The Big Bad Shuffle


(permanent link) added: 2009-08-19 15:28:28 sponsor: Chabal 2 edited by: Worldmaker (last reply: 2011-02-18 08:46:48)

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Some works have a clear, outstanding Big Bad. Others like to play it tricky with The Man Behind the Man. And then there's this. Not even The Chessmaster really seems to know who's in control, and on the off chance that they do, nobody else ever will. When Jack defeats Mr. Corrupton, learns that Corrupton was really just being mislead by Dr. Unethik, kills Unethik, finds out that Unethik was secretly controlled by a shadowy government conspiracy and investigates them for a while before learning that one of the people on their Omniscient Council of Vagueness was Mr. Corrupton (who nevertheless may be doing it all at the behest of his scheming trophy wife), the writers are playing the Big Bad Shuffle.

This will often involve a Thirty Xanatos Pileup , as in the above example. But, where the Pileup deals with all these manipulators thwarting each other, this Trope is about the plot's cascading secrecy as to who is really in control. Multiple Reveals and UnReveals are almost mandatory.


Examples:

Animation
  • One episode of Gargoyles featured six villains, each revealing one after the other that the previous illain wasn't actually that episode's Big Bad.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • Angel: Darla wants revenge/reunion with Angel. Her actions prompt Sajhan to pull Holtz through time to kill Angel and Darla both. Holtz betrays Sajhan, who then seeks aid from longtime foes Wolfram And Hart, who play off of both Sajhan and Holtz. Sajhan discovers this and banishes Holtz to another reality, then duels Angel. In the aftermath of that battle, Holtz returns with a new means of attacking Angel, while Wolfram And Hart lick their wounds. Who was the Big Bad? Not even Joss Whedon could tell you.

Video Games
  • The Metal Gear games, especially the Mind Screw of Metal Gear Solid 2, and the non-canonical Ghost Babel, where the terrorist general, his mercenary [{The Dragon Dragon]]/manipulator, and the U.S. government all mock the others as fools just being played.
  • Untangling who stands behind who, with many false leads, is the entire point of Deus Ex.


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