Number Two

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    Number Two is the right-hand man of The Leader, second in command. Generally takes over the "ship" when The Captain wants to be off doing non-Captainy things.

    Often called simply Number Two (or, confusingly, Number One), although terms like First Mate or Executive Officer frequently appear in military fiction especially involving the chain of command in a Command Roster. Compare The Lancer in the Five-Man Band, who is usually not too happy about that. Although sometimes the Number Two is also The Lancer

    Strictly, in the Royal Navy, at least, the Captain would have a Executive Officer and a First Lieutenant, both ranks being held by a single person on smaller ships. Hence the XO (also known as Number One or sometimes "the Jimmy" ) would be the captain's Right Hand Man and Number Two would be his immediate junior. The position also goes by the title Executive Officer (XO), particularly in the American military.

    If the creators did the research, the (XO) is much more likely to interact with the crew. On a ship, "Number One" is responsible for the crew: training, ordinary discipline (that is motivating the NCOs to motivate the others) setting watches for the officers etc. The Captain's job is to decide what the ship should do, Number Two makes sure the ship and crew can do it. A Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough situation can result from this.

    The evil bad guy version of Number Two is The Dragon, who's second in charge to the Big Bad. Sometimes gets "promoted" to Commander Contrarian. The dimwit version is Number Two for Brains.

    Not to be confused with the original script for Back to The Future Part II.

    Examples of Number Two include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Rivals Judai's and Misawa's nicknames for each other are "Number 1" and "Number 2".
    • In Sonic X, Tails is often seen leading the other characters during Sonic's absence. Sonic also refers to Tails as My Right hand man!
    • Griffith of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS is Hayate's Number Two, and is mostly there to take command of the Long Arch crew whenever Hayate decides to join the battle.
    • BC of Vandread is the Number Two of Magno in the Nirvana, and also happens to be The Mole of the all-male planet of Taraak, though Magno already knew about that from the beginning.
    • Bjorn is the number two of Askeladd's crew in Vinland Saga.
    • Fuyutsuki plays this role in Neon Genesis Evangelion, typically being left in charge at the drop of a hat (or an Angel) and it's notably rare for both himself and Commander Ikari to be absent (almost as notable as it is for Ikari to be present).
    • Zoro from One Piece is this, whenever Luffy isn't around. Nami sometimes is this too.
      • And from other pirate groups, we have Marco, who is this to Whitebeard. Silvers Rayleigh to Gold Roger. Brook was like this to his previous captain. Bepo to Trafalgar Law. And Killer to Kid.
        • It's easier to just say all the first-mates are this.
    • Lieutenant Yamamoto of Irresponsible Captain Tylor has to play Straight Man to the eponymous captain. It's easy to feel sorry for him.
    • In Naruto, Yamato was originally supposed to replace Kakashi temporarily but ended up becoming the Number Two.
      • In General Kakashi's Division, Might Guy, is Kakashi's Number Two.
      • Zetsu is Number Two for Uchiha Madara in the Akatsuki.
      • Konan for Nagato in Amegakure.
    • Fullmetal Alchemist, being a very military-based storyline, has these in different places. Most evident to the reader/viewer, Riza Hawkeye is the second-in-command of Roy Mustang's unit.
    • Casca was this to Griffith in Berserk, and took over leadership of the Band of the Hawk following Griffith's imprisonment by the King (which came about because Griffith had sex with Princess Charlotte following the departure of his greatest warrior, Guts).
    • Gundam Seed: Murrue Ramius had Natarle Badgiruel (before they were split up by the top brass). In Gundam Seed Destiny Ramius has Andrew Waldfeld, Talia Gladys has Arthur Trine, Yzak Joule has Dearka Elsman, and Neo Roanoke has Ian Lee.
    • In Saint Beast, Lucifer was the number two to Zeus and eventually the Dragon with an Agenda shortly before rebelling.


    • In the Austin Powers series, Dr. Evil's Number Two was indeed called Number Two, not only as a rank but as being his proper name as well (IE: he's Mr. Two). To further drive the joke down, Number Two once gained his OWN Number Two, which, of course was deemed "Number Three". To further the irony, this Number Three later turned out to be The Mole for the Good Guys, who was only referred to as "The Mole" even though he had a recurring role in the movie.
      • Used for a quick gag in the first and third movies, the first calling out the Toilet Humor version, the second using it for school testing results.
    • In the film Meet Dave, the Number Two of The Captain was also literally named Number Two (or sometimes simply 'Two'), and is given no other name. He becomes concerned about the Captain's lack of enthusiasm for the ship's mission, especially his treating of humans as equals, and ultimately pulls an Anti-Mutiny.
    • Colonel Andrea Stavros, played by Anthony Quinn, in The Guns of Navarone.


    • The ship full of useless people from Golgafrincham in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy has a captain who spends years in his bathtub drinking "gynnan tonix", a Number One officer who takes life easy, and a Number Two officer who goose-steps around like a stormtrooper (or like Rimmer from Red Dwarf) looking for chances to be useful.
    • For most of the Harry Potter series, Professor McGonagall is Dumbledore's Number Two, holding the title of "deputy headmistress".
      • That's relating to the school and the students. For the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's Number Two is Mad-Eye Moody. For protecting Harry and gathering intel on Voldemort, Snape is his Number Two. And for facing down Voldemort and his allies, Harry ends up in this position. Really, Dumbledore's got these all over the place.
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy, Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon.
      • In the Hand of Thrawn Duology, General Bel Iblis strikes a deal with Booster Terrik - Booster's Star Destroyer gets fixed up and flies for the New Republic in her time of need, and Booster gets to keep captaining her during this. When they fly into battle against hopeless odds and Booster wants to save his ship, Bel Iblis overrides him. Booster angrily reminds him that he's the captain of this ship. Bel Iblis calmly says yes. But he is the ship's admiral.
      • In the X Wing Series, although Wedge heads both squadrons he also has a second. Tycho seems to fill the role in Rogue Squadron, at least after those murder and treason charges were cleared up, and Face has the job in Wraith Squadron.
    • Bean to Ender: if Ender ever broke under the strain, the plan was to have Bean take over. His own portrayal of the same story has him deciding that while he is the better tactician, he is not a commander of men and thus should be in such a role.
    • Starbuck to Ahab.
    • During the Chainfire Trilogy, when his true love is missing, Richard Rahl primarily relies on Nicci, his Black Magician Girl, to be his right-hand. In her first appearance in Chainfire, she's seen healing Richard of a mortal injury, and afterwards functions mainly as his constant shadow and advisor on magical issues. Interestingly enough, she had previously played the role of number two to Richard's archnemesis.
    • Subverted in Thunderball: the senior people of SPECTRE are addressed by code numbers such as "Number Two" during their meetings, but the number assigned to each person changes on a monthly rotation. Blofeld, absolute leader of SPECTRE, was "Number Two" in that book. (The movie made Blofeld Number One to avoid confusing viewers about who was in charge, since it didn't have the narrative explaining that this was a security measure.)
    • Warrior Cats has this as a position nessicary in every Clan. The Deputy is the Warrior who takes over as Leader and does quite a bit of commanding compared to leaders. However Leaders seem to go through these, with Bluestar having four before her death.
    • The Cruel Sea covers a "Number One's" duties (on anti-submarine craft) in exhaustive detail, since the protagonist is one (and the writer WAS one).
    • Tobias to Jake in Animorphs as Jake also usually appoints him leader of the Marco-Tobias-Ax sub-team, which ended up carrying the end of the war.
    • In Rick Cook's Limbo System, Iron Alice De Rosa. She often serves as a sounding board for the captain.
    • Within Discworld's Unseen University, the University library is often considered to be a separate organization with the Librarian (a wizard shapechanged into an orangutan) in charge, although the Librarian considers himself subordinate to the Archchancellor. When Rincewind worked directly for the Librarian, other UU wizards called him "an ape's number two" - technically correct but not a compliment.

    Live-Action TV

    • Spock is Kirk's Number Two on Star Trek: The Original Series, and Riker is Picard's Number Two on The Next Generation. Though he, and other Star Trek seconds-in-command, are referred to as "Number One", this is because their title is First Officer (i.e., the number one ranking officer after the captain). They're still second in command. As we see (such as in the original Lower Deck Episode, "Lower Decks"), aboard Starfleet vessels the first officer is very much the authority figure to the crew: setting watch schedules, disciplining the crew, et cetera.
      • In one episode of TNG, "Conundrum", the crew had their memories altered by an energy pulse, while at the same time the alien responsible took on human form and transported onboard the Enterprise. According to the temporary External Retcon, the alien was Commander MacDuff, First Officer, second-in-command, and "Number One" as Picard called him. Meanwhile, Riker, though he had the same rank, was Second Officer.
      • In another TNG episode, Q derisively refers to Riker as "Number Two."
      • In the first Pilot of the original series The Cage/The Menagerie, Majel Barrett played Captain Pike's cold emotionless "Number One", who was referred to by no other name. Some didn't like the actress, or the idea of a woman in authority, so the character was dropped for the second pilot and series, and her unemotional nature was added to Spock's characterisation. (Gene Roddenberry snuck the actress, Majel Barrett—his girlfriend and later wife—back into the series later in a blonde wig as Nurse Chapel, a safely traditional and subordinate female role.)
      • Kira Nerys is Number Two in Deep Space Nine and Chakotay plays the role in Star Trek: Voyager.
      • T'Pol on Enterprise.
    • Leo McGarry on The West Wing, the President's Chief-Of-Staff. Since Vice-Presidents are only used as a political tactic in the U.S., they usually don't actually have much to do with running the country, and in practice, the only thing that makes Leo a slight subversion of the Number Two is that he can't ascend to President upon death or disability. Legally and in public, that is...
      • This leads to a few problems in season 2: when the President is shot and rushed into surgery everyone reflexively takes their orders from Leo until Bartlet's concious again. Then the dust settles and people start pointing out that, legally speaking, they can't do that.
    • The Office (U.S. version) has several of these. Jan from the executive branch has Michael (the manager) and Toby (the HR liaison) as her Number Twos. Dwight acts as Michael's Number Two but is not in any official way. Jim is his actual Number Two by season 3, although what with how much work Michael actually gets done, Jim is the one actually running the office.
    • In The Prisoner, The Village is for most intents and purposes run by Number Two, although the individual holding this title changes frequently. This of course raises the inevitable question, "Who is Number One?" The subsequent Prisoner graphic novel "Shattered Visage" asks the equally pertinent question, "does the existence of Number Two imply the existence of Number One?"
    • Zoe is Mal's Number Two in Firefly. Mal was Zoe's superior back when they were still in the war, and aboard Serenity, much of the same relationship continues. She is the more pragmatic Lancer to Mal's sometimes idiotic heroics.
    • On both versions of Battlestar Galactica, Tigh is Adama's executive officer.
      • In the remake, when Saul Tigh's being an alcoholic or mustered out, Helo gets the job. Col. Jack Fisk serves the same role on the Pegasus, but his relationship with his commander is quite different. He's scared shitless of Cain, carrying out her orders out of fear---granted, having your predecessor shot in front of you will do that to a man.
    • Tony DiNozzo is Gibbs' Number Two on NCIS. While DiNozzo is usually a Jerk Jock who's always got a smartass comment ready, when he's put in charge he's almost as competent as Gibbs.
    • This is never stated openly, but Willow seems to be Buffy's Number Two. Whenever Buffy isn't around, and the Scooby Gang needs a leader, Willow instantly steps up to the plate.
      • Xander, due to his brief transformation into soldier, becomes Buffy's Number Two for the Graduation Day battle.
      • Similarly, in Angel, Wesley takes the Number Two spot in Angel Investigations.
    • Commander Ivanova of Babylon 5 is frequently approached by alien diplomats with personal problems.
      • Although her job is to deal with the routine day-to-day matters coming from the station, Sinclair and Sheridan are the military governors of the station and responsible for making decisions and interacting with the ambassadors on a professional level. Later in the series her job gets harder when Sheridan is also running a war (or two).
      • Sheridan gave her increasing diplomatic responsibilities beginning early in Season 2, partly in recognition of her recent promotion to full Commander, partly to groom her for greater command responsibilities (since Ivanova was a dedicated and ambitious career officer), and perhaps partly to ease the transition from Sinclair to himself.
        • Greater responsibilities indeed. Her status as Sheridan's Lancer result in the odd situation where, when Sheridan is arrested for leading the Pro-Constitution faction in the Earth Civil War, Commander Ivanova ends up in command of a large fleet of ships including many officers who outrank her. Granted, by that point, she may indeed be one of the most battle-tested officers around at the time.
    • On Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope is Number Two to Ron Swanson, director of the Parks and Rec department.
      • Her title may be that of a Number Two, but she's the only one getting anything done, since Ron has admitted on camera that he hates government, and plays the Obstructive Bureaucrat to the hilt.
    • Sea Patrol. Lt Kate McGregor, apply nicknamed "XO",is second in command and the leader of the boarding parties.
    • In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Zack is Jason's second.
    • In The Brittas Empire, Laura functions as Gordon Brittas' Number Two...although in practice she's more like his Hypercompetent Sidekick. Amusingly enough, her second name is Lancing.
    • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit season nine premier Captain Cragian had to leave and Munch took his place.
    • Stargate SG-1 has Samantha Carter to Jack O'Neill, ofcourse they are the only two military on the team.

    Tabletop Games

    • One Paranoia mission introduces the new Mandatory Bonus Duty of Executive Officer, who (in addition to the usual roles) gets a brevet promotion for the purpose of wearing a higher-clearance uniform, to draw the fire of Commies mistaking him for the Team Leader. As usual for Paranoia, The Computer didn't think this through properly:

    Green-clearance Team Leader: All right, men, let's go!
    Random bystander: Hey, why are you letting him boss you around?
    "Blue"-clearance Executive Officer: Hey, yeah! *blam blam blam blam blam blam* All right, men, let's go!

    • The command structure for Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 sometimes has predetermined successors for Chapter Masters, usually if the Chapter Master bites it the Captain of the First Company takes over but in the case of the Ultramarines Sicarius is being groomed as Calgar's successor and he's Captain of the Second Company.
        • It's not that he's officially being groomed, he just keeps racking up so many victories for the Chapter that he's the most likely successor. It's a theme frequently played with in the tie in novels featuring the Second Company.
      • When a member of a squad dies in most cases the player whose squad it is gets to pick which model is removed, the rules say this is to represent corporals taking over for sergeants or extra grunts grabbing the fallen heavy weapon.
      • During the Great Crusade, the Primarchs (the head of the Space Marine Legions) would usually split the role of Number Two between the First Captain and their own Equerry. The First Captain would be the senior most commander after the Primarch, while the Equerry would be a personal adviser. For those Primarchs who went rogue, the First Captain would become The Dragon while the Equerry would become The Consigliere.

    Video Games

    • Lester from Galaxy Angel; in later games his role is taken up by Coco, a former Bridge Bunny, and, in her own story thread, the Angel Forte.
    • In Mass Effect, Commander Shepard starts out as Captain Anderson's Executive Officer on the Normandy SR-1. Once s/he's given command of the Normandy, Navigator Pressley becomes XO.
      • In Mass Effect 2, Miranda Lawson serves as XO on the Normandy SR-2, as well as acting as Shepard's Handler. Jacob Taylor and Garrus Vakarian can act as unofficial Number Twos, if you're so inclined.
    • Alistair serves here by default in Dragon Age as he is the only other Grey Warden in the country who isn't in jail and thus in the absence of the player character is the only one who can save the world.
      • Eamon has got one in the shape of Bann Tegan, and Meredith has Cullen in Dragon Age 2.
      • Dalish Keepers tend to keep a 'First', who serves as an apprentice and appointed successor. We meet Lanaya and Merrill in the game.
    • DAX is the long-suffering second-in-command of the xenophiliac ZEX in Star Control II. He's never actually seen, but ZEX says things to him offscreen.
    • Evil Genius had a character known only as Number 2. She exists only in the tutorial level and provides the voiceover in explanation videos. In her unit description, she is remarked as "The Indispensable Number 2", much in contrast to when Maximillian has her shot at the end of the tutorial.
    • Since the first Neverwinter Nights campaign only lets you have one henchman, he/she is sort of your Number Two. Given the preferential treatment required to keep a love interest with you in the Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic (and sequels) games, they could probably qualify (though in the original Neverwinter Nights campaign neither Love Interest will join your party).
    • In Tales of Symphonia, Botta is this to Yuan in the Renegades. Since Yuan is a double agent and has to keep his identity under wraps, this leads to the initial impression that Botta is actually the leader, until the main character gets captured and encounters Yuan, who is then seen giving Botta orders.
    • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation, Tetsuya is this to the Hagane's Captain Daitetsu, and Sean is this to the Hiryu's Captain Lefina. Sadly, due to Sixth Ranger rules, the only counterpart to the Kurogane's Captain-slash-Ace Pilot Elzam Ratsel is some nameless mook with his eyes obscured. After Daitetsu's death, Tetsuya takes over as The Captain and Eita becomes his Number Two.
    • In Warship Gunner 2, the player can choose between three X Os by making certain gameplay decisions at the start of the campaign. There is nothing in the game to indicate how this works, even though it has huge plot effects.
    • Apparently subverted in Kingdom Hearts. In Organization XIII, every member has a number, with Xemnas, their leader, as Number I. However, it appears that nobody but Vexen actually cares about numbers beyond I. Reinforcing this, Number II, Xigbar, is presented as just another member of the Organization. However, It turns out to be played straight, albeit secretively. Xigbar knows far more about Xemnas's plans and movements than the other members of the Organization, and it just so happens that back when they were both human, Xehanort and Braig had this exact relationship (After Xehanort's other Dragon bought it, that is).

    Web Comics

    Web Original

    • Tech Infantry has Johanna Ingolfsson and later Xinjao O'Reilly as Number Two to Erich Von Shrakenberg.

    Western Animation

    • In Gargoyles, Brooklyn is promoted to the position of Goliath's second when Hudson decides he's getting too old to be an effective leader and when Goliath's long absence proves such a chain of command might be needed. He proves to be an excellent choice with his calculating personality and talent for tactics.
    • In Beast Wars, Rattrap in the beginning seemed to be Optimus Primal's Number Two, becoming leader while Optimus was stuck inside the alien vessel in Chain of Command. However, by the beginning of the second season, it would seem that Rhinox took over that role, becoming temporary leader while Optimus was dead. On the flip side, Scorponok was Number Two to Megatron until his death, when that role was passed on to Inferno (obviously due to his loyalty and not his intelligence, which seem rather lackluster) Then, during Beast Machines, the role of Number Two for the Maximals went to Cheetor, who took command whenever Optimus was not capable of leading.
      • Rattrap was still the Number Two as Rhinox was busy looking for Optimus's spark during most of the episode.
    • The Penguins of Madagascar have Kowalski, who seems to function as Skipper's Number Two.
    • In Kids Next Door Numbuh Five was the real Number Two to the leader, Numbuh One. Numbah Two was a pilot and possibly Numbuh Five's Number Two.
      • Also Numbuh 86, who plays this role to the Supreme Leader, Numbuh 362.
        • ...who herself was once second-in-command to Numbuh 274.
    • In the second G.I. Joe miniseries The Revenge of Cobra, Flint is Number Two to Duke and takes over command of the Joe team when Duke is captured by Cobra early in the first episode.
      • Duke and Flint to General Hawk when the latter arrives in the second season opening miniseries, Arise, Serpentor, Arise!.
      • In the Marvel comics, Hawk commanded the team from the beginning, with Stalker serving as his Number Two. Duke is brought in when Hawk is Kicked Upstairs to a desk job, and Flint is brought in later as a new Number Two. When Hawk is promoted to brigadier general, however, he's also given authority to resume field command, relegating Duke down to Number Two status alongside Flint (although Flint would be featured more, due in part to his ongoing relationship with Lady Jaye, while Duke faded into the background between the Battle of Springfield and the Trucial Abysmia incident).
    • In How to Train Your Dragon, Astrid falls immediately into this role with her usual talent as Hiccup and his dragon riders fly in to fight the Green Death, particularly when Hiccup disembarks to free Toothless the Dragon.
    • Teen Titans. Never outright stated in the show, but Cyborg seems to function as leader whenever Robin is AWOL or otherwise unable to lead, e.g the season one finale.
      • Except during the finale of the fifth season story arc, when the role falls to Beast Boy. True, for most of it this was by default of him being the only core team member still free and active, but when the others show up, he still seems to be calling the shots until Robin's freed from the Brotherhood.
      • There's also the fact that to most of the team the Brotherhood are new enemies, while Beast Boy had already faced them numerous times when he was a member of the Doom Patrol before joining the Titans.

    Other Media

    • In recent Dutch tradition the main helper of Saint Nicholas, Hoofdpiet (Head Pete).

    Real Life

    • This is standard practice in most military forces around the world: every officer will either have a junior aide or senior enlisted man to advise them. Occasionally, the job description also entitles replacing said officer in case he takes a dirt nap or is otherwise incapacitated, to maintain operation even during an emergency.
    • Alan Brooke was the Number Two of Winston Churchill. Theoretically he was the Number Two of King George VI (since the Monarch, by convention, delegates power to the Government of the day) but that was eccentric British Nostalgia rather than a serious governmental arrangement. The Armed Forces are loyal not to Parliament, but to the Crown, and therefore Alan Brooke could not be nominally subordinate to the PM and retain the authority to over-rule any other military advisor the Government might call in. Alan Brooke was also Chief of the Imperial General Staff - the Empire's senior military officer - and therefore in a position to exercise command over Empire and Dominion troops who Churchill had no direct authority over, and this derived specifically from his nominal role as the King-Emperor's military advisor (since Churchill was subordinate to the King in that respect).