It's a tricky business discovering one of your underlings is a traitor, especially a high ranking one. Apart from the feelings of betrayal, you've now lost a (probably quite efficient) member of your workforce and the rest of your underlings are reeling from the revelation, given how much esteem and trust they needed to have for the holder of that position. Not to mention that group of heroes you had take him down is going to want paying and you need to reward that one Mauve Shirt who helped smoke him out as well....
This is when, after taking down a villain, their job is reallocated to someone else as a reward for defeating them. If the villain was The Mole (in which case they might just have left the organisation in question) then the Big Good or another benevolent figure will promote or hire either The Hero or one of his allies. A popular variation is for a low ranking member of the authority figure's organisation (typically someone who reported directly to the villain and got suspicious) who decided to help the heroes to be promoted to the villain's former position. If the villain was a corrupt ruler then his former subjects might make the hero their new leader.
If the heroes are part of a rebellion then they might invoke this trope after taking over (particularly with members of the old regime who either defected or are simply Lawful Neutral enough to be trusted). If The Drifter is made sheriff or similar he may use this trope on whoever showed enough backbone before moving on.
If the hero who slays the villain is forced to replace them in their duty by the very nature of the universe (whether the villain was doing said duty properly or not) it's You Kill It, You Bought It. If a member of the villain's group begins to work for the heroes after they defeat the villain then it's I Fight for the Strongest Side. If it was the act of slaying the villain that earned you his position then it's Klingon Promotion. If someone on the heroes' side replaces the villain more literally then it's a Face-Heel Turn.
open/close all folders
This is how Doctor Strange became the Ancient One's apprentice: by warning him that his current apprentice, Baron Mordo, was planning to kill him. (This is a slight variation in that The Ancient One knew Mordo was going to betray him; he only acted like he was unaware as part of a Secret Test of Character for Strange.)
In some versions of his origin, Hal Jordan started on the path to becoming the most respected among his fellow Green Lantern Corps members by exposing the villainous abuses of power perpetrated by the previous #1 GL, Sinestro.
In a clearer example of the trope, this is how the original Avengers reclaimed their usual public roles.
Daredevil pulled something much like this on the Kingpin of Crime, exposing Fisk's latest attempt at reclaiming his role as the top mobster in New York in order to become a kind of "anti-crime" Kingpin. Much later, though, when Daredevil became a full-fledged villain after crossing some ethical lines and falling victim to Demonic Possession, Fisk managed to get his old role back and usurped Murdock's rule over the Hand, in a rare example of a villain doing this to another villain.
Peter Parker does this to Eddie Brock in Spider-Man 3 when he exposes Brock's fraud with that "Spider-Man with his hand in a cookie jar" photo.
In Working Girl Tess exposes Katherine for the backstabbing incompetent that she is, and gets her job (and her boyfriend) as a result.
This fueled the entire plot of the first TRON. Dillinger stole a half-dozen completed video games from Flynn and parlayed those into a job as Encom's vice president. One wild trip into cyberspace later, Flynn's got his proof, Dillinger's ruined, and there's a vacancy in the boardroom...
In Mr. Destiny, James Belushi's character Larry is placed in an Alternate Reality by a Guardian Angel (played by Michael Caine), which shows what his life would've been like if he'd succeeded in a high school baseball game. He ends up the president of the company where he works (in his own reality) in middle management. After this new reality turns into a disaster for him, he ends up back in his reality with no time having passed. However, he also has knowledge that the company's VP is planning to secretly buy up all the shares for cheap using a faked merger as a front. Larry bursts into the boardroom just in time to expose the Corrupt Corporate Executive and then runs home to see his real wife. At his surprise birthday party, the company's president visits him and lets him know that the culprits confessed to everything and were fired. As a bonus, Larry is offered the position of the VP and a company car (a Mercedes).
Older Than Feudalism: In the biblical story of Esther, after Haman has been put to death for trying to kill Esther's cousin, Mordecai, their entire family, and their entire race Mordecai is given Haman's old job as royal advisor to the king.
At the end of the X-Wing Series novel Mercy Kill, Face Loran replaces the corrupt head of Galactic Alliance intelligence, who he implicated in the conspiracy he had been investigating throughout the book. Admittedly a case where the means of taking down the villain (and recognizing his threat in the first place) amply proved his ability in his new job.
The Pretender episode "Curious Jarod" begins with Jarod exposing a scam being run by a casino's head of security, and being hired as the new head of security.
At the end of season 2 of Burn Notice Michael is offered Carla's old position, on the grounds that he exposed her as a rogue agent, and had her killed. Inevitably, he turns it down. Not a Klingon Promotion, because it's heavily implied that she would've been killed anyway if she had been found out.
In the fourth season finale of Angel, Angel Investigations get to start running the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram and Hart.
Birthright has a classical character made this way, Rahil "the Falcon". A minor noble learning magic wandered into the oldest human city on the continent soon after local Court Mage's death and noticed that both of the old guy's apprentices were too busy trying to control the court with spells. So he exposed their little games to the prince-paladin and guess who was the next Court Mage there?
Of course, Howe himself tried to pull the same trick, although that involved accusing Teyrn Cousland of treason, which would allow Howe to come in and take his lands. If you play as a Cousland, then you, effectively, get your own lands back.
In Dragon Age II, if you do Aveline's side quests you eventually reveal the Guard Captain as being on the payroll of the Coterie in order to settle his debts. Aveline is given his job as a reward for her diligence in looking after the City Guards and as a means to restore trust in their devotion to upholding the Law.
Shepard in Mass Effect is promoted to the Spectres after finding evidence that gets another Spectre, Saren, stripped of his position.
Shepard had been tipped as a Spectre candidate before (in fact, the very first scene, before the Opening Scroll and title, is Anderson, Hackett, and Udina talking about it). Presumably any sufficient display of loyalty and badassery would have gotten him/her in; it's just the the Saren case was right there and, more importantly, personal.
The Hero in Fable I is offered the post of Mayor of Bowerstone if they depose the current Mayor, Lady Grey, by finding evidence that she murdered her sister.
Also in Fable III, but it's less exposing and more usurping that happens to the villain.
In Baldur's Gate 2 you can end up running a cell of the Shadow Thieves in this manner.
Invoked in Final Fantasy Tactics. Delita rushes into a meeting by Duke Goltanna and exposes a traitor in the Duke's inner circle. As reward, the Duke appoints Delita as leader of the Blackram Knights and later leader of the entire Order of the Southern Sky. Of course, everything is going All According to Plan.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the main villain in the Thieves Guild questline eventually turns out to be Mercer Frey, the Guildmaster. After you exposed and slayed him, you will eventually end up rewarded with the title of Guildmaster yourself.
In an episode of Rupert, he ends up helping an elf who's behind on his...dust sprinkling. It turns out that his Bad Boss had gone crazy and started keeping the gold the elves mined to make said dust, leading to said boss to be fired and said elf to be promoted.
In the straight to video sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, the Sultan offers Aladdin the job of Grand Vizier, which Jafar held. In a variation he defeated Jafar in the previous film and the Sultan makes the offer at the beginning, with Aladdin deciding to turn him down at the end (and settle for merely being a prince).
Disney's Mulan. In the end, Mulan is offered the job of the Emperor's incompetent aide. The aide wasn't the villain, but he was an ass the whole movie.
A variation: In The Simpsons episode Homer's Odyssey, Homer begins protesting against the Nuclear Power Plant's safety policy, and successfully works up a giant protest group. Mr. Burns calls him over to his office, and because most of Springfield thinks the Power Plant is irresponsible with safety, makes him a safety inspector.
At the end of Monsters, Inc., Sulley actually ends up becoming the new CEO of the titular power plant after exposing Waternoose's evil plans to kidnap children and harvest their screams as he does so. Sulley then proceeds to convert said power plant from one relying on children's screams to one relying on children's laughter.