Created By: AmbarSonofDeshar on December 1, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on December 5, 2015

Season Finale Boss

A tougher villain who appears in the SeasonFinale but is not The Big Bad

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Trope
So, you're coming on up to the Season Finale. You're going to need something new and exciting to challenge your heroes. Something tough. Something hard. Something that’s a whole step above their usual adversaries. It's time for the Big Bad to go down, right? There’s just one little problem—you don't have one.

That’s where the Seasonal Final Boss comes in. Maybe he's a recurring villain who our heroes have finally managed to run down. Maybe he's a previously mentioned character with ties to someone’s past. Or maybe he's just a tougher than usual antagonist who was made up for the finale. The one thing he isn't is The Big Bad. He’s not The Man Behind the Man, and this isn't the climax of some ongoing scheme he’s been building since his first appearance (if he even had one). He's just a stronger than usual antagonist who's here to provide the heroes with a challenge, and then die or go to prison.

Why this happens varies from show to show. Maybe the Final Boss is a recurring baddie who's more of a fighter than a thinker—he has no ongoing plan, but until now the heroes have never been able to corner him. Maybe the show is an episodic one and a genuine Big Bad would just feel out of place. Maybe there was a Big Bad but he or she went down early and this guy's been written in to take his place. Alternately, the plot may require that the actual Big Bad survive into next season, damn it, it's the season finale, and somebody disposable has to provide the drama. If done right this character will have an impact that's disproportionate to their actual screen time—indeed, many people on This Very Wiki may make the mistake of referring to the character as The Big Bad. If done poorly it can easily overlap with Diabolus ex Nihilo or Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Lots in One Piece. Every arc will have a Big Bad on their own, e.g God Enel for Skypiea arc and Caesar Clown for Punk Hazard arc. Crocodile is notable for being a Big Bad of an entire saga (Baroque Works, to be specific).

Live Action Television
  • Criminal Minds loves this trope. Season 1 had The Fisher King, who challenges the team to a Holy Grail style quest that lasts for two episodes. Season 2 has Frank, who appears in the mid-season finale and again in the last episode, where he targets Gideon for revenge. Season 4 has the Turner Brothers, a Brains and Brawn duo who murder the homeless and extract their spinal fluid (this one was another two parter). Season 5 has Billy Flynn, aka The Prince of Darkness, who kills a friend of Morgan's and sets off a chain of events that ultimately lead to his own death in the Season 6 premiere.
  • Smallville
    • The 8th season has Doomsday. Throughout the season, while Tess Mercer, Faora, Lex, Brainiac, and the rest of the Big Bad Ensemble launched scheme after scheme, Doomsday's host, Davis just tried to keep his head down and stay under the radar. In the Season Finale the two of them are separated, and Doomsday a Dumb Muscle Person of Mass Destruction if ever there was one serves as the season's final physical threat.
    • Bizarro was this in Season 6. The last of the Phantom Zone escapees, his presence was teased for some time, with both Clark and actual Big Bad Lex trying to keep track of his whereabouts. In the last episode he manages to create a duplicate of Clark's body and steal it for himself, only to be swiftly defeated in the Season 7 premiere. Unlike many examples of this, he does return for two more episodes mid-season, only to be blown up by Lana Lang of all people.
  • Leverage
    • In the Season 1 finale, Ian Blackpoole is a lot harder to take on than your average mark (largely because he has Sterling on his payroll). He's also the son of a bitch who let Nate's son die pre-series and taking him down is played as something Nate needs to do in order to move on.
    • Season 2's finale has Mayor Bradford Culpepper and gangster Tony Kadjic in a similar role. Having engineered the attempted murder of the Leverage team's ally, Det. Bonnano, Culpepper and Kadjic are targeted for revenge by Nate in another two-parter; as in the case of Blackpoole, Nate's Evil Counterpart Sterling, enters the fray to further complicate matters.
  • In Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Willow emerges after Warren kills Tara, kills him for revenge, and then tries to end the world, all in the space of the antepenultimate and penultimate episodes and the Season Finale.
  • The season 1 finale of The X-Files has the Crew Cut Man, a character with little dialogue or screen time, who nonetheless nearly kills Agent Mulder, and actually does kill another very important character.

Western Animation
  • Darkseid in the final episode of Justice League Unlimited. Resurrected at the very end of the penultimate episode, he attacks Earth in the finale and is defeated within the span of the episode (albeit after a brutal battle that involved finding and using a reality warping power).
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Big Bad as a whole is Ozai, but he's delegated to merely Bigger Bad for the first two seasons; season 1 has Admiral Zhao and season 2 has Princess Azula. Then Ozai himself for the last season.
  • In the season 1 finale of Justice League, a new villain, Vandal Savage, tries to take over the Earth in both the past and present by having the Nazis win World War II.
  • The first season of The Powerpuff Girls actually had two examples of this. While the previous episodes of the season were only 11 minutes, the last two episode were 22 minutes, and involved new and far more powerful villains, the first having The Rowdyruff Boys, and the second having a giant Fish Balloon Monster.
  • The Series Finale of Kim Possible has earth being invaded by Battle Couple, Warhawk and Warmanga. While Warmanga had appeared in one previous episode, there was no indication that she'd ever return again, and certainly not teamed up a completely serious and very dangerous new villain.
  • The season 2 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Queen Chrysalis, who was never mentioned before the two parter.
  • The season 1 finale of Invader Zim introduces Tak, another alien in Zim's race who is actually very effective in conquering planets, as oppose to him.

Community Feedback Replies: 37
  • December 2, 2011
    MiinU
    • good point, deleted.
  • December 2, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    ^ I don't think she's really an example, though. She's introduced...and that's it. It's just a teaser for the next two seasons. Plus, there's no "and then die or go to prison". She sticks around, big time.
  • December 2, 2011
    morenohijazo
    If I remember well, at the Season 1 finale of Torchwood introduced an Eldritch Abomination to be fought by the heroes.
  • December 2, 2011
    TwoGunAngel
    The only character from Buffy that really qualifies for this is Dark Willow from season 6 -- every other season had Buffy and the Scoobies facing off against that season's Big Bad during the finale.
  • December 2, 2011
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    ^And that's a very good example of what I'm talking about here. People are always referring to bad Willow as Season 6's Big Bad, but she's not. Warren was the closest thing that season had to the Big Bad; Willow, like the Doomsday example above, is more of a Final Boss.

    ^^Haven't seen Torchwood. If you can out more about that though it certainly sounds like this.

    Question: I keep trying to add the phrase "But isn't The Big Bad" to the laconic description. For whatever reason, it won't stick. Anyone know why?
  • December 14, 2011
    MyTimingIsOff
    You seem to misunderstand what a Final Boss is. It's the last boss in a video game. Not just any villain that fights the protagonist at the end of the work.
  • December 15, 2011
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    I know that. Give me a better name and I'll be very happy. And I'm not talking about any character who fights the protagonist at the end of the work. I'm talking about a character who is not the Big Bad yet faces The Hero in a Season Finale. There are repeated cases of people referring to such characters as The Big Bad (which is only accurate if they were behind multiple events over the course of the season) or using the Video Game term, Final Boss, as a substitute. In the interests of preventing this, I'm trying to create a page for that type of character.
  • December 16, 2011
    GyraSolune
    In Code Geass, the first season's final battle is Jeremiah Gottwald, who just shows up out of the blue in his giant spiked orange.
  • December 16, 2011
    moocow1452
  • December 16, 2011
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    ^ Outside Context Villain is when the villain is from somewhere else and has powers and abilities the heroes are not familiar with. They could certainly overlap, but aren't the same thing.
  • December 16, 2011
    Cider
    I'm opposed to this trope. Diabolus Ex Nihilo and Giant Space Flea From Nowhere inherently bad? Tropes Are Not Bad. Neither should we have a page for villain for the sake of conflict, done right! Tropes Are Not Good either, they are tools.
  • December 16, 2011
    MyTimingIsOff
    ^^^^^We can come up with a better title, but you should at least kill the Final Boss misuse in your example list.

    The part that I bolded can simply be removed. The fact that he doesn't fit the Big Bad trope is already covered by this trope's definition, and Examples Are Not Arguable anyway.

    Also, you should remove those pointless sinkholes to The Scrappy and The Wesley.

    The description is also written overly television specific.
  • December 16, 2011
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    ^Cut the stuff you noted. It's written to be television specific because I can't think of any examples from outside of TV. I suppose it would be possible for this to happen in a book series, but I can't think of any.

    ^^Maybe so, but I'm getting very tired of people automatically linking "guy the hero fought in the finale" to Big Bad or Final Boss. The former's just wrong, the second one a misuse of a video game trope. And it isn't automatically Diabolus Ex Nihilo or Giant Space Flea From Nowhere, it's just that there's a decent chance of it happening.
  • December 16, 2011
    Cider
    Okay, I took done poorly to mean that this trope was "better". Also, taking the downed big bad's implies they've become the new one. It should be made clear that they still are not a big bad then. I'm no longer opposed if their is no other page on the wiki that would take the examples.
  • May 21, 2013
    Koveras
    We have a trope called Arc Villain. Maybe it already covers this?
  • May 21, 2013
    StarSword
    I agree.
  • May 21, 2013
    DracMonster
    This would be a television version of Disc One Final Boss, I guess? (Wouldn't be surprised if that's already been used as a stand-in on a few works pages.)

    EDIT: Oops, typed my post at the same time as the above, Actually. Arc Villain does appear to cover this one.
  • May 21, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Most "Boss" tropes are exclusive to Video Games, as the implication is Boss Battle.
  • October 25, 2013
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    No, Arc Villain would not cover this. An arc villain is the villain of an arc. He has a self-contained set of episodes within to create a plan and execute that plan, then disappears from the story. This guy shows up in the finale, with no real foreshadowing, to provide an appropriate climactic finish to the season. An arc villain is not this as he has an actual arc; in fact an arc villain is liable to be The Big Bad of the season.

    Noah Kaiba from Yu Gi Oh is an arc villain. Dark Willow from Buffy and Billy Flynn from Criminal Minds are this trope.
  • October 26, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    OK, those are good examples.
  • October 26, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Would Scorpius' appearance near the end of Farscape's first season fit? He's not The Man Behind The Man (the man behind Crais, who was the main season one villain—he wasn't up the chain of command from him or anything, and seemed to only know about him rather than actually know him, before their encounter—and he turned against Crais pretty quickly as well), and although he appears to be the Big Bad for awhile after his first appearance, we eventually encounter Bigger Bads, as well as the Scarran Empire (and Scorpius is also opposed to these, and eventually ends up allied-sort-of with our heroes in that opposition).

    He doesn't end up "dying or going to prison" (although one of those Bigger Bads among the Peacekeepers does hold him captive for awhile), nor was he in any way a disposable character, but otherwise he seems to fit, unless I'm misunderstanding something.

    (Come to think of it, none of the succession of "bosses" in Farscape were in nested heirarchy from each other—the Peacekeepers seemed more like a loose federation of commands than a well-unified command hierarchy (officers were loyal first and foremost to their captains, moreso than they were to a High Command (there was one, but we rarely saw it) itself, and often captains of different commands had goals or ambitions that clashed with each other—although there was a general Space Cold War against the Scarrans that was sort of their general overarching mission). Nor did they seem to be an organ of any unified sovereign state. Individual commanders seemed to mainly fill various local power vacuums, manipulate the politics of different worlds, and exploit worlds in their path for their own gain more than anything. The crew of Moya (our heroes) were simply trying to survive the various machinations of the individual commanders they encountered, along with others they encountered who were bigger and more powerful than they were in that "Uncharted Space". At any rate, you didn't have Big Bads who were nested in a usual Man Behind The Man pattern. A few ended up in Enemy Mine cooperation with the heroes against a new "boss villain"—that pattern may actually be tropable too if there are a lot of examples of it.)
  • October 26, 2013
    DAN004
    • Lots in One Piece. Every arc will have a Big Bad on their own, e.g God Enel for Skypiea arc and Caesar Clown for Punk Hazard arc. Crocodile is notable for being a Big Bad of an entire saga (Baroque Works, to be specific).
    • In Avatar The Last Airbender, the Big Bad as a whole is Ozai, but he's delegated to merely Bigger Bad for the first two seasons; season 1 has Admiral Zhao and season 2 has Princess Azula. Then Ozai himself for the last season.
  • October 28, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
    @Dan004:

    You sure those examples are Seasonal Final Boss and not Arc Villain?
  • October 28, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ As I see it, One Piece example is Arc Villain while the Avatar one is this trope. :P

    So this trope is when different seasons has different Big Bad, regardless of whether there's an actual Big Bad for the whole story or not?
  • October 28, 2013
    TheTitan99
    I don't think the Darkseid example fully fits. The final storyarch of the DCAU involves Lex Luther trying to bring back Brainiac, and Darkseid is partially Brainiac infused. So, he's more of is an Arc Villain, I think. There's certainly build up to the revival. It's a twist that it's Darkseid fused with Brainiac, but it doesn't just happen in the last 2 episodes. There's plenty of episodes revolving around Lex trying to revive Brainiac beforehand. Also, I don't know how the Avatar examples aren't Arc Villains. Zhao slowly rises in rank over season 1, and has his own personal goals. He doesn't just pop out of nowhere in the final episodes. Same with Azula. ... I guess my problem is that this trope is worded with these characters coming out of nowhere to provide drama, where it seems like a lot of these characters mentioned actually have buildup, and storyarchs, that just end at season endings.

    However, I can think of other examples that would fit with tougher villains appearing to make the season finale more dramatic.

    • In the season 1 finale of The Justice League, a new villain, Vandal Savage, tries to take over the Earth in both the past and present by having the Nazis win World War II.
    • The first season of The Powerpuff Girls actually had two examples of this. While the previous episodes of the season were only 11 minutes, the last two episode were 22 minutes, and involved new and far more powerful villains, the first having The Rowdyruff Boys, and the second having a giant Fish Balloon Monster.
    • The Series Finale of Kim Possible has earth being invaded by Battle Couple, Warhawk and Warmanga. While Warmanga had appeared in one previous episode, there was no indication that she'd ever return again, and certainly not teamed up a completely serious and very dangerous new villain.
  • October 28, 2013
    ZuTheSkunk
    Do the MLP:Fi M villains count? They tend to appear during episodes that start and end each season. If yes, then:

    • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has a tendency to introduce new villains during two-parter episodes that either end or start each season. For this trope, we have Queen Chrysalis, who appeared during Season 2 finale.
  • October 28, 2013
    TheTitan99
    Would the Lich from Adventure Time count? While he's without question the Big Bad once season 5 hits, due to his backstory being elaborated on, he's almost just a really tough opponent in the season 2 finale.

    Also, should this trope have Unmarked Spoilers Ahead in it? Because it seems like none of these examples have spoilers marked in them.

    Anyway...
    • The season 1 finale of The X Files has the Crew Cut Man, a character with little dialogue or screen time, who nonetheless nearly kills Agent Mulder, and actually does kill another very important character.
  • November 16, 2013
    TheTitan99
    Alright, I'm adding the examples, because this one seems to be Up For Grabs.

    I'm not, however, going to delete any examples yet. I don't think some of these examples fit the trope, but I wanna make sure I'm understanding the trope correctly first. This trope is about a non Arc Villain who appears in a season finale in order to make it more dangerous? Like a really, really tough opponent that's only purpose is to make the season finale be more intense.
  • November 16, 2013
    Jaqen
    Outside-Context Villain fits Willow, all through season 6, Trio were set up as the bad guys, but as soon as Trio murders Tara, Joss pulls out of his ass that Willow is the bad guy and Trio are Good Guys.
  • November 27, 2015
    henke37
    • More My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
      • Discord was supposed to be one before his two parter got rescheduled to the (pre) beginning of season two.
      • Tirek showed up as the troublemaker for season four.
  • November 27, 2015
    DAN004
    So uh, what is Arc Villain and what is this?
  • November 27, 2015
    henke37
    An Arc Villain needs to have a Story Arc. This seems to lack such a restriction.
  • November 27, 2015
    maxwellsilver
    Should the name not be Season Finale Boss rather than "Seasonal Final Boss"?
  • November 27, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Yes, it should.
  • November 27, 2015
    maxwellsilver
    Changed.
  • December 5, 2015
    morenohijazo
    Possible indexes?
  • December 5, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=skt87x8viyqqkv3m7m1l7kg6