Created By: RossN on March 18, 2011 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on April 12, 2012

Threat Outlives The Villain

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Trope
The Big Bad is dead... unfortunately before he was killed he already set his master plan into action, a plan that can proceed quite happily without him.

The most common form of this is were the lead villain has already given his minions their orders and set them in place before his battle with the heroes. For instance if a terrorist leader is trying to assassinate a politician then killing that terrorist leader isn't much help in stopping the assassain already close to the politician. The heroes might have dealt with the key villain but still need to deal with the threat itself.

Examples:
  • In The World Is Not Enough Bond shoots Big Bad Elektra King twenty minutes before the end, but then must physically get aboard her captured submarine and stop her Dragon carrying out her plot to detonate a nuke off Istanbul.
  • In Salt the mastermind behind the Russian sleeper agents dies less than halfway through but since the sleepers are already in place his death is irrelevant.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer did this at least twice Angelus and Glory - the Big Bad was defeated but the ritual they had used to destroy the world had already activated and required additional sacrfice from the heroes to stop.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • March 18, 2011
    rage24
    Seen It A Million Times

    • Happens Frequently on TwentyFour. They will capture or kill the Big Bad but their Weapon Of Mass Destruction will still pose a clear and present danger.
    • In the third season of Heroes, Arthur Petrelli was killed in the penultimate episode, but his plan was still being carried out. The finale dealt with stopping his plan from being carried out.
  • March 18, 2011
    Jcop1997
    • Sherlock Holmes (the movie) subverts this, as Blackwood is still alive after a hanging.

  • March 18, 2011
    Speedball
    Killing the main villain in Suikoden II does not end the war, despite that he suffered a Rasputinian Death and needed over a dozen of your party members to subdue.
  • March 18, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    The final puzzle in Still Life 2 The villain is dead but he has left one more trap to ensure he can get the last laugh even from beyond the grave. We are still trapped in the bunker and the hostage is still tied to the electric chair. Trying to save her can activate a bomb. Letting her fry will open the door but our failure will be broadcasted live over the internet.
  • March 18, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The current Hulk series (the one focusing on Red Hulk) has Rulk and his handlers (including Bruce Banner, "Gulk" if you will) dealing with a series of backup plans set in motion by the "Intelligencia," a cabal of super-smart villains including the Leader, MODOK, the Thinker, etc., who had been planning to Take Over The World but were brought down by the Hulks.
  • March 18, 2011
    KZN02
    See also Thanatos Gambit.
  • March 18, 2011
    RossN
    Thanatos Gambit sometimes overlaps with this but only sometimes. A lot of the time the villain has no expectation of dying. For instance in Unknown the Big Bad is killed off a little over two thirds of the way through by something he couldn't have seen coming but his minions never discover this and continue with the pre-established plan.
  • March 18, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    • In Watchmen, Ozymandias sets up his plan so that its already underway once the other Watchmen find out about it. So even if they'd defeated him at the end his plan would still have worked. He pretty much tells them straight up that there's no point in them killing him and that they should make the most of it by going along with it.
  • March 19, 2011
    Koveras
  • March 19, 2011
    RossN
    Sort of... again, this trope isn't really based on the villain pre-planning or expecting his own death. It's more his death is nearly irrelevant - the bomb has already been planted or the mooks are already in place or whatever.

  • March 20, 2011
    Nndaia
    In Supernatural, Team Free Will eliminates Pestilence... but his plan to infect the world with the Croatoan virus is already set in motion. Similarly, killing Azazel did nothing to stem his long-term plans.
  • March 20, 2011
    HonoreDB
    • In Tosca, Tosca kills the villain Scarpia, but due to his machinations both Mario and Tosca end up dying soon after.

    Arguably, Babylon Five might count: the Big Bad species is defeated in season four, and the Postscript Season deals mainly with their various minions. Similarly, in The Lord Of The Rings (novels, not movies), the heroes return from defeating Sauron, only to find the Shire has been scoured anyway and Saruman is in charge. I don't know if you want to broaden it that far, since it involves the minions acting autonomously after their master leaves.
  • March 20, 2011
    Specialist290
    EDIT: Bah, realized my example wasn't one at all...
  • March 21, 2011
    X2X
    Video Games
  • March 21, 2011
    case
    In some Sonic games, in particular Sonic Adventure 2, where Eggman accidentally unleashes a greater threat than he meant to and then works with the heroes to stop it (rather than dying). That might belong as a variation under this trope?
  • March 21, 2011
    LoopyChew
    • Played with in Face Off, as Castor Troy is incapacitated (and not expected to ever wake up) in the beginning, but they discover that he's managed to plant one last bomb in Los Angeles. Of course, the word "incapacitated" becomes a very, very crucial aspect of the plot...

    EDIT: @ randomsurfer, fixed!
  • March 21, 2011
    AlexRandom
    In the Lost finale, after the Man in Black is killed, Jack still has to go back to the Source, save Desmond, and restore the Light, at the cost of his life.
  • March 21, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^Castor Troy is Nicolas Cage though, before the face-switching happens.
  • April 11, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    This sounds related to As Long As There Is Evil (although that's on a much grander scale than one scheme or plan set in motion by the Big Bad).
  • April 11, 2012
    aurora369
    Also compare The Remnant, which remains active even after you topple the entire enemy command structure.
  • April 12, 2012
    ScanVisor
  • April 12, 2012
    nman
    Is this an inversion of No Ontological Inertia?

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