Overarching Villain

"You bested me in many worlds, child, but I always return."
The Lich to Finn, Adventure Time, "Whispers"

As Arc Villain is to Story Arc, Overarching Villain is to Myth Arc. This is a villain who sticks around for the entire series or at least the majority of it, overlapping any story arcs. Because of that, they usually have a big role in the Myth Arc. The villain doesn't have to stick around for the whole series, but they must be around for a significant portion of it.

Sometimes, a Overarching Villain will be behind an Arc Villain or Monster of the Week if that villain is working for them or being manipulated by them. This can result in the story being Hijacked by Ganon if the Overarching Villain has been introduced previously.

Not to be confused with Big Bad. The Big Bad is the villain who directly causes the bad things that the heroes are in conflict with. This is merely a villain who has a role for the entire series or at least a significant portion. Big Bad and Overarching Villain usually overlap, but not always.

May overlap with Arch-Enemy, the hero's most personal and recurring enemy. Compare/contrast Arc Villain, a villain who is around for a single story arc. Contrast Monster of the Week, a villain who is around for one episode. If the Overarching Villain is only indirectly involved, but is a greater threat than the current Big Bad, then they are a Greater-Scope Villain (again, not all Myth Villains are GSV).


Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Dragon Ball: Frieza, Goku's most personal enemy, is the Big Bad of two story arcs and two movies, but he was the catalyst for the whole franchise. It is important to emphasize that between Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super, Frieza is a quite recurrent villain.
  • Death Note: The Shinigami are by far the most recurring villains in the entire franchise. While they have a bizarre morality, they are a race of extra-dimensional beings who survive by killing humans to extend their own lives. They are gods of death who are the reason why the Kiras are rampant in the Death Note universe, the last of them being C-Kira from the Death Note One-Shot Special; why the notebooks titled Death Note exists, and why Light Yagami is, well... Kira. Their influence is so powerful that even Beyond Birthday, the Big Bad of the prequel novel Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Case, owns the eyes of these creatures.
  • One Piece:
    • Blackbeard spent several arcs (most of the time offscreen) planning to become strong to be a Pirate King, which involves recruiting several powerful people to his pirate crew and, with Dark-Dark Fruit's power, gains Whitebeard's Tremor-Tremor Fruit's power and then taking over Whitebeard's position as one of the Four Emperors (4 strongest pirate crew in the world). And after the Time Skip it's hinted that he has gained more fruit powers, and he has expanded his pirate crew into lots of fleets.
    • Donquixote Doflamingo as well. Aside from being introduced as one of the 7 Warlords of the Sea, he was The Man Behind the Man for the Arc Villain of the Jaya Arc, the owner of the slave house which caused all the issues in the Sabaody Arc, a direct enemy in the Marineford Arc helping a different Big Bad, and The Man Behind the Man for the Punk Hazard Arc. He's the Big Bad of the Dressrosa Arc.
    • The Marines as a group are the most consistent threat the Straw Hats face in their adventures, usually as Mooks and Mini Bosses. They act as direct enforcers of the World Government, the story's Greater Scope Villains.
  • This is the role of Dark Bakura from Yu-Gi-Oh!. Though, in the manga at least, he doesn't appear until the third story arc (this was before Duelist Kingdom, when the story arcs were short), he sticks around for the rest of the series, working out his mysterious plan. Because of this, Dark Bakura is considered to be the Big Bad of the series.
  • Tobi aka Obito Uchiha from Naruto. He was the Big Bad during the sixth arc, but his actions spread to other arcs as well. Almost every antagonist im the series were either the result of his actions (Zabuza and Haku) or his pawns (all members of Akatsuki) or were with him in ensemble (Orochimaru and Danzo) or duumvirate (Kabuto and Madara). He lost his Big Bad status only in the final arc, but even then, he is still around for most of the arc.
  • Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. He's the Big Bad of Part 1 and 3, and while he's killed off at the end of Part 3, his actions while alive still indirectly influences the following parts in various ways. Especially in Part 6, where the Big Bad is one of his followers who wanted to realize his goals. May not apply anymore, as the series experienced a Continuity Reboot from Part 7 onwards. His counterpart is a borderline Anti-Hero, albeit with a case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, but at the end of the day more The Rival and an arguable tritagonist than anything, though an alternate universe counterpart introduced after his death as the Final Boss is a much more straightforward Expy of Part 3's DIO, and even he's a case of Dragon Their Feet. He doesn't have much impact on Part 8, set over a century later, either.
  • Team Rocket from Pokémon always chase after Ash to get his Pikachu. They have been around since the second episode, and they are still pursuing Ash. Even when more competent villains upstage them, they still stick around.
  • Vicious from Cowboy Bebop. Vicious is heavily involved in Spike's past, which itself is a big part of the otherwise episodic show's Myth Arc. Whenever Vicious shows up, the episode is always bound to be very deep and personal for the hero and he stays around from his introduction in episode five to the very end, where he and Spike seem to kill one-another.

     Film - Live Action  

  • Star Wars:
    • Emperor Sheev Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious. In the prequel trilogy, he initiates Anti-Hero Anakin Skywalker's Start of Darkness as part of his plot to sieze power, often allowing other bad guys such as Darth Maul, Count Dooku, or General Grievous to do the antagonizing. In the original trilogy, he is the mostly unseen Big Bad leading The Empire, and by extension in the sequel trilogy, is the indirect inspiration for The First Order's scheming, forever leaving his mark on the galaxy.
    • Even Darth Vader himself ends up an example of this trope after the rise of the Galactic Empire. He is Dragon-in-Chief to Grand Moff Tarkin's Big Bad in A New Hope and is simply The Dragon (with shades of Anti-Villain) to Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. The prequel trilogy doesn't technically have him, but rather continues to give us hints at the villain he will eventually become. Vader as we know him doesn't show up until the last few scenes of Episode Three. However, as the face of the empire and an infamous part of the Skywalker family, his legacy of darkness inevitably lead to influencing his grandson to try and be like him.
  • In the X-Men Film Series, Magneto appears in almost every film and is a major enemy, but is only the Big Bad in X-Men and to a lesser extent X-Men: The Last Stand (he shares bad guy duties with Phoenix). The other films that feature the character all have different main villains, with Magneto often helping the X-Men while plotting a way to manipulate the situation to his advantage. That's when he isn't simply acting as an Anti-Hero.
  • Transformers Film Series: Megatron is a major villain in each film, but is only the Big Bad in the first film and in a Big Bad Duumvirate with Sentinel Prime in Dark of the Moon. Even when the Autobots are confronting another enemy, Megatron is always plotting to turn the situation to his advantage. To hammer the point home, his death in Dark of the Moon is only temporary and he returns as Galvatron.
  • Blofeld was the Greater-Scope Villain for most of the first batch of Bond films (with the exception of Goldfinger), but an enduring legal battle that started between Ian Fleming and Kevin McClorynote  extended to the production team behind the Bond films, Eon Productions (Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, then Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson), and prevented them from using both Blofeld and SPECTRE after Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, forcing them to rely on Blofeld Expies and various other one-shot villains for more than 40 years.
    • The legal troubles ended once and for all in 2013, when Eon bought the rights to McClory's estate, which directly led to the official return of Spectrenote  and Blofeld in the aptly named Spectre in 2015, with a new backstory, as they are now part of the Daniel Craig continuity.
  • Thanos is this in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with his plan to gather the Infinity Stones overarching all of the movies. He serves as the Greater-Scope Villain in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, then as the Big Bad in Avengers: Infinity War.
    • Loki has this role in the Thor sub-franchise of films. In Thor, he is the main villain after the Decoy Antagonist Lauffey takes a backseat. In Thor: The Dark World, Malekith and the Dark Elves are the villains and Loki is mostly helping Thor until the very end when he is revealed to have faked his death in order to seize the throne of Asgard. His story also extended into The Avengers. His actions in The Dark World also cause the plot of Thor: Ragnarok to happen, since they led to Odin's death, releasing Hela, who conquers Asgard in under an hour.

     Literature  

     Live Action TV  

  • Arrowverse
    • Arrow:
      • Malcolm Merlyn. He's the one villain who's always around. He started off as the Big Bad of Season 1 where he antagonized Oliver Queen as The Hood and earned the title of being his Arch-Enemy. He makes a return in Season 2 where he lurks around after discovering Thea is his daughter and gets hunted by Ra's al-Ghul. He returns to the position of Big Bad in Season 3 where he brings Team Arrow into his conflict with Ra's al-Ghul by making a mind controlled Thea kill Sara Lance. He then becomes Ra's al-Ghul himself where he is a sometimes ally of Team Arrow before he gets dethroned causing him to run to the safety of new Big Bad Damien Darhk before abandoning him when Darkh goes nuts. Then in Legends of Tomorrow season 2 (occurring alongside Arrow season 5), he goes on to join the Legion of Doom where the Legends have to deal with him. After the Legion is defeated and he's sent back, he gets involved with the final quarter of season 5 during the war against Prometheus. Even with his apparent death in Season 5's finale, his influence still lingers, with Season 6's reveal that he recruited loyalists from the defunct League to form a new group, the Thanatos Guild.
      • The League of Assassins. With the exception of Slade Wilson, every single major villain on the show has had some link with the League. Season 1 Big Bad Malcolm fled to Nanda Parbat after the death of his wife, joining the League and rising through the ranks to become The Enforcer (known as "horseman") to Ra's al Ghul before departing to commence his plans for the Undertaking. Season 4's Damien Darhk was a former friend and rival to Ra's al Ghul and started his own organization in H.I.V.E., and Ra's himself was the main villain for Season 3. Even after Ra's was killed at the end of Season 3 and the League itself was permanently disbanded in Season 4, their impact is still felt. Talia al Ghul, Oliver's former mentor, has created her own pseudo-League, and aligned herself and taught fellow Season 5 villain Prometheus to get revenge on Oliver for the deaths of their respective fathers. And then there's the above-mentioned Thanatos Guild.
    • The Flash (2014): Eobard Thawne, Barry's first Arch-Enemy and the Big Bad of Season 1, whose impact on Barry's life has influenced his actions both directly and indirectly. Eobard grew up idolizing the Flash, eventually driving him to recreate the events that gave Barry his powers, only to be driven insane by the revelation that he was meant to become his idol's Arch-Enemy. He thus began his career as a supervillain by attacking Barry late into his career as a superhero. Then, fifteen years before the start of the series, Eobard traveled back in time and changed the timeline by killing Nora Allen, ensuring that her son Barry never became the Flash (he was originally there to kill Barry himself, but Future Barry, who was chasing after him, managed to get his younger self out of the line of fire). However, doing so ensured that a younger Eobard was never inspired to imitate the circumstances that gave the Flash his Super Speed in order to get his own, causing the current one to lose his own powers and leaving him stranded in the past (it's also implied the Speed Force did this deliberately to punish him for murdering Nora). In order to get back home, Eobard would have to ensure Barry would become his childhood hero and future Arch-Enemy. As their timelines are reverses of each other, and forever intertwined thanks to Eobard's actions, Barry Allen and Eobard Thawne can never be truly free of each other, a fact that only causes them to hate each other more.
  • Babylon 5 has Psi Cop Alfred Bester, a recurring antagonist and occasional ally through all five seasons. He's an Affably Evil character with no loyalty to anything but the Psi Corps.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Walter White. As the undisputed Villain Protagonist of the entire series, he has been a recurring threat since the beginning of the series, causing a lot of problems both direct and indirect by his own actions.
    • Gustavo "Gus" Fring as well. He is one of the few antagonists of the show who stayed alive for more than one season. He is also Walt's greatest enemy.
  • Covert Affairs: Lena is this in season three, Henry Wilcox in season four.
  • In Deadly Games, the hero, Gus, designs a video game that comes to life. Each episode was basically playing one level and defeating one boss, but there was also a boss-like Big Bad named Jackal (played by Christopher Lloyd) who also was in every episode, and was supposed to be the ultimate boss.
  • The overarching villain of Dexter is the titular Dexter Morgan, though most seasons have him opposing an Arc Villain who is more evil than he is.
  • The closest that Doctor Who has to a Myth Arc is that the Doctor is a Time Lord and he time travels and fights enemies. That said, the Master would count as an Overarching Villain because he is also a Time Lord, and pretty much the Doctor's Evil Counterpart throughout the series. The Daleks and the Cybermen would also count as they are two of the Doctor's Arch Enemies, and are recurring threats throughout the series.
  • Game of Thrones has slowly revealed resident backstabber Petyr Baelish as the driving force behind most of the series' non-supernatural events, including the War of the Five Kings. He has thus served as an antagonist for the entirety of the show's run (so far). Until Sansa has him executed at the end of Season Seven, by which point Cersei Lannister and the Night King have taken over the role of antagonist.
  • The first season of Gotham introduces several villains, including a seemingly dweeby Oswald Cobblepot (later to become iconic Batman villain "The Penguin"). Because of his looks and awkward, creepy behavior, most of the dons and gangsters (as well as policemen) in the show dismiss him as a nobody, a third-rate character not worth their notice, but it is revealed in the episode "Penguin's Umbrella" that he has really been the Diabolical Mastermind behind most of the goings-on of the season. And at the end of the season, he engineers a Mob War, creating an Evil Power Vacuum that he's then able to step in and fill as the new leader of Gotham's underworld. From then on, his power waxes and wanes depending on the threat level of the parade roster of new Big Bads, but while they come and go, he stays on.
    • There's also the matter of the conspiracy controlling Wayne Enterprises. Aside from killing Bruce's parents (creating the instability that enabled Penguin's actions above), they're also involved in a number of other criminal activities throughout the series, including the chemical experiments in Wellzyn and backing Hugo Strange's experiments in Arkham in Season 2. The end of that season reveals that they are the Court of Owls, who take center stage as villains through Season 3, until the end of the season reveals they were ultimately just puppets of Ra's Al-Ghul. He then becomes Big Bad for the first portion of Season 4, and while he dies, his influence is still felt through the rest of the season.
  • Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time. He created the Dark Curse that sent all the fairy tale characters to Earth to begin with, is responsible for helping to create most of the other Big Bads in the show, and unlike other mainstay foes Evil Queen Regina and Captain Hook, he has never made a stable Heel–Face Turn and continues to do terrible things that jeopardizes everyone's safety.
  • Stargate SG-1 has Ba'al, a Goa'uld System Lord introduced among several one-offs in season 5's "Summit". Though he never became a primary antagonist until the Stargate Continuum movie, he is a recurring villain through the remainder of the series five seasons later, and even helps take down Anubis and the Replicators in "Reckoning".
  • Gul Dukat and Kai Winn from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine hold the distinction of being the only antagonists in the series to have consistent recurring appearances through the entire length of the show. Dukat in particular was introduced in the pilot and finally defeated for good in the finale. He was also the only antagonist to manage to kill one of the main characters, and the only character affiliated with both the Dominion and the Pah-wraiths, the two major villanous factions in the series.
  • Supernatural:
    • Crowley. While only introduced in Season 5, near the end of the original Myth Arc, he has since become the longest-running villain on the show, alternating between being a member of the Big Bad Ensemble and being in an Enemy Mine with the Winchesters, depending on the seasonal Story Arc.
    • The original Myth Arc had Lucifer. He initially only appeared in Season 5, but was nevertheless The Man Behind the Man to all the previous major villains. And even after his defeat, he continued to hold this role: The events of season 6 were caused by the angel Raphael wanting to free Lucifer once again (and Michael) and thus restart the Apocalypse. In season 7, an imprint of him tormented Sam (and later Castiel) for several episodes. In season 8, his crypts come into play, as it's revealed he had hidden powerful artifacts in them, and the existence of these artifacts (the angel tablet in particular) fuels the plot for the rest of the season. In addition, Abaddon is introduced, who is a Knight of Hell created by Lucifer himself, and trained by Cain, who himself had made a deal with Lucifer (and later became a demon) to save his brother. In season 9, we find out that Gadreel was tricked by Lucifer, allowing him into the Garden of Eden, causing Gadreel to be so filled with guilt that he's easily manipulated by one of season 9's main antagonists, Metatron. (The other antagonist being the previously mentioned Abaddon.) In season 10, it's revealed that Lucifer originally possessed the Mark of Cain, which caused him to become spiteful towards humanity, before giving the Mark to Cain as part of their deal. The Mark itself is the main driving force of the season. In season 11, he finally fully returns, manipulating Sam and Castiel into freeing him, leading to him possessing Castiel for half the season, in order to team up against the Darkness. And in season 12, he returns to his antagonist role, causing havoc for the fun of it and siring a Nephilhim.
  • The Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files is the closest the series has to a main villain. Though The Dragon to the Syndicate in the early seasons, he moves up through the ranks of The Conspiracy, and continues being the major villain even after the original conspiracy is obliterated by the aliens in season 6.
  • Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk is the main villain for seasons 1 and 3, with a two episode arc in season 2 while he's in prison. Yet even when he's not around, his presence can be felt outside of Daredevil.
    • Luke Cage (2016): Harlem's crime circles include some figures who also are part of Fisk's syndicate. Fisk's crooked lawyer Benjamin Donovan also has Mariah Dillard for a client. And Turk Barrett has ties to the Harlem criminals in addition to his previous work with Fisk.
    • The Defenders (2017): The Hand's headquarters of Midland Circle, as well as their deep hole to obtain dragon bones, were built thanks to the Hand using their alliance with Fisk in Daredevil season 1 to buy up and then demolish Elena Cardenas' tenement building.

     Multiple Media 

     Radio  

     Video Games  

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OverarchingVillain