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Demoted to Dragon
"You know, I actually like working for someone else. It lets me be a little more... hands-on."
Slade, Teen Titans

In the natural progression of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, a stronger Big Bad will replace the previous villain for the new season. However, what happens if the previous villain is still here? One of the things the former Big Bad can do now is to work for the new Big Bad as his Dragon. This is Demoted to Dragon in a nutshell.

Demoted Big Bads will almost always become The Starscream or a Dragon with an Agenda.

Contrast Dragon Ascendant, the inverse, and Big Bad Duumvirate, when the previous Big Bad isn't explicitly subservient to the new one. See also Big Bad Wannabe.

Beware of spoilers.


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    Films — Live-Action 

  • Brokenstar was the Big Bad of Into the Wild, the first book of the Warrior Cats series. Then he gets driven out of his clan and killed, leaving Tigerstar in control of his army. Later in the Omen Of The Stars arc, Tigerstar and Brokenstar meet up in the afterlife and Tigerstar becomes Brokenstar's dragon.
  • Caine Soren is reduced to this briefly during HUNGER (the first of many sequels to GONE). He bounces back though.
  • Occurs in Needful Things, where John "Ace" Merrill, the Big Bad from Stand by Me, becomes a lackey for Leland Gaunt.
  • Happened in the backstory of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. The three Raversnote  (formerly human, bodiless possessing demons) were the Land's reigning supreme evils for centuries, possibly millennia- at least until Lord Foul the Despiser showed up to seize the throne of Big Bad de jure. In the process, he made the Ravers his chief minions (an arrangement which worked out well for the Ravers; Foul was as evil as they were, far more powerful, and an extremely subtle chessmaster, so allying with him made them if anything even more dangerousnote ). However, by the time the actual books take place, this is entirely a matter of legend; the Ravers are well-known primarily as Foul's minions, and are even described as such in the books' glossaries.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • When Angel became Angelus, former Big Bad Spike became Angel's Dragon.
    • Mr. Trick, after having abandoned his master, Kakistos, to the Slayers, seeks to install himself as the next Big Bad and The Man Behind the Man. Cue the Mayor forcibly recruiting Mr. Trick.
    • Also subverted when the Mayor attempted to do this to Angelus. Angelus initially goes along with it (in a very openly-Starscreamish way) but it turns out the Mayor failed to actually take Angel's soul, and he was just playing along to get information from Faith.
  • Angel: A variant for the good guys — after Angel has a Heroic BSOD and fires everyone in Angel Investigations, he gets better and asks for them to return, as his bosses not his employees — he demotes himself to Dragon. Eventually he goes back to being the boss but it's never quite established how. It's because Wesley betrayed the team's trust in a misguided attempt to protect Angel's son, and was subsequently booted from being the boss of AI later in Season 3. He later returned, but stayed as The Smart Guy. And really, from that point on everyone had their own role on the team, with nobody being 'in charge' again until Season 5, when they took over Wolfram and Hart.
  • A strange variant in Smallville's Season 10 episode, "Dominion". General Zod, the Bigger Bad of Season 5, and Major Zod (his clone), the Big Bad of Season 9, were fused into a single being by Darkseid, the Season 10 Big Bad, and used as his surrogate in the Phantom Zone.
  • Regina Mills, the Big Bad of the first season of Once Upon a Time becomes The Dragon to her mother Cora in the second.
  • Darken Rahl is the Big Bad of the first season of Legend of the Seeker. Then he's killed in the season finale. Come season 2, the Keeper has become the new Big Bad, seeking to kill every living thing, with the Rahl's soul being his Dragon. Not only that, but he reveals that he has always served the Keeper after making a Deal with the Devil for more power, and all his murders and slaughters were partly to appease his master. Then again, Rahl is a dick either way and really enjoyr killing. Of course, he turns out to be a Dragon with an Agenda and betrays his master by the end. Additionally, in the episode where Zedd's spell goes awry and rewrites history, Rahl becomes Richard's willing assistant, after Richard brainwashes him. Then the spell is broken, and Rahl is back to his old self.
  • Farscape: Crais briefly experiences this once Scorpius deposes him as captain of his Peacekeeper battleship, but takes the first opportunity to desert and do his own thing.
  • Done briefly in Stargate SG-1. Initial Big Bad Apophis is hunted down by replacement Big Bad Sokar and dies while hiding on Earth. In a later episode, one of the lesser Goa'ulds serving Sokar has a First Prime named Na'onak who turns out to be a regenerated Apophis in disguise. However, Apophis rapidly pulls a Starscream on both and reclaims the Big Bad throne.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The Undertaker, as the leader of the Ministry of Darkness, was clearly seen as the biggest threat in the WWF at the time, to the point where it seemed even Vince McMahon was getting face cheers over him and was being portrayed somewhat sympathetically. However, Taker began making references to a "Higher Power", and when it was time for the reveal, it was none other than McMahon himself who had been pulling the strings all along. The Ministry merged with The Corporation to form the Corporate Ministry, and Undertaker immediately became McMahon's dragon.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • In Harry Potter Comics, Voldemort is revived by a mysterious Necromancer for the sole purpose of being his Dragon (and fully opening the Chamber of Secrets).

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Magmion was the Big Bad of the first season of Gormiti: The Lords of Nature Return. Season 2 introduced Obscurio, and Magmion was reduced to his main henchman
  • The Trix from Winx Club were the main villains in season 1. In seasons 2, 3, the 2nd movie, and 5 they work for the more powerful villains Lord Darkar, Valtor, the Ancestral Witches, and Tritannus.
  • In G.I. Joe, this happens to Cobra Commander when Serpentor is created.
  • Slade from Teen Titans is demoted to Trigon's dragon when the latter tries to take over the world. An unusual case where the former Big Bad is actually more of a threat to the heroes when he's serving as someone else's henchman, because Trigon gave him a truckload of powers in the bargain.
  • Shendu, from Jackie Chan Adventures. For the first season he was the one calling the shots but after his defeat he is forced into servitude to his demon siblings. Though in this case, he demoted himself so they'd stop beating the crap out of him for leaving them to rot in their prison.
  • In Danny Phantom the Fright Knight became Pariah Dark's Dragon when he awoke. Though in this case, the Fright Knight was always Pariah's Dragon, his boss was just Sealed Evil in a Can when the Fright Knight was unleashed the first time. Vlad convinced him to turn against his master offscreen.
  • Transformers Prime: This is played with when Unicron shows up. Megatron wants to serve him, but Unicron doesn't give a crap about Megatron, viewing him as beneath him. Which is a total reversal of the G1 situation ("serve me or get eaten") and the Transformers Armada situation ("you've actually been serving me all along.") where it's an unwilling Megs being made to work for Unicron until he can turn the tables. (If you go with the All There in the Manual Retcon that there's just one Unicron, it could be that the Chaos-Bringer has just learned that Megatrons don't make good servants.)
    • They do cross paths again in the finale movie. He still doesn't become Unicron's dragon. Megatron's dead body is hijacked by Unicron, and Unicron proceeds to torture Megatron whenever he speaks out of turn.
  • Vilgax from Ben 10 becomes the Dragon to Diagon in the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien season 2 finale, though he is hinted to be a Dragon with an Agenda. This is confirmed in the series finale, where Vilgax is a successful Starscream, killing Diagon and absorbing his power to become the most dangerous villan the franchise.
  • Professor Pericles from Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated acts as the Big Bad of season 1 but in the second half of season 2 is revealed to be the Dragon to the Nibiru entity.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Twilights Kingdom Part 1, Discord thinks he and Tirek are a Big Bad Duumvirate, but in actuality he's this trope.
  • Skeletor was the Big Bad of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), but became The Dragon to new villain Flogg in The New Adventures of He-Man. However, Skeletor's role wasn't all that different functionally, as he constantly manipulated the clueless Flogg.

Co-DragonsVillainsThe Dreaded

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