Overarching Villain

"I have the feeling we'll meet again, each and every week. Always in more sexy and exciting ways."
Chief Wiggum, The Simpsons

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.

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).


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     Anime and Manga  

  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball we have Frieza; he's the main villain of two story arcs and two movies, but he was the catalyst for the whole franchise.
  • Tobi aka Obito Uchiha from Naruto. He was the Big Bad during six arc but also his actions spread and to other arc. So almost every antagonist at the series were either the result of his actions (Zabuza and Haku) or his pawns (all members Akatsuki) or were with him in ensemble (Orochimaru and Danzo) or duumvirate (Kabuto and Madara). He lost his status Big Bad only in final arc but even then he is still around for most part arc.
  • 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.
  • 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  

  • In the X-Men movie franchise, 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.
  • Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) in the Star Wars film series. 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.
    • Even Darth Vader himself ends up an example of this trope. 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.
  • 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, and will serve 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.


     Live Action TV  

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Similar to Michael Corleone above, 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).
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 will no doubt linger.
    • 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 herseld and taught fellow Season 5 villain Prometheus to get revenge on Oliver for the deaths of their respective fathers.


     Video Games  
  • Super Mario Bros.: Bowser is always Mario’s Arch-Enemy and the Big Bad and the Final Boss in most games; more than any other video game villain, in fact. Still, even when he is not the Big Bad, he will attempt to turn the situation to his advantage. In other words, every bad thing that happens in the Mario series is Bowser’s fault, intentional or otherwise.
  • The Legend of Zelda has Ganon/Ganondorf, who is the Trope Namer for Hijacked by Ganon, so it shouldn't come as a surprise for him to be this trope. Ganon is always Link's Archenemy and many times the Big Bad, even when other villains appear to be this. Even when he doesn't appear, he still has a presence of dread that extends throughout.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reveals that this trope is encoded into the DNA of the series by way of Demise's curse haunting future generations of Link and Zelda. Ganondorf is but one incarnation that his hatred can take, although he's certainly the most prevalent.
  • The MOTHER series has Giygas, who appears in the first installment, is finally defeated for good in the second, but his influence lingers on in the third, and Porky Minch, who appears in the second installment and becomes the main villain of the third.
  • Mega Man series:
    • Dr. Wily is famous for being the villain in every Mega Man game, even with the increasingly blatant pretentions that he wasn't the Big Bad.
    • Dr. Weil. Although he only appeared in the third and fourth game, the story makes it clear that most of the bad things that happened in the series are the result of his actions. He was also the one behind the Elf Wars, a Great Offscreen War that changed the world considerably and creating many of the in-series problems.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has two of them:
    • The Empire of Garlemald, AKA The Garlean Empire, who wants to take over Eorzea and rid it of its godlike beings. Even after their defeat the end of A Realm Reborn's initial storyline, they (primarily their emperor's death and the resulting Succession Crisis) caused some effects to the storyline (such as driving the Domans to take refuge in Erozea). Two characters from the empire also take part in a subplot each, one being the Token Evil Teammate to an exhibition of the Crystal Tower, and the other being dead and revived as Bahamut's servant. Patch 2.4 reveals that they have crowned a new emperor and are coming back in full force int he near future
    • The Ascians, who remain an active force even after the end of A Realm Reborn, being the main reason why the Primals are summoned in the first place, as well as having an implied connection to The Echo, the same gift the Player Characters and Minfilia were given.
  • Final Fantasy XIII, and its sequels have Bhunivelze, who took over the Top God position by killing his mother, as well as siring three children: Lindzei, whose negligence of the fal'Cie unknowingly (or not) drove the plot of the first game; Etro, who, despite being the only confirmed benevolent god, pulled a Deus ex Machina and unknowingly doomed the setting in the process, kicking off the plots of the second and the third games; and Pulse. Lightning Returns has Bhunivelze take a more active role as he formulates a plan to make a new world and an Assimilation Plot, and serves as the Final Boss of both that game and the XIII series proper.
  • Albert Wesker of Resident Evil used to be a generic mole who died shortly after he was revealed to be the main villain of that game, but Capcom ultimately decided to have him return by faking his death, double crossing both the BSAA and Umbrella, and eventually becomes the Big Bad on his own in Resident Evil 5, albeit with a god complex.
  • Mannimarco, The King of Worms, is a recurring villain of The Elder Scrolls franchise. As the first lich of Tamriel, he orchestrated various major events in Tamriel, including the Dark Anchor incident, the Warp of the West, the arranged marriage for the Wolf Queen, and numerous massacres of the Mages Guild members throughout two eras.
  • Arfoire, personification of piracy, is the Big Bad of Hyperdimension Neptunia and the Greater-Scope Villain in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. Played with in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory and its sequel, while she still appears villainous, she's not the one driving the events of that game, but a instead a minion of the real Big Bad of the respective games.
  • Genevieve Collins (Volumes 1 thru 13) and Firstborn (remainder) for Cause of Death.
  • Yuuki Terumi is the man responsible for pretty much every single fucked up thing that transpires in BlazBlue, be it by directly and actively making things as bad as he possibly can, like that time he burned down the church Ragna and his orphaned siblings lived in, murdered the nun taking care of them, cut off Ragna's right arm, Mind Raped Ragna's little brother and kidnapped Ragna's little sister in order to use her as a template for Clones of Mass Destruction; or by manipulating events, like the time he taught Ayatsuki Shuuichirou and Relius Clover how to create the Black Beast in order to destroy the world, or that other time when he founded the Novus Orbis Librarium and Sector Seven and then played them against each other in order to create a Crapsack World.
  • The Kiseki Series has Ouroboros. From Colonel Richard's attempted coup to the Erebonian civil war, Ouroboros has been there, manipulating Zemuria from behind the scenes.

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  

  • Fire Lord Ozai is the Big Bad of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Despite the fact that Zhao and Azula are The Heavy, they are ultimately working under Ozai, who is ultimate antagonist of the show.
  • Code Lyoko has XANA, the Artificial Intelligence villain who serves as not only the Big Bad of the series, but as the series' only true villain. His antagonism is the focus of the series, and he is linked to the past of the super computer and its creator, Franz Hopper.
  • The Simpsons: A Lampshade is made in "Simpsons Spinoff Showcase" when Chief Wiggum and Principal Skinner move to New Orleans to become Private Eyes and have a run in with a local crime boss named Big Daddy. At the end of the episode Big Daddy gets away, and Wiggum says the page quote.
  • Inspector Gadget has Dr. Claw, leader of M.A.D., who sends a Middle-Management Mook Of The Week to do the episode's crime and try to eliminate Gadget when he gets put on the case.
  • Dan Vs.: Dan himself acts as the primary conflict creator in every episode. Sometimes this is played with by having his opponent be equally or even more evil with Dan as the Nominal Hero, but just as often Dan is the outright Villain Protagonist.
  • Doctor Doofenshmirtz in Phineas and Ferb. Almost every episode has Perry attempting to foil some Evil Plan of his, though he's not always the main antagonist of the episode. (For instance, the role of main antagonist in the movie was his 2nd Dimension counterpart)
  • Kid vs. Kat has the family's pet Kat, an alien invader sent to Earth to Kill All Humans. Most episodes centre around Coop discovering and foiling an Evil Plan that Kat is hatching.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: Lucius Heinous VII. While he's not always the main villain of the episode, he almost always makes an appearance, he's always trying to cause misery for others around him, and he's the main villain of the series as a whole.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures has ShenduBig Bad of the first two seasons, Final Boss of Season 3, appears in a Bad Future episode of Season 4, is the father of Season 5 Big Bad Drago, and is released to fight him in the Grand Finale.