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Breaking Out the Boss
When a character, most often The Dragon, The Renfield, or Sycophantic Servant breaks out the Big Bad. Most commonly done either in the form of freeing the Big Bad from an Tailor-Made Prison or breaking out the Sealed Evil in a Can. Sometimes, this will be part of an Evil Plan thought out by the sealed entity. Generally, one of three possible outcomes occurs:

  1. The person or thing being broken out is fully cognizant and quickly gets back on their feet, barking out orders as though nothing happened.
  2. The person or thing being broken out is heavily tired by their long captivity, and must be minded by their liberator. Perhaps his mental faculties are in order, but his body is not, perhaps the opposite. Regardless, it will normally take anywhere from a few days to a few years to recover. Rarely, this state can be permanent.
  3. The liberation backfires, and the entity kills, enslaves, or otherwise harms its allies. Often a consequence of unleashing the Sealed Evil in a Can (because Evil Is Not a Toy), and may lead to an Oh Crap or My God, What Have I Done? moment.


Examples

The person or entity is fully cognizant

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Kimblee comes to save Pride by blowing open the prison that Hohenheim made for him.
    • In the 2003 anime adaptation, Greed is freed from several centuries of captivity by virtue of Barry the Chopper hitting a fortuitously placed "self-destruct" button. Greed then frees other captives, namely the chimeras who become his henchpeople, Shou Tucker, and Zolf J. Kimblee. The latter would be an example of type 3 in respect to Greed.

     Film  

  • In X2: X-Men United, Mystique plays a critical role in breaking Magneto out of his plastic prison, by injecting iron into the bloodstream of one of the security guards so that he can kill the guard by extracting it from him and use it both as a weapon and a transportation method.
  • "I... am... MEGATRON!" You'd never guess it if you'd just watched the movie, but his minions had different ideas of what type this example was.
  • Storm Shadow busts Cobra Commander out of Einsargen Prison at the start of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Although initially disoriented, Cobra Commander quickly recovers.
  • El Indio's gang break him out of prison early in For a Few Dollars More, and he jumps right into action.
  • Dead in Tombstone opens with the Blackwater Gang storming a prison to free Red as he is about to be hanged.

     Live-Action TV  

  • In 24, Andrei Drazen breaks out his supposedly dead father, Viktor Drazen, in 10 PM of Day 1.
  • On Leverage, this happens to Nate after he goes to prison at the end of season two to save the rest of his crew. Though, the actual escape is largely of his own making. For bonus points, his crew also takes down the corrupt warden at the same time.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has an episode where a bunch of Centipede soldiers break Edison Po out of prison. While not the boss (that would be John Garrett), Po is higher up in the Centipede organization than the soldiers (and is the most powerful member to have a name and face at the time). To illustrate how in charge he is, when one of the soldiers tells him "Time to go", his response is to sit there, continue eating his soup, and correct the soldier: "Time to go, sir."

     Video Games 

     Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • Wildfire: Some goblins spent most of an episode trying to release their boss. When he eventually escaped, despite the goblins having been defeated, there was no reason to believe he was any less powerful than before. Fortunately, he was defeated again.
  • In Megamind, Minion constantly does this with his boss, Megamind. Of course, Megamind's "prison" cell is a very comfortable home for him, so it's not usually a big issue.

The person or entity is only partially cognizant

     Anime and Manga  

  • In the beginning of Code Geass R2, the Black Knights fetch Lelouch/Zero. It falls into type 2 because he is amnesiac after the Time Skip.
  • Still in great shape, but certainly past his prime was Piccolo Daimaoh. He managed to curbstomp Goku the first time they met, before he got rejuvenated by the Dragon Balls. Also, sort of Type 3 for Pilaf, who, even if he didn't get killed, also got no gratitude from Piccolo and got ditched pretty quickly.

     Literature  

  • In Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, Opal Koboi is broken out of her mental clinic-prison by the Brill Brothers. She is mentally cognizant, but extremely physically weak (even by pixie standards), and it takes several days in a muscle-massager to get her back into shape.
  • Partially applies to Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter. While Wormtail never had to break him out, he did have to a) find, b) feed, and c) nurse his master back to health. For almost a year.

     Video Games  

     Western Animation  

  • Occurs to recurring baddie Jammerhead in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward episode "Enter the Jammerhead", after he had been imprisoned during his last appearance. The "partially cognizant" bit comes from the fact that he was suffering from a system crash (Jammerhead is at least partially cybernetic) that had left him catatonic.
  • In one episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Cordoth's daughter tried to undo his banishment. When he was finally brought back, it was revealed he let himself go and was quite overweight.

The breakout backfires on the liberators

     Anime and Manga 

  • Zeref from Fairy Tail. At first he's "sleeping" and harmless, and he doesn't want to use his powers. Then, his dark side awakens and the first thing he does is to kill Hades, Master of the Grimoire Heart Dark Guild who wanted to resurrect him and use his powers.

     Film  

  • Part of the plot of 3:10 to Yuma.
  • Unusual example: In the movie of Mystery Men, Captain Amazing arranges for Casanova Frankenstein's release from the jail so he can gain publicity by fighting him. It doesn't go well.
  • The parody and pastiche Kung Fu Hustle does this for laughs, when the Axe Gang has an inept patsy with a knack for picking locks break out the Big Bad from his prison. Throughout the prison, the film sends up horror cliches, including the blood-flooded corridor, before revealing the Big Bad to be an old, unkempt, flabby-looking man. Naturally, it turns out his kung fu is virtually unstoppable and he winds up taking over the Axe Gang.
  • The Clive Barker film Lord Of Illusions opens with the Evil Sorcerer Nix being defeated by his closest follower Philip Swan from sacrificing a female child and buried in a magical harness. Nix's cult spends the rest of the film trying to resurrect Nix and succeed at the end. The undead Nix expresses his gratitude to his followers, but then reveals himself to be a sadistic Omnicidal Maniac and promptly kills them all for their blind obedience.

     Literature  

  • In the backstory of The Wheel of Time, Lanfear did this accidentally, thinking the Dark One was just an untapped magical power source. When "the Bore" was drilled into his Can, evil and brutal chaos was unleashed on the world. Now that he's been re-sealed, the Forsaken plan to break him out again—this time completely. They (mostly) don't understand that fully breaking him out involves destroying the world itself, and themselves.

     Video Games  

  • This happened in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Grodus freed the Queen of Darkness, who promptly destroys Grodus's body. However, The Shadow Sirens intended it to happen all along.
  • In the third game of Mega Man Battle Network, Wily collects the four Tetra Codes so he can awaken Alpha, the prototype Internet to, well, destroy the internet. Alpha then proceeds to eat Wily and Bass.

     Western Animation  

  • One episode of The New Batman Adventures has two goons driving the Ventriloquist insane so his criminal mastermind alternate personality Scarface can emerge. When he does come back, he sets up a grand heist. When getaway is imminent, he tries to kill the goons for forcing him out early.
    Scarface: When the arms think they're smarter than the brains, it's time to amputate.
  • An episode of The Batman has Black Mask's thugs organizing their boss's liberation from the GCPD. As soon as Black Mask is free, he electrocutes his right-hand man and hands the reins over to a random goon.
    Black Mask: You, you're my new Number One.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: If not for Jackie, Shendu would have probably killed the Dark Hand at the end of Season 1.

Examples for which revealing the nature would constitute a spoiler

     Film  

  • In the first Hellboy film, there is a female nazi seeking to reincarnate Rasputin. Results in type 1.

     Live Action TV 

     Literature 
  • In Septimus Heap: Flyte, Simon Heap is breaking out DomDaniel to take over the Wizard Tower and give him the ExtraOrdinary Apprenticeship.

     Video Games  

  • The villains of the first Wild ARMs game spend most of the first act attempting to unleash the sealed Mother, who will ostensibly lead them in their conquest of the planet. It's a bad enough Type 3 that the Dragon simply allows the heroes to kill Mother before resuming said conquest himself.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Dragon Age II. During the Legacy DLC, Hawke is forced to release Corypheus, one of the first Darkspawn from an Ancient Grey Warden Prison with the intent of slaying him, in order to prevent a group of Rogue Wardens or Ghoulfied Carta who are vying to break him out first. Unfortunately, Corypheus manages to possess a nearby Grey Warden just before Hawke strikes the killing blow and escapes.

Parodies

     Western Animation  

  • In Kim Possible, Dr. Drakken is left in prison for the first half of season 4, and he's constantly waiting for rescue from his henchmen. On two occasions, other villains show up to liberate his sidekick Shego, but they completely ignore him. In one case, the jailbreaker is Drakken's own cousin, Motor Ed, who takes the time to wave goodbye. When he does get busted out, it's by an alien suffering from mistaken identity.


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