So Sayeth the Odinson: 10 Examples of Shocking Betrayal in Storytelling

Greetings from the Odinson,

Once upon a time, a woman was picking up firewood. She came upon a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. She took the snake home and nursed it back to health. One day the snake bit her on the cheek. As she lay dying, she asked the snake, “Why have you done this to me?” And the snake answered, “… you knew I was a snake.” – A Quote from Natural Born Killers

The thing about betrayal is that the one who is being betrayed rarely, if ever, sees it coming.  Now, I’m not here to talk about relationship infidelities or affairs.  I’ll leave that tawdry low-hanging fruit for the tabloids and daytime soaps.  I’m here to talk about the kind of betrayal used in storytelling.  The kind of betrayal that moves the narrative along in a most unexpected direction.

Legendary writer Alexandre Dumas perhaps penned two of the greatest examples of narrative betrayals with his stories The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask.  A humorous example of betrayal is Lucy holding that football for Charlie Brown.  No matter how badly we all want her to hold it there, we all know that at the last second, she’ll pull that darn ball away.  The Mutiny on the Bounty is one of the more famous betrayals described in great detail in history books, novels and, movies.  However, hands down, the Betrayal Hall of Fame has two names at the top of the list and those are Benedict Arnold and Judas.  You know you have done something bad when your name becomes synonymous with the word betrayal.

10 Examples of Shocking Betrayal in Storytelling

Fredo Corleone betrays his Family – Not very smart, cowardly, and easily manipulated, Alfredo Corleone, the second of three brothers, committed the Cardinal Sin, he betrayed his family.  He works against his younger brother Michael, the current Godfather of the Corleone Family, and lends aide to a rival gang, aide that leads to an attempt on Michael’s life.  Since there can be no greater sin than to betray family, when Michael learns of Fredo’s betrayal, he plants the kiss of death on him.  Fredo eventually pays the ultimate price for his transgression.

Karen Page betrays Matt Murdock – By time Matt Murdock’s cute, spunky ex-girlfriend returns to Hell’s Kitchen from her stab at becoming a Hollywood star, she is a beaten down pornography “actor” and addicted to heroin.  In order to feed her habit, she betrays Matt’s trust, and sells the knowledge of his secret identity to a drug dealer who in turn brings that invaluable information to Daredevil’s arch enemy – the Kingpin.  Karen’s betrayal nearly destroys the man she professes to love.

Xorn betrays the X-Men – Xorn was an immensely powerful mutant who was imprisoned by the Chinese government and rescued by the X-Men.  Xorn becomes a trusted member of the team until the day he removes his mask to reveal he is in fact the X-Men’s greatest enemy – Magneto!  Magneto used the Xorn identity to infiltrate and destroy his foes from the inside.  He nearly succeeds.  It takes the ultimate sacrifice by Jean Grey in order to stop the Master of Magnetism this time.  NOTE: Though the character of Xorn has been retconned (against the wishes of Grant Morrison, the character’s creator) to not be Magneto, that does not change the shock and awe of that startling revelation in New X-Men #146.

Theon Greyjoy betrays House Stark – Initially a hostage of Ned Stark, Theon is treated almost like one of the family and is actually a loyal friend to Rob Stark, Ned’s son.  However, when Theon returns home to rally his father’s kingdom to join the Starks in their fight against the Lannisters, he instead rejoins his father in an attempt to conquer the northern kingdoms.  He returns to Winterfell, sacks the castle, and murders many people who had treated him for years like one of their own.  Theon has since paid a hefty price for his betrayal of the Stark Family and is now on a long hard road of redemption.

Princess Kitana betrays Shao Khan – Not all betrayals are spawned out of wickedness.  Once upon a time the realm of Edenia was a peaceful, magical place.  That is until they lost ten straight Mortal Kombat tournaments to the warriors of Outworld.  Shao Khan invaded Edenia, murdered her father, and adopted Kitana as his own daughter allowing him to lay claim to the throne.  Now, Khan sets his eyes on a new realm to conquer, the realm of Earth.  However, this time he will have someone in his own court working behind the scenes against him, someone who is working with his enemies to upset his plans for conquest, and that someone is Princess Kitana, a 10,000 year old super ninja.

America betrays Steve Rogers – He is the Sentinel of Liberty, a protector of the innocent, and a defender of truth and justice.  One thing Steve Rogers is not is a government stooge.  He will not be dictated to about who or when he can help someone in need.  Since the moniker and shield of Captain America belongs to the U.S. Government, Rogers is forced to give up the mantle.  The title of Captain America is passed onto John Walker who proves unstable and incapable of shouldering the responsibility of being his country’s greatest hero.  For a time, Rogers is forced to take up the identity of the rogue hero simply known as The Captain, but eventually he fights back and takes back the position he was born to hold.

Silver Surfer betrays Galactus – As the Herald of Galactus, Norrin Radd had led the Devourer of Worlds to countless planets around the cosmos, an act which brought untold death and destruction to countless billions.  However, in a fortunate twist of events, when the Silver Surfer arrived on planet Earth, an encounter with the blind Alicia Masters led to the reawakening of Radd’s soul and consciousness.  He turned against his master and helped the Fantastic Four to repel the mighty titan’s attempt to consume the planet.  For his betrayal, the Silver Surfer was exiled by Galactus to Earth and forever denied the ability to soar amongst the stars.  Though he eventually earned his freedom (see Freedom) and was forced to come to grips with the sins of his past (see Past Sins), the Silver Surfer’s betrayal of Galactus stands out as one the major turning points in the History of Marvel Comics.

Terra betrays the Teen Titans – This is one of the most heartbreaking betrayals in Comics History. Terra was a troubled teen with immense powers.  With irrational mood swings and limited self-control, she was quickly becoming a danger to herself and those around her.  The Teen Titans took her in, gave her a home and a family, a stable environment for which to turn her life around.  Changeling (a.k.a. Beast Boy) even fell in love with her.  However, it was revealed that it was all just a ruse.  Terra, in fact, worked for Deathstroke the Terminator.  She infiltrated the team, worked her way into their lives and their hearts, and ultimately betrayed them and gave up all their secrets to their worst enemy.  Terra Incognito and The Judas Contract is one of the most dramatic and must read story arcs in Comics History.

Cordelia Chase betrays Angel Investigations – For the better part of Season 4 of Angel, our heroes spend their time trying to track down and stop an unstoppable stone-skinned hulk known as the Beast from bringing about (you guessed it) the Apocalypse.  However, as the story and mystery unfolds, they learn there is actually someone else who from the shadows is pulling the strings of this monster and stifling their efforts at every turn.  The moment when it is revealed that Cordelia Chase, a character that has been an intricate part of Buffy/Angel lore since the very beginning, is in fact the Big Bad, you could have heard a pin drop all throughout Buffy/Angel Fandom.  Though it was revealed later that it was, in fact, another being in control of Cordi’s body, it doesn’t make the impact of that revelation any less shocking.

Lando Calrissian betrays Han – Han, Leia, and the rest of the crew of the Millennium Falcon have just pulled off the impossible, they escaped the evil Empire. Now, all they need is a moment to catch their breaths and repair the Falcon’s hyperdrive.  So, Han calls in a favor from an old friend, Lando Calrissian, the proprietor of Bespin’s Cloud City.  However, Lando was strong-armed by the Empire and betrays Han’s friendship by turning the Rebels over to Darth Vader.  Though Lando did finally see the light and help our heroes in the end, nothing could ever top that magnificent scene when those doors slide open to reveal the dark foreboding frame of Darth Vader and the realization on Han’s face that his buddy had betrayed him.

Betrayal, it’s not a good time, and that’s all I have to say about that.

Let me finish this week by congratulating Dungeons & Dragons for being inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.  The Odinson can’t even begin to calculate the endless hours of fun and joy this game has brought me over the years.  From revolutionizing the role-playing game to inspiring the worldwide phenomenon World of WarCraft, D&D is truly a legend and worthy of such an honor.  It was joined by Fisher-Price Little People and the swing.

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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