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Dragon with an Agenda
A Dragon With An Agenda is a character serving as The Dragon to the Big Bad, but having different goals from him. For example, if this character encounters the heroes immediately after the death or defeat of his boss, he/she won't try to complete Big Bad's Evil Plan, but will instead go on to pursue their own plans. On the contrary, if the Big Bad actually has some admirable or honorable traits, then the Dragon in this case will be the more sadistic one, more likely to pursue actually killing the heroes rather than simply dispatching them.

Most commonly, he and the Big Bad have a mutually profitable alliance, and the Big Bad just happens to be the more powerful of the two. If he's also influencing the Big Bad's plans, then he's at the same time the man in front of the man and The Man Behind the Man. Dragon-in-Chief is when The Dragon is actually the more dangerous of the pair, by a significant margin. It is not unknown for him to have taken on service for his own purposes and fooled the Big Bad into thinking he's subordinate — in this case, if ever his own objectives clash with his master's, things will get interesting.

If the Dragon's goal involves overthrowing his boss and taking his job, he's The Starscream. The tropes can overlap somewhat, as many Dragons with Agendas intend to do away with the competition at some point down the road (or are at least aware that they might have to); a true Starscream intends to do so at the first available opportunity.

Rather than a straight evil character, he tends to be an Anti-Villain or an Enigmatic Minion. Contrast with Battle Butler and Psycho Supporter, who are often The Dragon but have the same goal as their master. Unlike The Starscream or the Reliable Traitor, they are usually at least nominally loyal, and their main agenda doesn't outright conflict with that of their boss. If The Dragon and the Big Bad are equal or nearly so, you have a Big Bad Duumvirate. If they outlive the original Big Bad, this type of Dragon may go on to pursue their own motivations and become a Dragon Ascendant. Compare/contrast with the similar trope Piggybacking on Hitler. The equivalent among the hero's allies is Who Needs Enemies?.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Archduke Gorgon from Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger. Theoretically, he allied himself with Big Bad Dr. Hell to help him to destroy Mazinger-Z. But his real goal was watching over Hell and betraying him at the right time to get him killed (in the Gosaku Ota manga he backstabbed him) and Mazinger-Z destroyed. He succeeded on all fronts.
  • Gin Ichimaru from Manga/Bleach is one of the best examples of this trope, fooling the entire Soul Society, including Big Bad Aizen himself. For one hundred years, he tortured and killed for Aizen (and sometimes just For the Lulz). It turns out he was just trying to get close to Aizen so that he could get revenge for Aizen stealing half of Rangiku's soul for the Hogokyu when they were children.
  • Dark Magical Girl Lutecia from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS who cooperates with Mad Scientist Scaglietti not for his goals of world domination but to find and reanimate her mother, Megane, who is in a coma..
  • Pain in Naruto. Also Sasuke.
    • Kabuto, because after Orochimaru was defeated by Sasuke, he ingrained some of his master's remains into his own body, and decided to help Tobi in the 4th Ninja War.
    • Pain may be this to Tobi, but Tobi himself is this to Madara. Both Tobi and Madara are rather annoyed with how those agendas have messed with their plans.
    • It turns out that Black Zetsu is this to both Tobi and Madara; he's actually working for Princess Kaguya.
  • Carrossea Doon from Madlax is only with Enfant to find and protect female lead Margaret Burton, who's been targeted by the group, rather than for Monday's insane plans.
  • Wei to Amber in Darker Than Black. Wei serves Amber so that he can have a chance to fight Hei again
  • In the anime adaptation of Kirby, Meta Knight is this.
  • Nico Robin in One Piece starts out as a Dragon, but is later on revealed to have her own plans. After Crocodile's defeat, she joins Luffy's crew.
  • Saten in the anime of NEEDLESS, who is introduced as one of Simeon's Elite Four, yet in a few scenes he "accidentally" helped out the good guys as they infiltrated Simeon's HQ. It turns out that Saten was another survivor of the Adam Project who wanted Arclight dead so he could take over, but neither he nor his bosses counted on a revived Arclight coming back and absorbing him.
  • Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! did this to his own Kaiba Corporation when he was what, twelve?
  • Invoked in Neon Genesis Evangelion by Gendo Ikari, playing The Dragon to Keel Lorenz by ensuring the destruction of the Angels to open the path to Insturmentality. Once the path is open, he will immediately take things off the rails for his own reunification scenario.
    • Interestingly, the leaders of both NERV and SEELE both know from the very beginning that before the end, one will betray the other once they don't need the other groups help anymore. And in End of Evangelion, SEELE orders a full assault, killing almost everyone at NERV.
  • Dark Zero from Kurohime. Rather than follow the Big Bad Yashahime's plan and rule the universe, he just wants to exterminate humanity.
  • From Pokémon Special, Sird to Giovanni. Turns out she was The Dragon from another villainous team; she was actually working undercover as The Mole to learn more about various Pokémon from space.
  • In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Char Aznable split his time between earnestly supporting Zeon's cause and trying to murder his boss's entire family in revenge for his father.
    Char: Blame this on the misfortune of your birth.
  • Ichiki from Nabari No Ou plays The Dragon to Hattori before she betrays him for Fuuma. It appears that she'd been planning to dispose of Hattori all along, and was just waiting for him to outlive his usefulness.
  • Subverted in Gundam SEED. It's clear from fairly early on that Patrick Zala's right-hand man, Rau Le Creuset, has his own agenda, though just what it is isn't made clear. Than The Reveal comes along: he's an Omnicidal Maniac who seeks the annihilation of the entire human race, and oh, by the by, is the real Big Bad of the series, with Patrick as his Unwitting Pawn.
  • In Saint Beast, Lucifer is initially this, clearly having his own motives other than just serving Zeus, but eventually he rebels and tries to take everyone he can with him, leading to a The Good, the Bad, and the Evil situation.
  • Gundam ZZ's Glemmy Toto starts out as a Villain of the Week, eventually graduating to a position as Haman Khan's right-hand man. While the two of them share the goal of recreating the glory of Zeon, Haman intends to do it herself. Glemmy, on the other hand, seeks to reinstate the Zabi dictatorship, as represented by himself.
  • In Zeta Gundam Bask Om and his boss, Jamitov Hymem have very different agendas. Jamitov wants to rule the world. Bask, conversely, just wants to kill every colonial he can get his hands on. Since Bask's aims are rather less grandiose than Jamitov's, this doesn't really cause them too many problems.
  • Thorfinn in Vinland Saga is this to Askeladd. He wants to kill Askeladd for murdering his father.

     Comic Books 
  • In the Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War story arc, every major baddie had a different agenda.
    • The Anti-Monitor's goal is simple - to wipe out every single thing in the matter multiverse. Nice when a villain has such a clear focus on what they want, isn't it?
    • Sinestro was aiming to bring order to the multiverse by taking it over and ruling as the head of the Sinestro Corps in much the same way as he did his home planet of Korugar... or so he lets everyone think. In reality, his goal was not to win the war but to do so much damage that the Guardians of the Universe would allow the Green Lantern Corps to kill. In doing so, he believes he set in motion the events that would lead to the Green Lanterns being feared.
    • Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, is much cleaner, as all he has ever wanted was to die and be reunited with his dead wife. If the Anti-Monitor is Sinestro's Dragon, then Henshaw is the Anti-Monitor's as the Anti-Monitor promised him death. It almost worked. He was destroyed during the story but, in The Stinger, was located by the Manhunters and resurrected.
    • Superboy-Prime, meanwhile, only ever wanted to kill the Anti-Monitor as retribution for Earth-Prime being destroyed. He actually succeeded.
  • In Infinite Crisis, the main members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains:
    • Lex Luthor was apparently there to brainwash the heroes, but he had a secret plan to restart The Multiverse. And he would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling kids.
    • Talia al Ghul was there so that when the villains took over the world, she could betray her allies, kill the surviving villains, and create an ecologically sustainable utopia.
    • Black Adam signed up to get villain help protecting his country. Even Bad Men Love Their Fatherlands.
    • Calculator and Deathstroke were in it for the money, fellows.
    • Doctor Psycho was... Uh... Ummm...
  • Mystique practically defines this trope. Her betraying the boss in charge is almost expected at this point, such as when she killed Mr. Sinister in a Batman Gambit to save Rogue's life.
  • During Dark Reign, Norman Osborn put together a cabal of the best villains to help him hold onto power. Unfortunately, he ran into this trope: Doctor Doom was only in it to get back control of Latveria after his last... foray against the Avengers, Loki was in it for as long as it amused him, Emma Frost was only there because she was desperate to save the mutants, and Namor was only there because he needed the political clout to rebuild Atlantis.
    • In fairness, Osborn did realise that this was happening, and was starting a plan to build a new Cabal who wouldn't randomly try to kill him. Unfortunately, y'know...
  • In Death Of The Family, Ogilvy, Penguin's second-in-command, has decided to take over Penguin's empire, as well as name himself Emperor Penguin.

    Fanfic 
  • Past Sins has an interesting twist on the concept; the Big Bad is an extremely Reluctant Monster forced into the role, where The Dragon expects an Omnicidal Maniac.
  • The Doctor Who/Jem crossover fancomic Outrage reveals that Eric Raymond's toady Techrat was actually one of these.
  • In With Strings Attached, the Raleka have a completely different agenda than Brox and Co., but they have to work together to take the Vasyn pieces from the four.
  • In The Immortal Game, Nihilus serves King Titan with the intention of betraying him the moment she secures the Elements of Harmony. Princess Celestia anticipated this from the start, and actually helped to encourage it.
  • Nights Favored Child: The Inquisitor is implied to be this to Nightmare Moon, though like pretty much everything else about him, nothing about this agenda is clear.
  • Burning Black: Crocker's only working for Remy to keep his mother safe and after realizing that fairies are returning to Dimmsdale and there's a new Timmy in town, decides to use part of Remy's resources to create a device that will resurrect Timmy Turner and make things the way they should be.
  • Blood Silk And Steel: Sokka is this to both Azula and Ozai.

    Films — Animated 
  • Shenzi from The Lion King has an agenda. As the Matriarch of the hyena clan, who the Big Bad Scar used to keep the Pride Lands under control, she seemed to just want freedom, power, and food for her clan.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Con Air, Cameron Poe asks black supremacist Diamond Dog why he's content to be second in command to white Big Bad Cyrus Grissom. Dog replies that while his long term agenda is vastly different from that of Cyrus, he needs to escape before he can get back to it — going along with Cyrus is "a means to an end".
  • In Die Hard, Hans' top henchman Karl's brother — another of Hans' henchmen — is killed by McClane. Karl wants revenge against McClane, losing interest in the main mission for the rest of the movie.
  • The Twilight: Eclipse movie seems to do this to Jane, implying that she will allow the Cullens' deaths without Aro's knowledge. This makes more sense than in the book, where Aro wants Edward and Alice to join his side but nevertheless is willing to let Victoria's army kill them.
  • Bennett from Commando only aims to kill Matrix; little else.
  • The Dark Knight Saga:
  • Richter from Total Recall (1990) nearly screws up his boss Cohaagen's plans several times, because Cohaagen wants Quaid alive for whatever his plans are, and Richter is constantly trying to kill him to avenge his wife Lori, whom Quaid killed (and the fact that Lori was Quaid's 'wife' for a while and was constantly in bed with him can't have helped either)
  • Colonel Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds ďż˝ he happens to be Piggybacking on Hitler, but he's also The Dragon.
  • The Film of the Book of Patriot Games has Sean Miller fulfilling this role to his boss Kevin O'Donnell. After Ryan kills his brother and prevents a terrorist attack on the Royal Family, he cares less about O'Donnell and his plans and focuses more on getting revenge on Ryan and his family. He also goes as far as to shoot and kill O'Donnell and Annette in the final battle when they force him to turn the boat around.
  • In the Saw series, Lieutenant Hoffman appeared to be this for Jigsaw. Or so he tried.
  • The Matrix: (Former) Agent Smith is under almost constant control by his Machine masters and tasked with maintaining order in the Matrix. However, even in the original film he reveals that he has ulterior motives. When he briefly removes his earpiece, he admits to Morpheus that he completely despises the "zoo" he considers himself trapped in and is revolted by even the taste of humanity. In the sequels, he goes on a full-scale rebellion to destroy everything.

    Literature 
  • Galadan Wolflord in The Fionavar Tapestry. Rakoth, the Big Bad, is a pretty standard dark god/Evil Overlord who is out for world domination, but Galadan wants to destroy the world because he was driven mad by the death of his love, and he views Rakoth as a convenient weapon to help accomplish this. Obviously these goals are mutually exclusive, but it's implied that Rakoth knows all about Galadan's plans and does nothing simply because he knows the Wolflord isn't powerful enough to be a threat to him.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn and Jedi Master Joruus C'baoth. C'baoth took Thrawn's orders with more and more reluctance as time went on, and he wanted very different things. Towards the end, they weren't really on the same side anymore. Thrawn was fully aware of this, and at the time of his death was planning to solve the problem by eliminating C'baoth and making a replacement C'baoth. His own death, nearly simultaneous to C'baoth's, derailed his plan.
  • In Codex Alera, Lady Invidia Aquitaine serves as her husband Lord Aquitaine's Dragon so that she can get her hans on the Realm's reins of power (and married him primarily for this purpose), while he wants to topple a First Lord he sees as corrupt, but has no real desire to hold power himself. After breaking with him, Lady Aquitaine winds up in a similar relationship with the Vord Queen, serving her only because she is able to keep Invidia alive despite her crippling injuries.
  • In Tad Williams' Otherland, John Dread is this to Corrupt Corporate Executive Felix Jongleur. Jongleur's Evil Plan is focused on living forever, and he's trained the Ax-Crazy Serial Killer Dread as a Psycho for Hire to go after his physical opponents. Dread is far, far more ambitions than Jongleur realizes, however, and is simply biding his time, waiting for a moment of weakness to take over. And he does indeed, deposing Jongleur as master of Otherland and embarking on a godlike orgy of virtual destruction.
  • On the good guy side, in Discworld we get Vimes playing this role to Vetinari, maybe. Most of the time Vimes appears to be just a good little dragon, but he does sometimes have a different agenda, or at least a different motivation. Depending on how you look at it; technically, they both want what's best for Ankh-Morpork, but they do often differ on what exactly that means.
    • Vetinari frequently "solves" problems he's not allowed to solve himself by pointing Vimes at them and giving him a Clue. Carrot would make a straighter example of a Dragon, though usually he's serving by proxy as he technically answers to Commander Vimes, not the Patrician.
  • In David Eddings' The Malloreon, the Demon Lords Mordja and Nahaz work for Zandramas and Urvon solely so that they can seize the Sardion from them in their moment of triumph and then drag them into hell. Urvon's other Dragon, Harakan / Mengha, is also a Dragon with an Agenda; he conspires with Nahaz to drive Urvon mad and take his place, so that the two of them can rule the world. Since Nahaz is out to betray both of them, and both of them believe that their magic is enough to keep him under control, he succeeds in being Dragon with an Agenda and Dragon-in-Chief to two separate characters.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Ascalante. He was summoned to help the conspirators, and in his first appearance, comments on how his tools think he is their tool.
  • Drake from Gone. A psychopath, he serves as Big Bad Caine's top enforcer, but it's apparent from his interior monologues that he's just helping Caine in hopes that Caine and Sam will kill each other. Although he probably would've turned on Caine as soon as they no longer had mutual goals, Caine tried to kill him after Drake gave Diana near-fatal injuries, which caused Drake to switch over to The Gaiaphage.
  • Interestingly, in The Good The Bad And The Mediochre, Sapphire's Dragon Mr Antler doesn't have any ulterior motives that Sapphire doesn't know about. However, The Brute Maelstrom secretly intends to murder the dragon (of the winged, scaly sort) which the Sapphire Smuggling Syndicate are keeping alive as a back-up plan, while The Evil Genius "the tempomancer" is a Hidden Agenda Villain and member of a Nebulous Evil Organisation who are using Sapphire's plans to further their own.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: In the seventh season, Alan Wilson is at the head of the season's terrorism plot. Tony Almeida, however, has their own motives and is undoubtedly the primary antagonist.
  • Angel: The incorporeal demon Sahjhan tried to use Holtz as his dragon by offering him vengeance against Darla and Angel. However, Sahjhan's true goal was actually to either prevent the birth of Connor, Angel and Darla's unborn son, or kill him as a child. Sahjhan quickly grew frustrated with Holtz's focus on punishing the vampires instead of simply killing them as quickly as possible i.e. before Darla gave birth. And then Holtz decided that stealing Angel's son and raising him as his own would be a more fitting punishment, at which point Sahjhan lost control of his ally.
  • Arrow: We learn in the episode "Deathstroke" that Isabel Rochev is this to Slade. She insists that she's working with him instead of for him as she is trying to exact her own revenge on the Queen family, and it's just that their goals are mutually beneficial.
  • Doctor Who: The Security Chief, who is Dragon to the War Chief's Big Bad in the serial "The War Games".
  • Nikita: Alex becomes this for Oversight during season 2.
  • Power Rangers Dino Thunder: Zeltrax's desire to get rid of Tommy often causes him to go against Mesogog's wishes.
  • Revolution: Major Tom Neville is the closest thing to The Dragon that Big Bad Monroe has. But Neville is becoming this as of episode 8, because Monroe is suffering Sanity Slippage, while Neville is trying to keep his family safe.
  • V (2009): In the S1 finale, we find out that Marcus definitely seems to have an agenda different from Anna's.
  • The Wire: It becomes apparent that Stringer Bell has very different goals from Avon, wanting to use the money from their drug operation to escape the ghetto and become a legitimate businessman. Avon, meanwhile wants to protect his reputation and power as a gangster, and will even sacrifice smart business decisions to make war on the streets. This causes tremendous strain between them that builds until they both betray each other — Avon betraying Stinger to Brother Mouzone, and Stringer informing on Avon to the police. This leads to the downfall of the Barksdale organization.
  • Salem: The inner dynamics of the coven are quite a complex matter. Mary seems to be their quasi-leader, but everyone from the elders to Tituba and Hale are beginning to doubt her effectiveness after John Alden returns to Salem. And Mary herself, their Dragon, has her own ideas about how things should be run.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Ebon Dragon of Exalted serves as this to Malfeas. While he may advise Malfeas or defer to his authority, he constantly seeks to manipulate the Demon King to his own purposes, and endemically betrays him. One of the biggest exmples would have been back when they were the Dragon's Shadow and the Holy Tyrant respectively, and he manipulated him into creating the Unconquered Sun (a deity who could serve as something for the Shadow to oppose, even while he would also subvert the authority of the Tyrant).
  • In Warhammer, if you are a Dark Elf or a Skaven, chances are you're this or have one or more of these under your comand. Warriors of Chaos and Orcs also might fit under this.
    • Similarly in Warhammer 40k, all Dark Eldar assume this of their subordinates, as backstabbing is the only way to gain a promotion. Part of the reason why Incubi are valued as bodyguards over the Archon's own cabalites; Incubi loyalty is tied to their coffers, not your competency.
    • Sorcerers of Chaos (especially the Tzeentchian ones) tend to be this to Chaos Lords (itis generally assumed that if your advisor openly worships the god of backstabbers but you don't take precautions against his inevitable betrayal, you deserve what you get). The best-known example would be Sindri Myr of Dawn of War, who uses Lord Bale as a loud distraction (throwing him to the Blood Ravens when convenient) to get to his true prize: finding the Maledictum and ascending to daemonhood.

    Video Games 
  • Revolver Ocelot. In Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3, Ocelot has been seemingly working for the Big Bad, but working behind their backs, and usually the backs of the people he's supposedly really working for. The portrayal of him in The Last Days of FOXHOUND even named the trope Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. The only MGS game he ISN'T this trope is the one where he's the Big Bad himself, Metal Gear Solid 4, where his agenda comes to fruition.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, it is revealed that Darth Vader has been Palpatine's Dragon with an Agenda much earlier than the "I am Your Father" Scene in Episode V mentioned under Film. Vader tries pulling off a similar speech to the young Starkiller, but proves unable to sway him.
    • In the "Dark Side" DLC available for some versions of the game, Starkiller actually becomes a Dragon with an Agenda appealing to Luke Skywalker.
  • Astaroth in the Soul Series, according to the backstory.
  • In Suikoden III, you eventually learn Albert Silverberg orchestrated everything just to prove his skill as a strategist. He then casually derails it and walks away, likely leaving many players aching for a chance to settle the score. Or at least wipe that not-quite-smile off his face.
  • From the Paper Mario series, we have you guessed it; Dimentio. In this case, The Dragon is even more evil; an outright Omnicidal Maniac instead of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • The player was clued into the fact that Dimentio's trying to work behind Count Bleck's back pretty early on. However, it isn't until the end of the game that we learn that he's really higher up on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, instead of just being a Reverse Mole.
    • Before that, we had the Thousand Year Door, where power hungry Sir Grodus tried to unearth an ancient power. Too bad said ancient power was a demoness whom Beldam served, and wanted to spring free. Grodus ends up living as a talking head afterwards.
  • Kefka from Final Fantasy VI kills the emperor at the end of the Disc One Final Dungeon and spends the next year killing whatever he pleases. He fits for this trope, assuming he had an agenda in the first place.
    • He did outright state his intentions of reviving the Warring Triad when spied upon in the Magitek Factory, but it's questionable whether his method was planned or at a whim.
  • All of Chaos' Warriors in Dissidia: Final Fantasy have priorities other than serving him.
  • Cabadath, the Tall Man from the Chzo Mythos. The central conflict of the series, in fact, is him resisting replacement by Chzo. He fails in the last game, and the Player Character Theo becomes The Dragon.
  • In Hordes of the Underdark, Mephistopheles spends the first two chapters manipulating events so that he can be freed of the Valsharess' control; culminating in the final battle of the second chapter in which he removes all obstacles between you and the Drow queen so that you can take his revenge for him.
  • The Ancient Minister and Ganondorf, as well as possibly Bowser, all take this role in Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary.
  • Hawke in the Advance Wars series. especially noticeable in Dual Strike as he actively chafes against Von Bolt taking control of Black Hole and eventually ends up leaving him for the heroes.
  • Samir Duran could be considered a Dragon With An Agenda compared to the Big Bad Infested Kerrigan in StarCraft when we discover some of his agenda in Dark Origin. He could also be viewed as an Enigmatic Minion and The Mole (against two different factions!)
  • Colonel Autumn from Fallout 3 counts, as both he and the President have different aims for Project Purity. He wants to use it as leverage to control all the free humans in the Capitol Wastelands, and President Eden wants to use it to exterminate everything in the Capitol Wastelands. It's also why he takes the opportunity to split as soon as the Lone Wanderer hits the Enclave base.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation (as well as some non-OG games, to an extent), Shu Shirakawa acts as this to Bian Zoldark. Bian is well aware that Shu is both more powerful and more interested in pursuing his own goals, and he actually requests for Shu to merely observe during his final battle.
  • Cyril in Star Ocean: The Second Story
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358 Days Over 2 reveals that Saix and Axel were planning on overthrowing Xemnas together, and Axel had actually been following Saix's plan throughout Chain of Memories. Neither of them got as far as becoming The Starscream, however - Axel's friendship with Roxas and Xion led him away from the plan, and Saix apparently ended up dropping the idea and Becoming the Mask.
    • Xigbar also seems to have shades of this, looking back after Birth by Sleep, as he knows more about the backstory and mechanics of everything than the Big Bad, and is almost certainly manipulating his boss to an extent.
    • Vanitas displays hints of this in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, by nearly killing a key member of his master's Evil Plan before they've done their job, and allowing another person to live as a "plan b" in his own words suggests he has plans of his own, but in a subversion winds up following his master's plan exactly anyway.
  • Mastema in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. He outright states he hates the Three Wise Men and is just doing the job for the chance to ascend to a superior form.
  • Recurring villain Wild Dog in the TimeCrisis series. In the first two games he seems to be very loyal and close to the retrospective Big Bad's, but after they both die and he loses his arm in his first fight with a VSSE agent back in the first game {Then getting it replaced with a robotic arm}, he shows up in the later games not caring about the plans of the Big Bad's of the 3rd and 4th games: He just wants to cause as much trouble for the VSSE for as he can, regardless of what his current boss wants to do.
  • It is revealed midway through Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood that Cesare, Rodrigo Borgia's Dragon (and son) is one of these, with plans to conquer all of Europe.
    • Which Rodrigo tries to fight, as while the Templars want world domination, they don't want to be seen doing it. They'd much rather work behind the scenes.
  • In Might and Magic VII, Kastore initially serves as an advisor to King Archibald of Deyja (along with the three other Terrans that followed his lead, but Kastore is the dominant one). Once you've made your choice between Light and Dark, however, it becomes increasingly clear that Kastore is building a power-base of his own (apparently going for a more traditional military-focused necromantic regime, but it turns out it is a bit more complex than that), culminating in Archibald evacuating his closest followers to a laboratory off the coast of AvLee and Kastore assuming the throne of Deyja.
  • Commander Shepard arguably falls into this role in Mass Effect 2, being forced to work with the Illusive Man to stop the Collectors from abducting colonists. Ironically, the Illusive Man seems surprised when Shepard (possibly) opts to destroy the Collector Base, tells him where to shove it, before taking the Normandy and loyal crew for themselves.
  • The Black Knight in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn aided The Chessmaster in unleashing Ashera and her judgement and fought on their side in the game's climax, but didn't seem to have much interest in which side won in the end. His only personal goal was to surpass his teacher, Greil, as a swordsman. After Greil was killed, he figured his son Ike would make a suitable substitute, and siding with Ashera gave him the chance to face Ike in combat. This goal also existed when he was serving Ashnard in Path of Radiance, but the player didn't know about it then.
  • Konishi from The World Ends with You. It's hinted at, but eventually she outright betrays the Conductor by making a deal with Minamimoto, wanting to be the new Conductor when he becomes Composer.
  • Alex from Golden Sun fits this trope very well.
  • Bowser in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team.
  • Yuga in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds appears to be the Big Bad of the game, until it's revealed that he was actually the Dragon to Hilda. However, he turns out to be this when he makes it clear that he doesn't care about Lorule or Hyrule, and only wishes to attain the Triforce to remake Lorule in his own image.
  • Dawn of War: Sindri Myr to Lord Bale. The Chaos army is under the nominal control of Lord Bale, but Sindri is pulling the strings, arranging as much carnage and betrayal as he can to find the Maledictum and use it to attain daemonhood. Ever since, it has become traditional in 40K to bellow the name of your Dragon With An Agenda when he betrays you.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Eggman seems to have a talent for attracting these:
    • Eggman outright designed Metal Sonic to be a Dragon with an Agenda, programming him to have the sole purpose of destroying Sonic. This came back to bite Eggman in Sonic Heroes, where Metal Sonic's drive to beat Sonic overrode his loyalty to Eggman, and apparently Eggman has reprogrammed him to be less disobedient in Metal Sonic's later appearances.
    • In Sonic Adventure, the water god Chaos initially submitted to Eggman's control, but only because Eggman was feeding him the energy needed to pursue his vengeance against the whole world. When Chaos absorbs all of the Chaos Emeralds, he immediately kicks Eggman aside.
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow initially swears loyalty to Eggman, but it's later revealed that Shadow has his own plans for destroying the world out of revenge for the death of his surrogate sister Maria and creator Gerald Robotnik. Unlike most examples, Shadow never tries to get rid of Eggman directly when his plans come to fruition, but he does refuse to obey him afterwards.

    Webcomics 
  • In Antihero for Hire, Angelson has at least one plan going on under his boss's nose, we just don't know what.
  • Xykon and Redcloak have a mutually beneficial alliance in The Order of the Stick. Redcloak only serves Xykon in order to open the Gates and get a fairer deal for the goblin race.
    • Although there's a fair bit more to it than that, as seen in Start of Darkness. Whether or not he'll turn Starscream eventually, or be forced to confront Xykon if their plans diverge, remains to be seen.
    • Also from OotS, Sabine is Nale's Dragon. However, she's also covertly working for The Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission. Luckily for Nale, her agenda involves helping him advance his agenda.
    • Malack is helping Tarquin's conspiracy to conquer the Western Continent for peace, but is aware that as a vampire he will long outlive Tarquin and the other conspirators, allowing him to take over and dedicate the whole continent to worship of Nergal and turn it into a Human Sacrifice farm, including very Nazi-esque slaughter methods. Notably, Tarquin is apparently very aware of this, and doesn't mind, since he's happy that his legacy will live on (and Malack's promised him a bigger statue).
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Ysengrin wants to Kill All Humans, and his boss Coyote apparently doesn't. It's possible that Ysengrin is trying to pull strings behind Coyote's back, and that Y killed Red and Blue because they saw too much.
  • Wanda from Erfworld seemingly serves Stanley the Tool willingly, but it turns out she convinced him to attack her kingdom of Faq because she expected him to get slaughtered, and when he emerged victorious, she only joined him in his quest for the legendary Arkentools because she was hoping she'd get to wield one herself. She does.
  • Torg from Sluggy Freelance seems to be doing this professionally now. First with the Minion Master, and now with Crushestro ever since he found out that the Minion Master's sister betrayed him to Hereti-Corp.
  • Ian and Anita in Errant Story fit this trope pretty well, with the added little twist that it isn't clear which one is the Big Bad and which one is The Dragon.
  • Homestuck's Condesce works for Lord English, but also seems to be looking to backstab him...somehow.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamers Alliance, Ronove becomes the closest lieutenant of Duke Malphas after the siege of Vanna but has his own, secret agenda for working with the demonic duke.
  • In the That Guy with the Glasses world, The Other Guy is the real puppet-master behind the site. The one who everyone thinks is the ineffectual Bad Boss, The Nostalgia Critic, is just like that because he's desperate for attention and praise.
  • Linksano and Mecha-Kara are ultimately this during the Lord Vyce arc of Atop the Fourth Wall. In fact, Linksano defects to the side of the good guys to take Vyce down, while Mecha-Kara was a former Big Bad who only went along to take out Linkara.
    • Mechakara is also this in To Boldly Flee acting as The Mole for Turrell and Zodd. He cares nothing about their plans and is only helping because Turrell promised that he would reveal to him the secrets of Malachite's Hand. When he finds out that Turrell knows as much about it as he does, he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on a terrified Turrell and Zodd.
  • In Noob, Ash is the go-to character for Real Money Trade and Tenshirock is a hacker who want to get people off MMORPG. Tenshirock lets Ash exist due to his customers sometimes getting banned by Game Masters and never coming back, but refuses to help him get better merchandise to keep the game from becoming even more fun for those that do not get caught. Their dialog sometimes gives the impression that they would be opponents if they weren't old friends.

    Western Animation 
  • Destro in some iterations of G.I. Joe. He's in it for the money and The Baroness.
  • In Teen Titans, Slade (formerly a Big Bad himself) only serves as Trigon's Dragon so he can get his mortal body back. Interestingly, he starts out this plotline very subservient to Trigon, and gradually starts acting less as a servant and more like a partner when he gets closer to getting what he wants. When it becomes apparent that Trigon has no intention of honoring their agreement, Slade teams up with the Titans to take him down.
  • Raythar from W.I.T.C.H. serves this role during the first part of the second season — Big Bad Nerissa has her own agenda, but Raythar just wants to avenge the previous Big Bad, Phobos. When a chance arises to put Phobos back on the throne, he ditches Nerissa and transfers his loyalty back to his original boss. Nerissa, meanwhile, replaces him with Shagon, who is her creation and therefore completely loyal.
  • The Fright Knight in Danny Phantom subtly expresses his absolute distaste working for Pariah Dark and it hints he wants to go a different route. It ultimately proves true when he works against Pariah during the final battle. It's hinted he went to serve Vlad, but the original writer left the show before possible stories of this could have been told in Season Three.
  • On Gargoyles, the Weird Sisters serve this role for the Archmage — he wants revenge on Goliath, while they want revenge on the Magus and the rest of the Avalon Clan. They couldn't really get on the island themselves, however, since Oberon had forbidden it; the reason they willingly put themselves under the Archmage's service was because they knew he would order them to go there, exploiting a loophole in Avalon's laws.
  • In Sonic Sat AM, Snively in the final minutes of the series finale was revealed to be this.
  • In the original My Little Pony, Porcina's Raptorian minions encourage her to go to the extreme of turning Ponyland and all the Little Ponies into glass because they want to take the place for themselves.
  • The X-Men: Evolution version of Mystique. In the first season, she's working for Magneto, but they have a slight falling out and she works independently for the rest of the series. This causes some tension when both tried to take command of the Brotherhood, with varied results depending on the episode and the Brother.
  • In a dark future episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Grim is ultimately this to dark overlord Mandy. She was aware of this and set things up to capture the rebels and make Grim pay.
  • On Sonic Underground, Sleet and Dingo once plotted to steal tax money meant for Robotnik and frame Manic for it.
  • Bill Cipher of Gravity Falls was summoned by Lil' Gideon to attack Stan, but this exchange suggests that he's less a Monster of the Week and more of a Bigger Bad;
    Gideon: Listen to me, demon! I have a job for you. I need you to enter the mind of Stanford Pines and steal the code to his safe!
    Bill: Haha- Wait. Stan...Pines... (Images of Stan and Stan's tattoo flash by on his face) You know what, kid? You've convinced me. I'm sold! I'll help you with this and in return you can help me with something I've been working on. We'll work out the details later.


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