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Knight of Cerebus
"'Why?' Why, to give you a taste of your future, a preview of things to come. Con permiso, Capitan. The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged; it's now time to see if you can dance."

In order to add more drama to a series which has been, up until that moment, lighthearted and comedic in nature, a villain (or antagonist of some sort) is introduced and is portrayed as a genuine threat, in contrast to the bumbling and comedic villains the heroes have faced before.

This villain's arrival is usually heralded by a sudden downturn in humor, to show the audience this guy means business. In other words, a catalyst for a drastic change in mood toward the dark and dramatic.

In shows that are generally Lighter and Softer, said villain may have some light-hearted or comical traits, but still gives a much higher sense of dread and genuine threat to the heroes than previous adversaries. Some cases of the trope may be harder to define by comparison in a particularly ineffective Rogues Gallery, though a clear cut example at the very least can actually place the protagonist in real danger compared to the Harmless Villain that poked his poodle in a previous arc. A typical symptom of Cerebus Syndrome.

A Knight of Cerebus is very likely to be Dangerously Genre Savvy, but also runs the risk of becoming a Villain Sue. Arguably a subtrope of Threshold Guardians. See also Dead Serious, Not-So-Harmless Villain. The show may Shoo Out the Clowns first. Often, this results in a case of Vile Villain, Saccharine Show. When this kicks off Cerebus Syndrome, his arrival is a Gut Punch. Sometimes, this type of character can be a Complete Monster if they have no redeeming traits and do terrible things by the standards of history in an initially more lighthearted series.


Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Adventures in Odyssey is largely a realistic show about realistic small-town problems, frequently more comedy than drama. It had a few forays into serious territory early on, whether it was an adaptation of a Bible story or a robbery... but when Dr. Blackgaard showed up, things changed.

  • The Cult of Apophis in Yu-Gi-Oh! East Academy presents a very real and significant danger to the heroes; their appearance marks the darkening tone of the RP.
  • Doc Scratch somehow got the players of Destroy The Godmodder interested in actually roleplaying. The more he did, the more people began roleplaying.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • New World Order. They debuted in one of wrestling's most cartoony eras and proceeded to utterly annihilate every face who stood in their way. They were led by Hulk Hogan, formerly an Invincible Hero, now a cruel and vindictive heel who loved to play the numbers game. Hell, they were so dark that Sting went through a personality 180 from a cheery surfer from a brooding Crow-type just so he could effectively combat them!
  • The Undertaker's Ministry Of Darkness. They crucified and hung their enemies, kidnapped women, brainwashed midcarders, made blood pacts in the middle of the ring... only infighting and The Undertaker getting injured put an end to them.
  • The Nexus made their debut by savagely beating down everyone around the ring- and we mean everyone. The faces, the heels, the trainers, the announcers, the commentators... they even destroyed the ring! Wrestling/RAW ended with the seven of them standing tall, everything around them utterly annihilated. And it got worse from there.
  • The Wyatt Family. With the WWE's current Lighter and Softer atmosphere, it's really jarring to see a gimmick like this one, especially considering it may be one of the most disturbing and genuinely unnerving characters in the history of the company.
    "Hey, wanna see something... really scary?"
  • A well-booked Monster Heel usually qualifies, since they will steamroll face after face until someone puts them down. Well-known examples include Kane, Brock Lesnar, Mark Henry since his 2011 Face-Heel Turn, and even Beth Phoenix.
  • The Shield. While they've started to fall apart in 2014, they debuted as a brutal SWAT Team-like trio who would steamroll anyone with flawless teamwork and then Triple Powerbomb them through a table.
  • Randy Orton. It's easy to forget that, prior to the summer of 2007 when he really began to establish himself as a main-event heel, WWE had for months and months been a carnival of kooky gimmicks: evil cheerleaders, a leprechaun, a "monster" who ate worms, Booker T thinking he was a medieval king, Mr. McMahon getting his head shaved...Even the (kayfabe) destruction of Mc Mahon's limo and Chris Benoit's (real-life) death earlier that summer couldn't quite put a damper on the silliness. Then Orton loses his title bout against John Cena at SummerSlam, pouts about it...and, after Jonathan Coachman tells him that he hasn't "proven himself" yet, kicks Cena's father in the head just to guarantee that he'll get a rematch.

  • Makuta from BIONICLE started out menacing enough, but his constant defeats and failures gradually robbed him of his credibility. After the original head of the Story Team left, the character of Makuta underwent a serious retcon, which resulted in him turning into a calculating mastermind who had planned his victory from the start, turned out to be the Bigger Bad behind a lot of former villains, and by the end of the story arc, ended up winning.
  • Noob is set in a MMORPG, so the early villains, while annoying and sometimes geunine threarts in-game, were no longer a problem once characters logged off. Then enter Master Zen, who has a deep resentment against the protagonists and is willing to go after them in real life. A plot present in all three incarnations of the franchise included him breaking into one of the protagonist's appartement, while the webseries had him resort to kidnapping and the comic showed outright (but fortunately failed) murder attempts. Even this wasn't enough for Stupid Good Sparadrap who still thinks of Master Zen as his former Guild Master, so his own storyline has Roxana: she become the first player he geuninely hates after she kills his pets and he eventually gets her to break out of her But for Me, It Was Tuesday attitude towards the incident, which causes her to hate him back.

Cerebus RollercoasterCerebus SyndromeReverse Cerebus Syndrome
Kneel Before ZodVillainsKnight Templar
Kill It with FireThis Index Is Not an ExampleKnight Templar
Kirk SummationDrama TropesLast-Second Chance

alternative title(s): Cerebus Knight
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