured Bob framing Krusty for robbing the Kwik-E-Mart in order to supplant the clown from his own show.) introduced the now-familiar mad criminal genius angle that's been Bob's forte from that point on.


Real Life Edit

  • Most Literal Example Possible: The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the last straw that led to World War One, which led to the The Great Depression, which led to Hitler's rise to power, which led to World War II, which led to the Allies dividing Europe, which led to the Cold War, which led to the Russians invading Afghanistan, which led to the United States backing some unsavory types, which ultimately led to 9/11. Not often does one assassination get to define a whole century.
    • It may have happened anyway, Franz Ferdinand was just an excuse. Austria was going to invade the Balkans anyway.
  • Way, way back in The Roaring Twenties, there was an unimportant art student which had been rejected from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He served in the German Army during WWI, and reached the unimportant rank of Lance Corporal. He joined a small, two-bit political party that was deemed dangerous by the police (he was originally a police spy, before the party won him over), but otherwise not even a blip on the political radar. This man's name? Adolf Hitler.
  • Following the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union, there was a low level enforcer in the Bolshevik Party with the almost unpronounceable name of Iosef Besarionis dze Jughashvili. He managed to quickly rise through the ranks and changed his name to the much easier to pronounce, Joseph Stalin.
  • A librarian at the University of Peking spent most of his free time reading and discovered some books by a guy named Karl Marx. This avid reader was named Mao Ze Dong.
  • There was also the carpenter from Galilee that became sort of important later on, as well as the Arabian merchant and the shepherd with the speech impediment.
  • Some obscure French officer, a prince from the backwater of Macedonia, and this Asian guy who had a horde or something. What's a khagan?
  • The vast majority of elected officials, especially those from notably humble origins such as Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama, although humble origins are not a requirement: John F Kennedy and George W. Bush were less important sons of powerful men who did not carry the weight of expectations that their siblings did... at least, not at first.
  • After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865, his funeral procession would travel from Washington, D.C. to his (almost) final resting place in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois (since his coffin has been exhumed numerous times afterward). One of the procession's stop would be on 14th Street and Broadway in New York City, on April 24, 1865. A picture was taken of this procession, and an open window is shown in the left-hand side of the photo. You can barely see, but two little boys are leaning out the window watching the procession go by. Those two little boys? They're future President Theodore Roosevelt and his brother Elliott Roosevelt, father of Eleanor Roosevelt.
  • Disney Channel stars often make one-off or minor appearances in their shows and films before getting heavily featured in their own. Selena Gomez had a guest spots on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana while David Henrie made a few appearances on That's So Raven before both of them were placed as the leads in Wizards of Waverly Place. Similarly Orlando Brown who played Eddie in That's So Raven previously appeared in Lizzie McGuire. Vanessa Hudgens and Monique Coleman also had recurring roles in The Suite Life before they starred in High School Musical.
  • USA has done this too. Jeffery Donavan (Michael Weston) from Burn Notice and Frederick Weller (Marshall Mann) from In Plain Sight both had an appearance on Monk before starring in their own series'.
  • Summer Glau had a guest spot in the Joss Whedon Angel before starring in Firefly.
  • In 1919, 45 years before US involvement in The Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh wrote a letter to the Paris Peace Conference asking for French colonial domination of Vietnam to end. He was completely ignored, which is believed to be a contributing factor in him becoming a communist.

Notes

  1. We'll leave you to play Birth By Sleep by yourself to figure why "Terra" is in quotes.

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