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So we have a Big Bad
, and he has his dragon.
The plot unfolds as our heroes do what heroes do. Laughs are had, tears are shed, and finally they reach the end of their quest.
Somehow along the way, though, they missed the Dragon. Then the Dragon turns up. He's not The Man in Front of the Man
, he just wasn't around when the Big Bad went down. Sometimes there's a reason for it, but sometimes... he's just absent. He was Dragon His Feet
His motives for persisting in going after the heroes can vary. He might be out for revenge
for his murdered boss, he might have an agenda all his own
, or he might simply have not got the memo
that his side's already lost.
May result in a Post-Climax Confrontation
, or a Dragon Ascendant
if the heroes are really unlucky.
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Anime and Manga
- This happened with the 5th Dragon Ball Z movie, Cooler's Revenge: when Goku recovers from his injuries and powers up to fight Big Bad Cooler; the force waves throw Cooler's remaining henchman and more-or-less Dragon Salza into a rock face, which he disappears into. He's forgotten until the very end when Cooler is vanquished, when he emerges to try and finish off the exhausted and battered heroes. Until Piccolo blows a hole in him via an offscreen SPECIAL BEAM CANNON.
- Graham Aker from Mobile Suit Gundam 00 season finale. After Setsuna gives it his all to destroy the Big Bad's Mobile suit, Graham re-appears after several episodes to fight Setsuna in his GN-Flag, for revenge against the Gundams.
- Quattro in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, though she had an excuse. She was operating the Cool Ship that was heading to space while Big Bad Jail Scaglietti was in his Elaborate Underground Base when Fate came to kick his ass. That, and she had one of Jail's backup clones implanted in her womb, so her not going down with the Big Bad was what the Big Bad wanted.
- The Kirby anime has an interesting variation. In this continuity, Meta Knight is technically a vassal of King Dedede (a Large Ham borderline Harmless Villain), but Dedede himself is frequently annoyed that he never seems to help out except in the most dire circumstances. Meta Knight being technically a good guy might have something to do with it.
- In the Soul Eater manga, one of Arachne's dragons, Giriko, was drugged by the good guys while they were attacking Baba Yaga Castle and is unconscious for the rest of the story arc. When he wakes up, he ends up joining the villains of the next arc to avenge Arachne by killing Maka and Soul, but ends up killing himself in the process.
- An example of this occurs in Fullmetal Alchemist: after Roy is finished with Pride, he exits his lair only to be shot in the eye by Frank Archer, who had been marching slowly into the area. Despite this Pride was not the actual Big Bad, Archer having been the Dragon to another Dragon.
- Occurs in the manga of Yu-Gi-Oh!: After the Pharaoh discovers his name and manages to defeat Zorc, he still has to contend with the corrupted Akhenaden before he can exit his memories. In the anime, this is averted, as Akhenaden is dealt with right before the final battle with Zorc begins.
- Enrico Pucci. This is due to Vanilla Ice being too useful towards Dio
- These have a habit of happening in James Bond films.
- Diamonds Are Forever had Mr. Wynt and Mr. Kidd (Blofeld's assassins) try to kill Bond and Tiffany Case with a Time Bomb after Bond dealt with Blofeld.
- The Spy Who Loved Me had Bond fighting Jaws after killing Big Bad Stromberg.
- Scaramanga's assistant Nick Nack took a final shot at Bond at the end of The Man with the Golden Gun. Justified in that Nick Nack never intended to be The Dragon in the first place. From the very opening, he says time and again he wants someone to kill Scaramanga so he can inherit the island fortress. Unfortunately for him, in the process of killing Scaramanga, Bond (or more accurately, Holly Goodnight) destroys the fortress and his inheritance.
- Big Bad Carver from Tomorrow Never Dies is completely alone when Bond takes him out and then his Dragon Stamper emerges afterward to have the final battle with Bond and in The World Is Not Enough, the final showdown is with Renard when Woman Behind The Man Elektra King is dispatched at the end of a scene where she tortures Bond, who has to face Renard, though this may be a case of Big Bad Duumvirate.
- Tee Hee has a fight with Bond aboard a train after he kills Kananga in Live and Let Die.
- The trope even follows into the parodies: Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery has Random Task infiltrate Austin's hotel room at the end, and at the end of the sequel The Spy Who Shagged Me Fat Bastard makes a surprise re-appearance ("SURPRISE SURPRISE!")
- Kindasorta in Sky High. Stitches is the last villain standing by the end, and attempts to get away with the age-regressed superheroes, but is almost immediately taken down by none other than Ron Wilson, Bus Driver.
- In The Running Man, Ben Richards incapacitates Dynamo, one of the four "stalkers" - dragons of Damon Killian and stars of his show - but spares his life. The stalker comes back later and is killed by Amber.
- General Grievous from the Star Wars prequels is supposedly Dooku's right hand man and most feared commander and assassin, but he's nowhere around while Dooku tries to take on two very powerful Jedi and gets himself killed.
- From the 2003 Zatoichi movie, the ronin bodyguard Asano waits until after his boss is dead to fight Zatoichi.
- Mr. Joshua from Lethal Weapon flees the scene of the movie's semi-final battle and instead chooses to battle Riggs and Murtaugh in front of Murtaugh's home after the primary Big Bad bit it.
- Of Lo Pan's three dragons (The Storms) in Big Trouble in Little China, only Rain gets killed before Lo Pan dies, while Lightning is knocked out during the battle royale. Thunder, who was distracted by one of the heroes when Lo Pan is killed, returns and self-destructs upon seeing the body. Then Lightning shows up to destroy the heroes as they escape, only getting killed when Egg Shen drops a statue on his head during the pursuit.
- The film Die Hard has Karl turn up one last time at the very end of the film after previously being left for dead. Although, he did fulfill his duties as Dragon, having beaten the crap out of John McClane before his defeat. He was just too Bad-Ass to die, at least until Sgt. Al Powell regained the confidence to shoot a gun.
- The Departed.
- A sort of reverse version of this shows up: The Mole causes the death of the Police Chief, his Bad Boss, and the hero himself, though not all directly. Things are looking pretty good for him, as he's the only one left standing. However, in the last scene he walks into his apartment to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun held by the Police Chief's right-hand man, who disappeared about halfway through the film after his boss died. The film ends with The Mole's brain splattered all over his front door.
- And before that, after both the police chief and Costello die, the movie continues on for quite a while as the rival moles try to finish each other off as well, with the evil mole becoming the new villain.
- In the film Road to Perdition, after the protagonist kills the entire Rooney crime family, Psycho for Hire Maguire still shows up at the end and kills him; It was Nitti who hired him rather than Rooney.
- In Hot Fuzz, after the final, massive shootout against the NWA and the defeat of Devil in Plain Sight Simon Skinner and the Big Bad Police Chief, everything seems like it's all wrapped up and the cops are all finishing up their paperwork, when suddenly the one NWA member they forgot about bursts into the police station and starts shooting.
- In Hudson Hawk, Hawk kills the Mayflowers by sabotaging the Gold Machine, but their Battle Butler Alfred was far enough away from it that Hawk has to beat him in a hand-to-hand fight before he goes down.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: After Big Bad Adam is killed by Lincoln, his sister Vadoma (who'd served as The Dragon), goes after Lincoln's wife... who shoots her in the head with a silver Tragic Keepsake.
- Bennett from Commando doesn't fight Matrix until Arius has already been killed.
- At the end of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, both Destro and Cobra Commander have been captured, but Zartan is the only Cobra member at large, and he had already kidnapped the President of the United States and became the President himself. This will lead into the sequel.
- Sebastion Moran from the Sherlock Holmes stories. After Holmes defeats Moriarty in The Final Problem, Moran shows up to start chucking rocks at his head. After Holmes escapes, he shows up three years later in The Adventure of the Empty House, hell-bent on shooting Holmes in the face. He's implied to be Avenging the Villain.
- The final battles of the Fighting Fantasy books Vault of the Vampire and Return of the Vampire are NOT against the titular vampire but his weaker sister, seemingly added as a "screw you" if you somehow best the title vampire and are on your last legs, though if she is portrayed as The Dragon depends on how you play. The Book Is A Cheating Bastard?
- In the first novel, Erast Fandorin barely survives the encounter with that book's Dragon (Professional Killer Achimas Welde), then after he destroys the Big Bad, the Dragon comes after him, kills his wife on the day of their wedding, and disappears again. In the fourth novel, the Dragon returns for the final time as a full-fledged Big Bad himself.
- Oddly enough, the novel From Russia with Love makes straighter (and more successful) use of this trope than its film adaptation, courtesy of Rosa Klebb.
- In Lynn Flewelling's Tamír Trilogy, the wizard Niryn is set up as the primary villain. However, he gets shoved off a tower by his angry ex-girlfriend midway through the last book. So...the final antagonist ends up being the mentally disturbed and rather pitiable King Korin, who was really Niryn's patsy.
- The Lord of the Rings, Saruman outlives Sauron and has to be dealt with one final time.
- More of a case of "Mook Their Feet", but Father Gomez pulls this at the end of The Amber Spyglass.
- Happens in an odd way in Warrior Cats. Tigerstar, the Big Bad, becomes Brokenstar's dragon. However, since Tigerstar is eternally the true Big Bad, in The Last Hope, he shows up after Brokenstar's death as the final villain.
- In the Millennium Trilogy, Niedermann manages to escape custody at the beginning of the third book, and spends most of the book just hiding out in an abandoned factory. Eventually, Salander tracks him down and puts an end to him.
- There's a variation in Harry Potter. At some point well after Voldemort tries to kill baby Harry and is defeated by his own curse, Bellatrix Lestrange and a group of Death Eaters torture Neville Longbottom's parents to madness, which gets people very upset, since Voldemort was defeated and the world was calm. Of course, no one knows at that point that Voldemort isn't actually dead.
- One of the possible endings for Way of the Samurai 2 featured the Big Bad's Psycho for Hire, Kyojiro Kagenuma, dropping by to fight you AFTER you've defeated and killed her boss. But then again, she's more 'Psycho' than 'For Hire', and only really followed him in the first place, because he gave her plenty of opportunities to kill people. (One of those possible endings is actually a bit of a subversion - she shows up at the Good Guys 'victory party' to fight you - but you've already left to Walk The Earth again, so instead, she simply slaughters everybody there, including your temporary love-interest, and drinks their blood while crying for you to come back and fight her...)
- Also, take too long to find her, and you'll come right after she has impaled said love interest to the ground, and later dying on your arms (the love interest). Note, the Love Interest is an Action Girl who is actually quite competent as far as allies go. Kyojiro is just that damn good.
- It should be noted that Kyojiro, in her own way, has a monster crush on the protagonist, and those bloody actions are her way of getting his attention. She even, at one points, tell you "I like you so much, I could just hack you into little pieces...!". Yandere much? Yeeeeaaaaahhhh...
- The arcade shoot'em up game Time Crisis is also an example. Two thirds through the game, Miller manages to kill Big Bad Garo in a fairly anticlimactic battle. His mercenary Dragon, Wild Dog, then takes command and tries to finish his job to make up for not being paid.
- Though Wild Dog would return in Time Crisis 2-4 as a more traditional Dragon. Even when it seems like he won't. Apparently he wears an explosion proof vest.
- Skies of Arcadia ultimately does this more than once - the game initially builds up the Big Bad to be the Empress of Valua, with The Dragon as Galcian. Eventually, it's revealed that Galcian was the one manipulating things in the first place and he too comes with his own Dragon, Ramirez. Galcian ultimately kills the Empress and much of the population of Valua, thus seating himself as the actual Big Bad. However, instead of you taking out The Dragon and defeating Galcian afterwards, the game reverses this as Galcian attacks you first - leaving Ramirez to defend his superweapon instead. After Galcian is killed during his escape, Ramirez goes insane and tries to destroy the world as his revenge, leading to Ramirez becoming the final boss fight of the game.
- Arguably the case in the first Breath of Fire game. Jade, seemingly The Dragon, is the one you have the biggest grudge against, since he personally captured and brainwashed your sister, and he survives his boss Zog to resurrect the goddess Tyr. However, he was probably planning this from the start anyway, so he may qualify as the Man Behind the Man, even though Zog also planned to resurrect the goddess Tyr and use her to acquire ultimate power.
- Yuna in the fourth game is a more typical example. He and Yohm are setup as Dragons to Soniel. After Soniel's death, Yohm goes on to serve Fou-Lu and fight against the party at the start of the final dungeon. But Yuna is nowhere to be found, and is very much alive in the game's ending, unpunished for the BodyHorror he inflicted on Nina's sister.
- The Adventures of Bayou Billy has you chasing and confronting a villain named Godfather Gordon. When you beat him, his bodyguards Rocky and Rocko appear: they serve as the game's final battle. Great work letting YOUR BOSS GET TRASHED, guys...
- In Unreal there's an implication that the Warlord you encounter a couple of times (and kill) is some sort of royal guard for the Queen and the Skaarj mothership, but in Return to Na Pali you encounter another one as the Final Boss who is hardly referenced at all and was nowhere to be seen in the mothership.
- In the first Metal Gear Solid, Revolver Ocelot is conspicuously absent for the big smackdown against Liquid Snake....if by 'conspicuously absent' you mean coming down with a case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and running far, far away.
- Revolver Ocelot is guilty of this trope several times throughout the Metal Gear Solid series. In Metal Gear Solid 2, Revolver Ocelot is the Dragon for Solidus Snake, but is absent near the end of the game because he was a double agent working for The Patriots, and in Metal Gear Solid 3, Major Ocelot is one of Colonel Volgin's most trusted men, and yet he outright betrays him during his fight with Snake because he was also a double agent, sent by the US to assist Snake.
- In the original Dragon Quest, after defeating the pansy Dragonlord/Dracolord, you literally fight his trained superdragon. The westernized "Dragon Warrior" version of this seems to have realized how silly that is and had him turn into said dragon instead.
- This happens in every Fallout game. In Fallout 1, it's optional based on the order you tackle the last two levels, whereas it happens as part of the plot in Fallout 2 and Fallout 3.
- Namely, in Fallout, the last two levels are a cathedral where you confront and kill the Big Bad, and a military base where you kill The Dragon and destroy the Big Bad's Forgotten Superweapon. You can tackle them in any order you want. According to the manual for the second game, killing the Big Bad first is canon.
- In Fallout 2, the 15-foot tall, genetically engineered, cybernetically augmented , Ax-Crazy Dragon shows up to fight you at the very end of the game, after you've already caused the Enclave's oilrig fortress to self-destruct and have likely already killed the Big Bad President Evil also.
- Likewise, in Fallout 3, after destroying the Big Bad President Evil and nuking the Enclave's mountain base, the game's final quest has you dealing with The Dragon and the remaining Enclave soldiers, who've deserted the Big Bad and holed up inside the Water Purifier facility around which the main plot revolves.
- New Vegas however, has a possible subversion in that you yourself could be the Big Bad. Also, the Final Boss is arguably Legate Lanius, The Dragon to Caesar, who by this point is most likely dead and rotten, playing this trope straight.
- Likewise, for alternative playthroughs aside from the above route. It's possible to kill President Kimball of the NCR in an assassination before confronting General Oliver if you sided with the Legion or have other reasons for wanting NCR weakened. If Legate Lanius isn't the Final Boss in your game, then the other contender is certainly going to be General Oliver.
- General Oliver turns out to be an anti climax boss if the Wild Card path is chosen. His team of rangers with heavy weaponry finally corner you. And then a giant army of Securitron robots, who are most likely upgraded to be able to fire laser gatling guns and rocket launchers, line up behind them. You can even have Oliver thrown off the Dam by your second-in-command.
- This happens in the "Revenge" ending of Grand Theft Auto IV. If you choose to execute Big Bad Dmitri Rascalov, minor villain Jimmy Pegorino shows up, kills the player character's girlfriend, and runs off (with the final mission being the player chasing Jimmy down and killing him).
- Ogre Battle has many examples, but the most obvious is in Tactics Ogre. Xaebos plays this role to the Galgastani remnants, whose main leader has either stabbed himself or been sufficiently guillotined off-screen.
- In Tomb Raider 2, the Big Bad turns himself into a giant Chinese dragon and is fought and killed by Lara in a massive boss battle in the game's second to last level. In the last level, Lara is relaxing at home when the Big Bad's remaining men crash through the front door, led by the Big Bad's 8-foot tall, dual-shotgun-wielding The Dragon.
- Duran, The Dragon to Kerrigan is conspicuously absent from Starcraft: Brood War's final battle. Finishing the game's secret mission reveals he was The Mole for a fourth faction all along, and has now returned to his true masters.
- This happens in the "true ending" path of Contra: Hard Corps. You defeat the Big Bad at the end of the 2nd to last level. At the beginning of the last level, The Dragon shows up to fight you. When you point out that his boss is dead, he replies that he doesn't care and just likes fighting.
- In Tales of Vesperia, one could argue that Zagi is at least temporarily the Dragon for every villain except for Cumore and Alexei, who share Yeager as their Dragon. Yeager's Dragon, of course, would be Zagi.
- Sort of happens in Wario Land II, where after going through the game, fighting the Big Bad multiple times and going through the secret worlds, the very final level ends with a battle against The Dragon (the giant spear man) on an invisible floor.
- This happens in Prototype. You kill the Big Bad in a Climax Boss fight about 4/5ths of the way through the game, and her "offspring" the Supreme Hunter then spends the rest of the game manipulating you to destroy Blackwatch and allow the city to be nuked, so the Supreme Hunter can escape undetected and restart the infection elsewhere.
- Happens twice in Shadow Hearts: Covenant. First with Nicolai and Rasputin, then with Kato and Ishimura.
- Used in an odd sort of way in the sixth Fire Emblem game. Narshen more or less acts as Zephiel's second in command, but is sort of a weasel and dies relatively early. However, Zephiel is always being followed by the priestess Idoun, who is a literal dragon. After you kill Zephiel (the "normal" ending) you can go on to find that Zephiel was working for Idoun, but not being commanded by her, making each of them The Man Behind the Man to the other.
- In the seventh Fire Emblem, either Lloyd or Linus becomes the final boss of the second act, depending on who died first.
- A common theme in Splinter Cell is that in the Big Bad and main instigator of the current problem is killed off in the penultimate mission, with the finale being something of a mop-up mission. In Splinter Cell it takes place in a DLC, while in Double Agent it's a bonus level for achieving the full ending.
- This is fairly common in the Warcraft universe, especially in the MMO.
- Rend Blackhand was chief lieutenant to Orgrim Doomhammer during the Second War. During the climactic battle which saw the Horde defeated, Rend and his clan were sent to deal with Gul'dan. After a few final skirmishes with the Alliance, Rend and his remaining allies retreated to Blackrock Spire. Decades later, Rend has proclaimed himself the Warchief of the Horde in opposition to Thrall. However, his battle is doomed to failure and he is little more than a minor lieutenant to Nefarion.
- Kargath Bladefist was a major player in the Second War but remained largely on Draenor. After its destruction and his corruption by fel energy, he declared himself Warchief of the "True Horde". Ultimately, he and the Fel Horde were easily dismantled by heroes.
- As possibly a homage to James Bond, this happens in No One Lives Forever. Three times. After Kate storms the Very Definitely Final Dungeon and defeats her Arch-Enemy, Volkov, she goes to a quiet Swiss village to contact her superiors, where she's surprised by The Baroness. After The Baroness is dealt with, it looks like the game is over... until The Mole shows up and challenges her to a one-on-one shootout because you killed his employer, thus preventing him from getting the big, fat paycheck he worked so hard for. After beating The Mole, another Mole shows up, and is promptly dealt with in a cutscene after explaining the entire plot of the game.
- This is the entire premise of Yuri's Revenge. When the Allies won the war and caught Romanov, Yuri slipped away somewhere else. A few months after the war, he's back - and he's a few minutes away from total world domination via mindcontrol. Unluckily for him, the Allies have an ace in the hole, San Francisco is still not under Yuri's control and they have a time machine to send themselves back in time to undo Yuri's plan.
- As The Chessmaster, Porky of the MOTHER series has a habit of leaving his dragons around to wreak havoc with the protagonists after he's defeated. First Giygas, then Claus.
- In God Hand, this happens when you beat Belze to find that The Dragon of the group, Azel, has left for his own plans of world domination, tired of the failings of the demons. He did not realize Belze planned to use Azel as a sacrifice to summon Satan, which actually worked.
- In Fountain of Dreams, the Canon Discontinuity sequel to Wasteland (made by Electronic Arts, but with no input from the original Wasteland team), your squad kills the leader/patriarch of the Killer Klowns about 7/8ths of the way through the game, but his daughter shows up and tries to kill you at the very end just before you reach the Fountain of Dreams.
- Should you find True Episode 18 of Asura's Wrath, Asura and Yasha return to Mithra after besting Gohma Vlitra only to find Olga, who has been absent from the field ever since her fleet was decimated by Asura in Episode 12, try to kill Mithra. Though it is never explained what she was doing when her leader, Deus, was killed, she arrives to kill Mithra as revenge for Deus' defeat...and then she is killed by the Golden Spider.
- In Halo 4 Jul 'Mdama is viewed as the Didact's Dragon, having even been named "the Didact's Hand", but he never appears in the single-player campaign outside of a single word of dialogue being uttered from off-screen. Otherwise, he only shows up in the prologue terminal and Spartan Ops, the latter of which takes place six months later.
- In the Touhou game, Subterranean Animism, Komeiji Satori, the leader of the boss group (calling her a Big Bad is a bit misleading) appears in the fourth of six stages. The two final stage bosses, Kaenbyou Rin and Reiuji Utsuho are Satori's "pets."
- In Legacy of Kain, Malek, the Pillar of Conflict and protector of the Circle of Nine, shows up right after Vorador slaughters the members of the Circle. For his failure, he's cursed to spend eternity as a suit of Animated Armor. Then Soul Reaver 2 explains why he was late to the party.
- The Terminal Guardian pulls a variant of this in Shin Megami Tensei IV. He was the guy who set Domains in Terminals across Tokyo on behalf of the Lawful Evil Ashura-Kai. After you tear the organization apart, he keeps doing it - even if they are gone, it's still his job, dammit!
- If Mike gains sufficient respect with Conrad Marburg in Alpha Protocol he can manage to do this. Marburg won't fight Mike inside the Greybox and instead show up after the Final Boss fight when you've got Leland dead to rights... Only to shake his head and walk off, leaving Leland just as badly off.