Consummate Professional

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"Feelings? Look mate, you know who has a lot of feelings? Blokes what bludgeon their wives to death with a golf trophy. Professionals have standards. Be polite. Be efficient. Have a plan to kill everyone you meet."
The Sniper, Team Fortress 2

Gibbs: Her father left her to die in a desert.
Vance: So it's a problem then?

Gibbs: Would be for me, won't be for Ziva.
NCIS, a discussion about Ziva's fitness as bodyguard.

Quite self-explanatory: a character who is characterized by his/her intense professionalism and intolerance of lack thereof.

The Consummate Professional is most often a very serious character, and often involved in a profession that warrants violence or is on the shadier side of the law like a soldier of fortune, professional spy, courier, or professional assassin. Regardless of precisely who employs them or what their actual job is, being a Consummate Professional is standard for Men in Black types as well. Alternatively, he can also belong to a more conventional profession, but be ruthlessly dedicated to it, such as a profession in the legal system or a corporate position. He has a very strict code of conduct to which he adheres meticulously, and instantly dislikes anyone who implies he should lighten up. He also instantly dislikes anyone who's a little too friendly (after all, Being Personal Isn't Professional). This attitude is most of the time justified: his line of work makes any personal connection or moral compunction a liability. This doesn't mean he's a complete cold fish, it just means he prefers ethics to morals. Morals are broad and prone to emotional interpretation, ethics are specific and more efficient. While he might be willing to have a softer disposition towards friends or family, any client is treated impersonally and no better than the job demands.

The Consummate Professional is also recognized for his uncanny talent at his chosen profession. His no-nonsense attitude has allowed him to hone his skill to an almost supernatural degree, to the point his name (if actually known) becomes synonymous with excellence in his line of work. Be it playing the stock market, performing a military mission or killing a mark, he baffles others with his complete control and superlative skills. If he's on the shadier side of the law, don't ever call him a criminal or compare him to common thugs, that's a wonderful way to end up in traction. He is first and foremost a professional, he is by definition above such scum because of his code. And for pete's sake, don't invoke a Contract on the Hitman. As for a professional in a legitimate profession, he might be ruthless, but he's never corrupt. He does not need to cheat or commit fraudulent actions; his skill places him beyond such petty strategies.

Do note of the more violently employed professionals, having a code is not the same as being a Hitman with a Heart: not killing innocents might just be a matter of convenience and avoiding unnecessary trouble, not any kind of conscience talking. In fact, one trait that's almost universal to this kind of character is that every time he lets things get personal, it always comes back to bite him.

Because his profession usually takes him places, expect a Consummate Professional to also be a Cunning Linguist and have large amounts of connections to various other professionals who can provide services for him. If he's a killer who likes taking his targets out from a distance, he'll universally be a Cold Sniper and almost always has Improbable Aiming Skills.

Examples of Consummate Professional include:


Anime And Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Golgo 13: Duke Togo—Golgo 13—is very much this trope. You pay him, he takes his target out. No questions, no strings attached, no target is off-bounds. If you choose to attach strings, he'll deny you his services or kill you for the trouble.
  • Balalaika from Black Lagoon. Dutch as well, though he is more smuggler than assassin. This is probably why the Lagoon Company and Hotel Moscow have such a good business relationship.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes; Many of the characters are like this, but Paul von Oberstein is the most notable. He can calculate and order mass slaughter executed without batting an eyelid.
  • Sousuke in Full Metal Panic!. He also applies this level of professionalism to his cover identity as a high school student, with hilarious results.
  • Played straight and subverted in the case of Kuroudou Akabane (a.k.a. Dr. Jackal) from GetBackers. He will take on any Courier job with no questions asked and carry it through to the end regardless of obstacles, is almost frighteningly competent at what he does and often describes himself as a consummate professional. But give him an opponent who he considers "worthy of his skills", and he'll decide to take certain...liberties with his assignment.
  • The Gungrave anime shows us that Brandon Heat was this with Undying Loyalty when he was a hitman for Millenion. It causes problems with his best friend.
  • Played straight and later averted with Mireille Bouquet of Noir. She starts out as an ice-cold professional killer (perhaps even more so than her significantly more competent partner Kirika Yuumura; Kirika doesn't know how she learned to kill or why, while Mireille is fully cognizant of the ethical implications of her chosen career). It isn't until the last few episodes that she starts to develop a heart at all, but when she finally does, look out.
  • Mickey Simon in the Area 88 manga. For a soldier of fortune, Mickey has a strong professional code. He is loyal to his fellow pilots and politely turns down Rishar's offer to join the anti-government forces.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Of the Marvel Universe mercs, Taskmaster is the one that most fits. Pretty much all the other mercs are nowhere near as professional or emotionally detached.
  • Deathstroke The Terminator.
  • Deadshot, when he's not in one of his Death Seeker moods. His handler, Amanda Waller, is one too.
  • Lex Luthor's bodyguard, Mercy Graves, is usually this, though she betrays herself sometimes with a smirk or a mischievous smile.
  • Wolverine has served countless times in the military, and has picked up a great many habits and skills with the years. Interestingly enough, he's always shown to be VERY serious and professional in that role, contrary to his usual authority-sticking personality. In fact, unless explicitly screwed by the hierarchy, he shows utmost respect for the chain of command. Captain America (comics) is one soldier in particular he respects immensely.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The main character from the The Transporter movies usually tries to be this, but he always faces circumstances that force him to act against his code. He always regrets it, though, since he knows not adhering to his code always comes back to bite him.
  • Subverted with Agent Smith in the The Matrix films: he acts that way because he's programmed to be that way. When he goes rogue, he becomes egomaniacal and emotional.
  • Agent Kay in Men in Black, being a traditional Man in Black in contrast with impulsive, wisecracking new recruit Agent Jay.
  • Wild Target: Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy), to a T. At least, until the Manic Pixie Dream Girl gets to him. Still, by the end he regained Consummate Professional status.
  • The various assassins in the The Bourne Series. The one that comes to mind is The Professor, the guy with the trenchcoat and glasses who gets gunned down in the wheat field in Identity.
  • The Jackal from (surprise surprise) The Day of the Jackal.
  • In Scarface, the hitman who killed Tony Montana seemed to be of this type.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Anita Blake: Most all of the security/bodyguards and assassins in the series, including Claudia and Edward, up to the point that many of them, unless you are actively trying to hurt them, won't kill you unless they are get paid for it. That would be giving out their services for free.
  • The Parker Series, by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake). Parker is a highly professional thief who plans out every detail of a heist. He also will not attempt to steal the take from his partners. Not because of ethical reasons but because he knows that they have to trust each other to pull off the heist. If you betray him then you're pretty much dead.
  • Matt Helm: Matt, in the series by Donald Hamilton is a government assassin who takes great pride in his professionalism. He is probably the closest thing to Golgo 13 there is in American pop culture.
  • Jared Kincaid of The Dresden Files is a thoroughly professional mercenary and has been one for centuries.
  • The Continental Op created by Dashiell Hammett. One of the toughest and most professional private detectives in literature. Pretty much to the extent that Hammett never gave him a name and he was known ownly by his job.
  • Boba Fett is depicted this way in a number of the Star Wars novels.
  • Belisarius in Belisarius Series is a no-nonsense Combat Pragmatist who just wanted to be a blacksmith but as he can't do that, makes war in as practical a way as possible.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

Wayne Jarvis: Well, I'm a professional. I am serious, and I'm a professional.
Michael: That's fantastic. So, how long have you been ...?
Wayne Jarvis: I also don't like small talk... why should I be billing you for small talk when I'm enjoying it as much as you are?
Michael: Then, this must be a freebie 'cause I'm having a ball.
Wayne Jarvis: When you're ready to get serious, give me a call.

  • 24: While situations try their damnedest to make him act otherwise, Jack Bauer always tries to be this, and shows surprising restraint in trying to keep his personal life and feelings out of his professional life.
  • Everybody in Criminal Minds. Unprofessional cops who let their emotions cloud their judgement are usually the biggest obstacle the heroes face. In some ways it's part of the popularity of the show - when a character carries the Idiot Ball, the others notice.
  • Breaking Bad
    • Subverted by Gus, who is characterized by his infallible cool and professional conduct. However, late in the series were learn that his entire operation is dedicated toward a white-hot rampage of revenge against the cartel that killed his best friend and humiliated him. His unprofessional need to gloat over his vengeance ultimately leads to his downfall.
    • Mike, a Punch Clock Villain who just wants to do his job. He'll roll his eyes and sigh, but he's about a reliable as it gets.
  • The River has Captain Kurt Brynildson. Don't touch his guns.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In the Old World of Darkness' Vampire: The Masquerade, the Path Of Honorable Accord is based around this trope. Knights, as they are called, reject emotion in favor of professionalism and cold adherence to their code to keep the Beast at bay.
  • Feng Shui: Not a few Killers, Spies and other characters in the game.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Gen, of Street Fighter. Held the title of world's greatest assassin. He earned it.
  • Team Fortress 2: Although played for laughs, The Sniper invokes this trope, providing the page quote.
  • You can play Shepard this way in the Mass Effect games. Mass Effect 2 is filled with them:
    • Kasumi Goto, the best thief in the business, not the most famous.
    • Miranda Lawson, who basically lives by the book. Granted, it's Cerberus' book.
    • Mordin Solus, whose loyalty mission is based around his professional and personal disgust with a former pupil.
    • Samara, who basically gave up her life and rebuilt herself around her job as a Knight Templar.
    • Thane Krios, who's been working as an assassin since he was twelve. He once expresses disgust with mercenaries who 'think painted armour makes them professionals'.
    • And on the other hand, subverted with Zaeed. He acts like a calm, cool professional, but a Paragon Shepard can call him out on caring more about his grudge than he does about the mission. To his credit, being rebuked thusly causes Zaeed to postpone his revenge. Zaeed is a professional, but he isn't infallible.
  • Shelly DeKiller from Ace Attorney. This ends up used against the culprit in 2-4. When it turns out that his employer has been less than professional on his end of the assassin-client relationship, Shelly announces his intent to kill him.
  • The Courier from Fallout: New Vegas can be played this way.
  • Both Big Boss and Solid Snake started as this, but eventually softened up with time.
  • Alpha Protocol: Agent Thorton can be played this way by consistently choosing "Professional" responses in dialogue, ignoring more personal options in favor of pragmatism, and keeping his relationship with Mission Control business-like.
    • Of the NPCs, Conrad Marburg embodies this trope. The quickest way to gain his respect is by being just as stone-cold professional as him. Alan Parker and Albatross are close to this trope, but they each have a Morality Pet that bring out It's Personal if they get killed or hurt. However, it is possible to push Marburg off the edge with a casual and unprofessional approach topped with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Many characters in Deus Ex are like this, but especially Walton Simons and The Men in Black. You can play JC Denton this way, too. The in-game written material in the FEMA HQ seems like a directed effort to get agents to think of themselves in these terms and thus avoid misgivings.
  • L.A. Noire: A quite benign example to be sure, but Mal Carruthers, The Coroner is very much this trope. He takes his job dead serious.
  • Agent 47. 47 is this canonically, and the player is encouraged to play the game as such (only killing the assigned target via the most covert manner possible, leaving no witnesses or evidence) in order to get the best rating on missions. However, the player can just say "screw it" and massacre the entire level with a machine-gun if they want.
  • The Master Chief from the Halo universe fits this. To quote Bungie artist Eddie Smith, John-117 is "pretty much the consummate professional. He does his job, walks off, doesn't even get the girl, he's that cool he doesn't need her." He is given an objective and ordered to "Win" and he will execute on that order to the best of his ability, pulling out a victory by any means necessary. He does so because he was raised to be one, along with all the other Spartan-IIs, and fights simply because that is who he is, rather than for any kind of profit or glory. In fact, he displays some discomfort at any media attention, prefering to conduct himself humbly but with absolute self-confidence.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Gargoyles: Owen Burnett, Xanatos's right hand man. Subverted in that it's not his real face, he's actually a disguise for Puck the Trickster, who's the furthest thing from a Consummate Professional.
  • Batman Beyond: The stand in for the League Of Assassins.