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
Anime and Manga
Live Action Television
- 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).
- 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's 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 wherabouts. 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.
- Ian Blackpoole in the Season 1 finale of Leverage 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 targetted 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.
- Dark Willow, in Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, emerges after Warren kills Tara, kills him for revenge, and then tries to end the world, all in the space 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.
- Darkseid in the final episode of Justice League Unlimited. Resurrected at the very end of the penultimate episode, he's 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 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.
- 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.