Unexpectedly bad-ass behavior from a normally non-bad ass character

For no particular reason this idea has been on my mind.

So here’s the kind of things I’m looking for: characters in heroic fiction, probably not not necessarily fiction, who are usually considered – well, not wimps – but certainly not ruthless – who for IN CHARACTER reasons suddenly exhibit ruthless behavior in order to win, or at least continue, a battle.

Again: bad-ass behavior by normally bad-ass characters is not eligible: so no no Terminator, no Wolverine, no Harry Callahan, et ct cetera. Instead I’m thinking your Supermans, your Datas,

The first example that occurs to me is a comic book. In the first The Vision & the Scarlet Witch miniseries from 20-some years ago, in the second issue, Vizh and Wanda, ostensibly retired from super-heroics, nevertheless found themselves battling a radioactive semi-villain called Nuke or Nuklo or some such. This was a long time before John Byrne’s irritating retcons; the early/mid-80s Vision was a long way from being an emotionless robot but was rather a human mind stuck in a android body who was a lot more interested in being a husband than a warrior.)

At any rate, during the battle, the Vision attempted his then-signature move of sticking his immaterial arm inside an chest and partially solidifying. This was a move that would knock out anyone this side of Wonder Man; however, Nuklo was so hot that instead the Vision got his forearm melted to slag for his trouble. He collapsed in agony–but, seeing his wife still in danger, refuses to stop fighing. However, the arm still hurts too let him move–so he turns on his laser eye beams and cuts off his own arm.

And keeps fighting.

Next example?

The end of Nadia: The Legend of Blue Water.

Nadia’s brother, who has had all of his body and much of his mind replaced by robotics to make him a slave of the villain, rebels to save his sister. The villain shoots him to no effect, “And just who was it who gave me this metal body?” So his power cable is pulled, yet the final remaining bit of brain and will continues to push the robot body to save his sister until the lack of his life support system causes a final death.

In the Angel episode “That Old Gang of Mine,” a then-timid Fred takes a crossbow from a gang member under the pretense of dusting Angel, but instead turns it on the gang leader and offers up a graphic description of what would happen to him should she pull the trigger. It was at that moment that I stopped hating her.

Then there’s that mousy trainee cop from the Police Academy films whose entire gimmick is to yell one line after an entire film of speaking soft and breathy.

You hated FRED? What are you, some kind of commie?


If this is the episode in which Caritas gets trashed for the first time, I remember it somewhat–but I don’t rememeber whether Fred’s swiping of the crossbow did any good. If I recall aright, she, Fred, & Wesley still had to get rescued by Angel, so I’m not sure this qualifies – since to me, part of being a badass is, you know, actually INFLICTING damage; mere bluffs or attempts don’t count.


In one of the recent episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica, [spoiler]Dr. Balter, who is normally a snivelling, neurotic wimp, starts to grow a major backbone.

Among other things, at one point, is trying to introgate a humoid cylon, eventually resorts to injecting her former boyfriend(who didn’t realize she was a cylon until after they broke up) with a fast acting posion, promising to inject the antidote if she revealed the number of inflitrators in the fleet.[/spoiler]

Novel. Judith Krantz’s I’ll Take Manhattan – I was really, really taken aback by the actions of protagonist Maxi Amberville’s mild-mannered, assertive and imminently likeable blind brother Toby, a nice independent supporting character, who, in rejecting his “Uncle” Cutter, was seen lashing out and breaking both his arms and sending his Uncle – who was his actual biological father IIRC – falling down a flight of stairs. For me, a jaw-dropping moment in a kinda soap-opera novel.

Comic books. The way Superman just tore into and dissected the Elite in SUPERMAN #775 is an all-time favorite.

Movie. In BOYZ IN THE HOOD, when Tre tells Doughboy to “Meet me at my house in five minutes” after Ricky gets shot, to grab his father’s gun, I was floored. Ultimately he didn’t go through with it, but damned if I wasn’t shook by what he planned.

Fred fully intended to banish and/or kill the professor who sent her to Lorne’s home-plane when she discovered he was responsible for her five years of hell but Gunn wound up doing it for her so that she wouldn’t “lose her humanity” or something.

Then there’s Willow going all hellmouthy in BtVS’ Seeing Red arc and random acts of badassosity and impossible moments of intuitiveness is River Tam’s raison d’être in Firefly.

But to get off the Whedon kick, there’s Deanna getting into her role as a Tal Shiar operative in Face of the Enemy and Data snapping a Borg Drone’s neck in Descent in TNG or Bashir embracing his gifts after it’s revealed he’s been gentically engineered in Doctor Bashir, I Presume and O’Brien making Garak his bitch in Empok Nor in DS9.

I hated the whole Pylea plot and, initially, everything that came out of it. This included Fred.

She didn’t swipe it. The gang leader said something to the effect that to walk out Gunn had to dust Angel. He refused, and Fred said she’d do it, then pulled the double-cross. She was completely willing to pull the trigger, but Angel asked her not to.

So yeah, badass move.

Again with the Whedon-verse…

When Giles goes flaming bat on Angelus…

And when he murders Ben, Glory’s host.

I canme in here to cite almost every ass-kicking, threatening, dangerous thing Giles has ever done on Buffy. Giles is my favorite character, but I especially love seeing his shady past as “Ripper” surface, usually when he protects his friends, refuses to crack under torture, and stands up against anyone.

…or when he borrows magic and has one of coolest battles ever with Willow. Two for the price of one.

I remember both of those. I’m not sure the second one counts, though, as by this point, Giles’ badassery was well-known. In fact, I think the fact that Ripper was not a man to vex was firmly in canon as early as the first Halloween episode, when he very calmly beat the holy crap out of Ethan Rayne. Giles always struck me as basically a tightly-reined badass; he only let his rage come out when he chose.

But anyway…next?

Which is why I say Giles doesn’t count. Note the qualifier “unexpectedly” in the title. Once Giles’ badassery was well established in the repeated viewers mind, he moves out of the unexpected badass class, just like the characters I mentioned in my OP.

'Course, I agree Giles was no one to vex.

One that comes to mind is from the series Rosanne, when John Goodman beats the crap out of his sister-in-law’s abusive boyfriend. Up until that point we knew that Dan was a big, strong guy, but he always came across as a nice, friendly, easygoing man, especially compared to his harpy of a wife. It’s only here that we see how far he’s willing to go to defend his family.

It’s a terrific scene. Roanne and Jackie are screaming, crying and trading accusations, while Dan sits in the corner of the room, visibly distraught, unable to offer any emotional help - largely because the sisters won’t let him get a word in edgewise. The women eventually run out in tears, leaving him alone to slowly stand up, put on his coat and lumber out of the house…

…only to return a few hours later, cradling his right fist and asking his wife to please bring him a bowl of ice. He calmly, almost bashfully tells her what he did to the other guy, and once again he’s a nice, friendly, easygoing man.

I don’t know what’s more depressing: that you remembered this, or that I know what you’re talking about.

My contribution to the thread: Lieutenant Gorman in Aliens. Almost from the moment of his introduction, he seems like a desk jockey who’s going to be useless in the field; but then when he goes back for Vasquez in the ductwork, he shows he won’t pussy out when it counts. And when she pops the grenade, he reveals he’s got himself a brass pair after all.

Let’s get back to Buffyverse, hmm? Xander Harris in “The Zeppo”.

It was mid season 3, Buffy, Angel, Giles, Faith, Willow are all swept up in fighting some super Armageddon creatures, and keep sending Xander away so he doesn’t get hurt. So Xander ends up taking on the Zombie JD’s all by himself. Oh and he saves Faith from a big fight and they go have sex. And he has a cool car. But the real Badass moment is when he psych’s out the zombie leader into disarming the bomb that would have killed the entire scooby gang, fighting the Armageddon creature just one floor up. And he never tells anyone. Total badass line “It’s ok, I like the quiet.”

Xander rocks. Just this once.

That’s a favorite episode of mine too. I’m only on season 4 so far, but “The Zeppo” was Xander’s shining moment.

The character’s name is Laverne Hooks. When I was a kid, I was a HUGE Police Academy fan.

On the converse side, Vasquez has an unexpectedly loving side. I mean, “You’re an asshole, Gorman.” It’s the wierdest way to say, “I love you,” ever.

I would say he does… Knowing a character is a badass and seeing examples of such are two different things… Yes we KNOW Giles can be a bad ass but unlike the characters listed in the OP (Wolverine, Dirty Harry etc etc) Giles is more often NOT acting as a bad ass. This makes those moments I listed and the Ethan Rayne incident much much more powerful. It MEANS something when Giles does it.