Big bads die. That is a fact of any story... most of the time. That being said, when the Big Bad dies too early in the story's narrative, when due to the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, a Klingon Promotion, or being on the wrong end of Eviler Than Thou, it quite expected that a new guy will somehow take his place, usually with his own Mooks to do his dirty work. Except sometimes not. Mook Carryover is when Mooks of the previous Big Bad (The Dragon, The Evil Genius, The Dark Chick, or just the Gold Fish Poop Gang) end up working for the new guy. How they managed to avoid death by either the hand of The Hero or their new boss varies: they may have betrayed their own boss, or were only mostly killed by the hero, and pitched their resume to the new guy. Or they may have been always working for the new blood, and just pretending to be loyal to the other one. Whatever the case, they are a familiar face among a bunch of new villains. This trope can be considered the Inversion of Replacement Mooks. Whether they are still effective or not depends on which they remembered to keep their skills sharp, assuming they were very skilled in the first place.
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- The mooks of the Thunderbolts are just guys in cool armor with guns. When Swordsman bribes/hires a bunch of them for himself, while staging a coup against Norman Osborn, he spraypaints them in his colors. They don't last long, but they are mooks who get a palette swap and a new boss.
- Star Wars: Legacy, when Darth Krayt dies, the entire Sith Empire works for Darth Wyyrlok for a while.
- Manute of Sin City goes to work for Wallenquist after Ava Lord's death.
- Superior Spider-Man: After Spider-Man (Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker's body) kills members of his Rogues Gallery, their surviving mooks seek employment and protection from the Green Goblin.
Films — Live-Action
- Jaws somehow survives being dropped into a shark tank in the middle of the ocean at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me. When the original Dragon is killed in Moonraker, Jaws is hired as his replacement.
- The character Ogre in Revenge of the Nerds shows up in the sequel in a different chapter of the Alpha Beta fraternity. The brothers he had in the original film are all gone, apparently defeated. Although later, they ditch Ogre after he's served his purpose as dumb muscle, leaving him to join the all-accepting nerds as their dumb muscle
- Lobo, the hulking henchman played by Tor Johnson in Bride of the Monster shows up again under a different Big Bad in Night of the Ghouls, heavily scarred and apparently undead.
- Throughout the course of The Dark Knight, many of the mobsters goons turn to The Joker (after some "auditions").
- Star Wars has an interesting one. The clones were created by the Jedi, and they continued to serve the Empire, and one Jedi in particular. Also, pretty much all the Imperials in the Expanded Universe who don't fall under Defector from Decadence.
- In X-Men: First Class, Magneto inherits Sebastian Shaw's henchmen after his Face-Heel Turn.
- In the Lone Wolf books, the death of all the Darklords at the end of the Magnakai series sure throws their troops in complete disarray and makes them an easy pick for the forces of Good, but it doesn't lead to their complete destruction. Thus, in the Grand Master series, slews of Giaks, Drakkarim, Kraan, Zlanbeasts, Vordaks, Helghast, Nadziranim and other foul monsters still exist, although for the most part locked in civil wars in the Darklands. The aim of some of the new antagonists, like Archdruid Cadak or High Warlord Magnaarn, is precisely to regain control of these armies and resume conquest of Magnamund.
- Sword of Truth:
- After Darken Rahl, ruler of D'Hara, is killed in the first book, large portions of his armies end up working as the expeditionary forces for the Big Bad for the rest of the series.
- Also semi-inverted, in that the rest of Rahl's armies pledge allegience to the hero, Richard, after Rahl is killed. Richard at first believes this is a simple case of You Kill It, You Bought It, but later finds out that it's because he's Rahl's rightful heir.
- In Mistborn, after the Lord Ruler's death, many of his most powerful minions, notably Koloss and Inquisitors, start working for new Big Bad Ruin. Justified in this case because the Lord Ruler created these beings and built a psychic "back door" into them so that he could always control them; with him out of the way, the far more powerful Ruin was equally capable of exploiting said "door". His human minions are a much more mixed bag, with some joining the heroes and others various Big Bad Wannabe kings.
- Across J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, many of the same creatures that once served Morgoth transferred their loyalty to Sauron when he took over as Big Bad. In this case, that would be because Sauron was The Dragon to Morgoth, so most of these minions would have been used to taking orders from him anyway.
- Power Rangers:
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has Lord Zedd usurp Rita Repulsa as the series villain, but he keeps all of Rita's old henchmen under his employ. He even upgrades the Putties to be tougher, provided nobody hit the obvious emblem target on their chests.
- Mahou Sentai Magiranger has Vancuria, who was immortal and couldn't be killed anyway. So when a new villain took control of the Infershia army, she always stuck around. In fact, because of said immortality, and a Heel-Face Turn, she outlasts almost all of them. The other Dragon, Wolzard, was similar, though he did go rogue a few times, and the various Infershia leaders used the same army of Mooks. Power Rangers Mystic Force did the same thing.
- The Bibi soldiers from Tensou Sentai Goseiger. Except here they are all actually underlings to the real Big Bad, who is working under all three of the show's baddies.
- In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger the Movie: The Flying Ghost Ship, nearly all the mooks from all over the Super Sentai franchise appear as a single army to fight the Gokaigers.
- At the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1, she kills The Master, but the Annointed One is still around to be the Big Bad of Season 2 — except early in Season 2, Spike comes along and kills him, taking over his operation.
- Officer Braca (later Lieutenant) in Farscape was second-in-command to most of the series' big bads, in order. He just kept trading up.
- 24 after Erwich is killed by his superior, his remaining goons turn to him.
- Stargate SG-1:
- It's normal for a Goa'uld to take over a fallen Goa'uld's troops (even if he killed the former owner of the army. The soldiers see the Goa'uld as gods, and so wouldn't rebel against any of them.) Apophis shows up with Sokar's "Red Guard" as well as his usual Serpent Guard after he makes the rival who'd captured him pay for not just shooting him, and Hathor's second appearance has some of Apophis' Serpent Guards along with the Horus Guards you'd expect her to have. (She's known to use Brainwashing, though.)
- Subverted when Ba'al turns up using Anubis' Kull warriors in season 8. Everybody thinks he got them in the above manner, but Anubis actually isn't dead and Ba'al is under his command.
- A lot of Tuma's Skrall soldiers leave him after he's been humiliatingly beaten. When Makuta arrives to wreak havoc, they join his army.
- Roodaka actually attempted to set up such a scheme. She convinced Sidorak to put Vakama in charge of his Visorak horde, then betrayed her "king" and let Keetongu kill him. So now the horde belonged to Vakama, who has in secret been answering to her, not Sidorak. Except the Visorak stopped following Roodaka when they saw her abandoning their former leader, and Vakama also had a change of heart and returned to the good guys, promptly disbanding the Visorak horde and leaving Roodaka with no one to rule over.
- Professor Layton and the Unwound Future has the "worked for the true villain" kind.
- Revolver Ocelot. Throughout the first three games (Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater), he is working for the Big Bad as The Dragon. And at the end, he reveals that he was really working for someone else, and the third game is a Prequel, so he's at this for a while. This changes in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, where he finally decides it's time to be the big bad himself. Except he's not. It's complicated because it's Ocelot.
- Epic Battle Fantasy has mooks from the first two games appear in the third game as Akron's mooks.
- In Overlord you're invoking this trope by taking control of the previous Overlord's tower and minions. The final level sees him turn up to reclaim them, forcing you to regain their loyalty the old fashioned way. In fact there have been a whole chain of Overlords over the years, but they all use the same sort of Minions and even a couple of the same individuals
- Final Fight and its SNES sequels has passed the Big Bad baton from Belger's Mad Gear Gang (the first game) to an international subsidiary of Mad Gear run by Belger's (previously unknown) Dragon Retu (2) to Black and his Skull Cross Gang (3). Regardless of the main villain, the Andore family is always under the employment of these gangs, and as such, are the only recurring enemies throughout the series.
- In Digital Devil Saga, Bat is originally a mook working for a Tribe you are fighting to defeat in order to form an alliance with them, but then later joins another Tribe and then kinda sort of does his own thing (becoming a Big Bad in his own right).
- In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Bowser encounters a few Monty moles who used to work for him. Turns out they've gone over to Fawful's side.
- This is actually a pretty common trope in the Mario series. Oftentimes you'll notice Super Mario Bros. mainstay mooks working for Big Bads that have deposed Bowser as the game's antagonist. In a variation, they may just be different versions of these same enemies themed for the new antagonist in question.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword does this retroactively, wherein Ganon's usual Moblins and Bokoblins serve as Ghirahim and Demise's minions instead. Given that Ganon the living incarnation of Demise's hatred, this makes sense.
- In Batman: Arkham City, after Batman defeats The Penguin, his henchmen will join Two-Face's gang. They even change their style to match Two-Face's by darkening half of their Penguin mercenary uniform. They are just as dangerous as before, since they kept their guns.
- The Order of the Stick: Tarquin and Malack are the general and high priest of the Empire of Blood, but they have served these roles many times under previous countries and rulers. Secretly invoked and subverted: they and four others all work in shifting pairs to appoint puppet leaders that keep them out of the spotlight, kill them, find a new puppet, and change country names so people don't realize. By this method they are now the de facto rulers of a third of the continent. Only a few people have noticed that amid the general chaos of conquest increasingly large amounts of territory belong to three countries, and the same six people keep showing up as advisers to their rulers.
- Jackie Chan Adventures:
- The Enforcers; Finn, Ratso, and Chow (and sometimes Hak Foo), who were always brought in by the current season's Big Bad. Valmont, Shendu (possessing Valmont), Daolon Wong, Tarakudo, and finally Shendu's son Drago. The latter averts it however, by firing them not long after.
- Inverted with the Shadowkhan, who are introduced as the Elite Mooks of Shendu, but are revealed to have orignally served Tarakudo; Shendu basically stole them.
- A flashback in an episode of The Venture Bros. reveals that Henchman 24 previously worked for Phantom Limb (the then henchmen 9, the future Monarch, promises to make him his Henchman #1 someday). As they all are part of the larger Guild of Calamitous Intent, it's implied that a henchman might switch villains during the course of their henching career.
- At the end of season 1, a large number of Phobos' orcs defect to rebels, as Phobos didn't treat them terribly well, either. Come season 2, and the orcs now make up a major part of Elyon's army.
- For a more villainous example, a number of Phobos' named minions decide to form a group called the Knights of Vengeance under the guidance of new Big Bad Nerissa. She continues to use them until she's powerful enough to create a Quirky Miniboss Squad that's entirely her own.
- Transformers Prime: Not a exactly a textbook example, but when Airachnid was put in stasis, Megatron and the Decepticons were quick to appropriate her Insecticon hive for their own use.