Whenever a Big Bad
is defeated, goes missing, or escapes, an Interim Villain is neatly placed between the fall and reemergence of the previous Big Bad
The Interim Villain introduces a new side of the story via providing a credible antagonist to challenge the characters, without taking anything away from the story in the same way that an Arc Villain
might. It might take a while before the fans warm up
to an Interim Villain, particularly if you go with the (unrecommended) route of a Suspiciously Similar Substitute
As another cog in the Sorting Algorithm of Evil
, an Interim Villain may range from anywhere between a Breather Boss
(by comparison) to a Hero Killer
, depending on the portrayal. They can be connected to the previous Big Bad
, or they can be completely independent - it's your choice.
In order to spot an Interim Villain, their predecessor must still be at large (including situations involving resurrection
), and the Interim Villain themselves must return after their own defeat. Their significance to the plot can vary, but it's fine as long as they actually impact the story or characters in some way.
This still counts even when an Interim Villain is placed between the fall of the Disc One Final Boss
and the emergence of his successor. If you pick this scenario, it can sometimes lead to The Big Bad Shuffle
of Hijacked by Ganon
. Compare Filler Villain
(inconsequential antagonists meant to drag things along before the meat of the story returns).
Contrast Arc Villain
(standalone antagonists in general), Predecessor Villain
(the antagonist of the backstory) and Disc One Final Boss
(who's ousted halfway through the plot).
Anime and Manga
- Bleach introduces these in both canon and in filler.
- Jin Kariya quickly took over the scene in the anime following Aizen's escape into Hueco Mundo in the previous arc. After Kariya was killed by the end of the Bount arc, Aizen returned for the Arrancar arc. What sets Kariya apart from an Arc Villain is how he returns as a vision to Ichigo, indirectly assisting in getting Ichigo to defeat his Inner Hollow.
- Kageroza Inaba really stretches the boundaries to such an extent that he himself is a Zigzagging Trope. He's a Filler Villain (in fact the last one), dragging the story along so the anime has more material to (eventually) adapt from the manga. He's an Arc Villain, since he never appears following the Invading Army debacle. At the same time, the anime made sure to give him some significance so it's not entirely inconsequential. He makes his debut after Aizen's incarcerated, takes part in causing Ichigo's powers to fully dissipate, and loses before we bare witness to Xcution. However, the most important piece of his legacy lies in the Dangai. When Aizen destroyed the Janitor, he caused immense time fluctuations within the Dangai; Inaba used it to his advantage versus Ichigo for a time, and the time fluctuations were fixed once he met his end.
- The canon example comes from Shukuro Tsukishima and Kugo Ginjo, filling out as villains between the defeat Aizen and the emergence of Yhwach.
- Death Note had the Yotsuba executives, one of whom was the third Kira, whose Death Note restored Light's memories as the original Kira and led to L's death.
- Ronin Warriors had some shmo take over as #1 Bad Guy for the handful of episodes after Tulpa was defeated and before he came back.
- Rave Master gives us Pumpkin Doryu, who is the primary antagonist between King's death and Lucia reviving Demon Card.
- The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie had Hector Barbossa as the main antagonist, while Davy Jones becomes the prime villain for the second. In a subversion, Barbossa becomes the Sixth Ranger in the following film, Jones himself is Demoted to Dragon and Cutler Beckett (villain of the third movie) is the archetypal Big Bad for the original trilogy.
- In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Darth Sidious is the Man Behind the Man for Nute Gunray and Rune Haako during Episode I. In Episode III, he establishes himself as the Galactic Emperor, wipes out the Jedi Order and reorganized The Republic into The Empire. In Episode II, he had a minor role (even as Chancellor Palpatine), whereas Count Dooku was given more screen time and treatment as a Big Bad, but in a subversion, Sidious was the one that pushed for the formation of Dooku's organization (the Confederacy), and intentionally placed Dooku as a scapegoat while he pulled the strings from the shadows. Furthermore, the threat of the Separatists prompted the development of the Clone Army, later known as the Imperial Stormtroopers.
- The third film also had another interim villain in the form of General Grievous, who takes over as leader of the CIS from Dooku when the latter is killed. Grievous mostly exists to serve as an adversary until Palpatine is confronted at last.
- The title character of the James Bond film Goldfinger, the only villain from the Connery and Lazenby films who had no connection with SPECTRE.
- Done in Power of Three, the third arc of Warrior Cats. The Big Bad of the arc, Sol the traveler, leaves the lake about halfway through Long Shadows. The role of main villain is then shifted to Ashfur, in one of the biggest Wham Episodes of the series. This villain has a major effect on the heroes and even causes Hollyleaf's Face-Heel Turn, before being defeated and causing the characters who didn't know of Ashfur's villain status to bring Sol back to the lake and try him for Ashfur's murder. Interestingly enough, the villain of Power of Three ended up being an Interim Villain himself, meant to carry the story (and introduce massive changes) while Tigerstar and Brokenstar gathered their power to rise up in Omen of the Stars.
- The Heir of Slytherin in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Ultimately subverted when he ends up being Voldemort all along, albeit a piece of his soul working without the "real" Voldemort's knowledge.
- The strongest Buffy the Vampire Slayer example is perhaps the Anointed One in season 2, who takes over for and tries to resurrect the Master, the previous season's Big Bad, and is subsequently used to introduce Spike... who promptly kills him.
- This happened fairly often: Mr. Trick was replaced by Faith and the Mayor, The Trio gave way to Dark Willow, Spike (season 2) was eclipsed by Angelus, etc.
- In Season 2 of Twin Peaks, Wyndom Earle served as this, until Bob, the original Big Bad, returned.
- In the revamped Doctor Who series, the Daleks were the main villains in the first and fourth series, while sharing and ultimately stealing the spotlight from the Cybermen in the second series. In the third, The Master takes over the limelight.
- In the "Eleventh Doctor" era the main villains were the Silence, except for Series 7, where instead the Great Intelligence was the Big Bad for that season.
- Power Rangers: In some seasons the first Big Bad's replacement turns out to be an Interim Villain, and the original comes back by the finale even though they were defeated earlier in the story.
- Storage Wars: Early in season three, Dave is kept off the show by other business interests. Filling his role as antagonist is Jeff Jarred, whose hook is that he believes that auctioneer Dan shows favoritism towards the more established buyers.
- The Bohrok swarms of BIONICLE. Before their introduction, Makuta had just been defeated by the heroes and disappears. Shortly after their story arc was finally wrapped up with the defeat of the Bohrok-Kal, Makuta returns to the spotlight. Although it was later confirmed via Retcon that Makuta was responsible for awakening the Bohrok, he did so to distract the Toa and thus buy himself some time to recover from his previous loss, thus directly invoking this trope.
- In the animated Teen Titans series, Slade was the Big Bad for the first two seasons, until his death by the end of the second. Brother Blood takes over as the Big Bad for the third season, but he works like an Arc Villain and a Filler Villain (not a single mentioning or appearance other than his four episodes), so how is he included here? The H.I.V.E organization was already in existence in prior seasons, Slade himself returned in full on the fourth season, and Blood's defeat led to the H.I.V.E. Five striking out on their own as an independent team.
- Subverted with Sid Phillips in Toy Story 3, where even though he is the villain of the first film and is completely absent in the second, in the third he only appears as a cameo where he is now a garbage man.
- In Winx Club, the Trix are the main villains in the first season, and they're still major villains in seasons 2 and 3. They're absent in season 4, and the Wizards of the Black Circle take over their role as the primary enemies of the Winx. After they're beaten, the Trix make a return in season 5.
- Daemon served as the Big Bad for the final season of ReBoot until she was defeated and Megabyte returned from being banished to the Web at the end of the previous season.