Dubious deliverers are heroes who keep you guessing until the end (or the middle) about their true intentions. Two things these characters tend to have in common are conflicting actions and internal turmoil.
Warning, this post contains spoilers for Winter’s Bone, Switched (宇宙を駆けるよか), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Dubious deliverers tend to have a strange mix of horrendous and incredible actions. Koshiro from Switched, for example, finds out his girlfriend’s body has been stolen by a classmate and says he doesn’t care, claiming he can live with someone else’s soul, as long as he has his girlfriend’s body. A few moments later, Koshiro sends a secret message to rescue his girlfriend from a perilous situation, which makes you wonder, is he just pretending not to care?
Teardrop from Winter’s Bone grabs his niece, Ree Dolly, by the throat when she presses him for help finding her father. He lets her go, leaves the room and then passes her money through his wife. Merab, also from from Winter’s Bone, after warning Ree to get off of her property and also refusing help, offers Ree something to drink. Both actions make both characters seem like they are willing to hurt Ree, but also desiring to help.
Professor Snape inHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows kills Dumbledore and in the process seems to sense the presence of Harry Potter. Professor Snape seems to do what he can to keep Potter hidden. It makes you wonder, why would he kill one enemy, but then hide the other?
Aside from their conflicting deeds, these characters show an internal turmoil that makes you wonder, is there a heroic lining to their cloudy actions?
When Koshiro’s girlfriend admits she still believes in him despite hearing that he doesn’t care, he waits until she’s gone and breaks into tears.
Teardrop’s internal turmoil bleeds through in his public drug usage and violent actions. When someone refuses to help Teardrop find his brother, he beats in their windshield. After beating Ree, Merab cries out, ‘why didn’t you listen,’ showing remorse for her actions. Professor Snape seems tormented as he witnesses the suffering of his former coworker and also tormented during a mysterious conversation with Dumbledore before Dumbledore’s death.
In order to not completely spoil these stories, I won’t reveal the final heroic actions, but I will say that the balance between internal turmoil and conflicting actions helps these characters rescuing actions to be believable in the end.
These characters can cross all genres. As seen above, they can appear in speculative fiction and drama. Other examples of this character are Boromir in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Julian Carax in La sombra del viento, Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.