Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome

So your story was a smash success, and you've gotten enough interest or capital to do a sequel. However, you fear that you fully explored all of the characters in the first story and of course it would stale your writing ability to retread the same characters and events from the first story. So you need a way to not only stretch your storytelling chops, but also hand out enough Shocking Swerves to keep the audience surprised. How do you do this?

Why, by turning one of the main good guys into a bad guy!

When done correctly, a Face-Heel Turn can be shocking, compelling and tragic. Few things tug at the heartstrings like when a cutie is broken or when The Paragon crosses the Despair Event Horizon and goes bonkers over the unfairness of it all. When done poorly, the turn comes out of absolutely nowhere or betrays the expectations that had been set by the character's portrayal up til then. Audiences tend to become attached to their heroes and some become more "icons" than characters, leading to the audience feeling betrayed by not only that character, but the writers themselves.

If this is a prequel, and an enemy from the original is part of the group, then this is Doomed by Canon to happen.

A subtrope of Face-Heel Turn. Separate from (but not mutually exclusive to) Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.

Super Trope of Rogue Protagonist, Fallen Hero, and The Paragon Always Rebels. See also Ron the Death Eater for fanfiction, and Adaptational Villainy.

WARNING: May contain spoilers.


  • Joker, the head of the British Library special forces in Read or Die. Between the OVA, where he's on the side of the good guys, and R.O.D The TV, the death of Gentleman (the Man Behind the Man of hundreds of years of British history who envisioned a sort of Utopia under the British Empire) shifts Joker into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory, working toward what he sees as Gentleman's dream by means ranging from ethically dubious to outright evil.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 4 turned Mai Valentine, the gang's Cool Big Sis, into an angst-ridden member of a villainous biker gang. It turns out she was tricked into Heel-Face Brainwashing by the arc's Big Bad, Dartz.
  • In the sequel to Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Gasser switches sides and becomes a hair hunter to protect his previously unmentioned sister from harm.
  • In the third season of Cardfight!! Vanguard, Kai (the resident Invincible Hero) is on the receiving end of a Hannibal Lecture and ends up Brainwashed and Crazy, becoming the emissary for the main bad guys.
  • Season 3 of Shakugan no Shana has the male protagonist, Yuji Sakai, of the first two seasons, suddenly becoming the Big Bad, leaving the female lead and love interest Shana shocked and confused.
  • Played straight and zigzagged in Tokyo Ghoul:Re, which takes place after a two year Time Skip:
    • Hinami Fueguchi was enticed to join Aogiri Tree, through her desire to become stronger. She returns as a prominent member handling the group's intelligence network.
    • Plucky Comic Relief Seidou Takizawa turns out to be Not Quite Dead, and returns as an Ax-Crazy One-Eyed Ghoul serving as Aogiri's first successful Super Soldier. He proceeds to slaughter his way through every Investigator he crosses paths with, taking the time to chat with a former pupil before tearing her head off because she used to talk during lectures.
    • Played with, depending on which side has the Sympathetic P.O.V.. Ken Kaneki returns as Amnesiac Hero Haise Sasaki, working for the CCG as a Ghoul Investigator and mentor to an experimental squad of Super Soldiers. While he remains the protagonist, his former friends now have to worry about him hunting them down if they cross paths again.

  • Comics in general loves a Face-Heel Turn, but usually don't qualify for the trope unless the character gets Put on a Bus for a while and returns evil. A few notable examples include:
    • Jean Loring in Identity Crisis, who went completely off her rocker to try winning back the affection of her ex-husband, Ray Palmer.
    • The survivors of Crisis on Infinite Earths (Superboy-Prime, Superman (Kal-L), and Alexander Luthor) all became contemptuous of the Modern Age DC Universe and launched a scheme that would forcefully return things to the Silver Age status quo, whether the universe was ready or not, on Infinite Crisis.
    • Linda Danvers retired from superheroics after Many Happy Returns, but returned in Shadowpact, transformed into a vengeful "Fallen Angel".
    • Cassandra Cain during DC's One Year Later storyarc. This was not a popular storyline (she was quite Out of Character even aside from the evil) and eventually got Ret Conned into mind control.
    • Max Lord had always been depicted as a somewhat egotistical businessman who recreated the Justice League in part to make himself look good but ultimately proved to be a fairly honorable person. Then came Infinite Crisis, in which he turns out he founded the new League in order to undermine all superheroes. And even worse, it reveals that he was always evil, despite readers having seen his inner thoughts at multiple points in that Justice League run to prove otherwise.

Fan Fiction

  • In the original RoboCop (1987), the CEO of Omni Consumer Products is merely an amoral old man who really doesn't do anything outright villainous, but shows little empathy for others. In the sequel, he's a flat-out Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • TRON: Legacy does this to Tron himself aka Rinzler, courtesy of being corrupted by Clu. He has a Heel-Face Turn and a Heroic Sacrifice near the end of the film, though.
  • Star Trek VI turns Admiral Cartwight from Star Trek IV into a co-conspirator with the bad guys.
    • And the film was going to have Saavik as another conspirator, until Gene Roddenberry personally stepped in and forced them to change her to a new character, Valeris; he recognized that turning a beloved character into a murderous traitor wouldn't sit well with fans. Imagining her as Saavik makes Spock's stunned reaction to her betrayal make a bit more sense.
  • The first Mission: Impossible film turns Jim Phelps, the unwavering mastermind of the original series, into a bitter cynic who betrays his team for a multi-million dollar payoff. To say that fans of the original series were angry would be an understatement. Greg Morris, who played Barney Collier in the original, walked out of the movie in disgust, while Peter Graves and Martin Landau also voiced their displeasure. As writer Peter David noted, the only reason for the betrayal was the movie's screenwriters' need to destroy heroes.
  • Ugg the alien bounty hunter who was one of the heroes in the first three Critters film is the main villain in the fourth film.

  • In the first story of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown series, detective Aristide Valentin of the Paris police force is a likable Inspector Lestrade to the title character, totally fooled by Father Brown's Obfuscating Stupidity but competent enough to follow the trail of clues the little priest leaves for him. In the next story, however, he becomes a Straw Atheist who murders a man to prevent him from leaving money to the church in his will. (And, for extra irony points, the villain from the first story is subsequently given a Heel-Faith Turn to become The Watson.)
  • In Inheritance Cycle, Murtagh turns evil in the second book, because Galbatorix knows his true name.
  • In Dora Wilk Series, after being Dora's staunch ally for first five books, Katarzyna turns against her in the sixth one, suddenly having issues with Dora's mixed blood - a fact known even before the series started. She mostly has problems with the fact that by the series finale, Dora doesn't even try to hide her mixed heritage, which Katarzyna finds disgusting.
  • Atticus Finch, an iconic hero in To Kill a Mockingbird becomes a senile old racist in its sequel, Go Set A Watchman (written first but published and set afterwards). This is shocking both in and out of universe, with Atticus's daughter expressing her distaste, and many critics have also voiced displeasure at the dismantling of one of the most inspiring heroes in American history.

Live-Action TV
  • Sikozu in Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.
  • In Kamen Rider X Super Sentai Superhero Taisen, former Gokai Red Marvelous actually takes command of a Legion of Doom to further his quest for the Greatest Treasure. All a plan between the Super Sentai and the Kamen Riders to manipulate the bad guys, of course.
    • All the Gokaigers in the usual teamup with Go-Busters. Naturally, they were also faking it.
  • During the original run of Doctor Who, Chancellor Borusa had in the past been depicted as a politically motivated member of the Time Lords High Council, but ultimately someone whom the Doctor could work with and even regard as a friend. In "The Five Doctors", he turned out to be the villain, orchestrating a mad scheme to resurrect Rassilon and gain immortality.
    • Admittedly, every time the show returned to Gallifrey, it seemed that more of the cracks in the Time Lords' "perfect society" would show, to the point where the Doctor would call them out, declaring them, "the oldest civilization, decadent, degenerate and rotten to the core!" By the time of the new series, the entire Time Lords species had crossed a collective Moral Event Horizon, plotting to destroy all of time to preserve themselves. This ended up being retconned, however, as the actions of a small minority of Time Lords, after which they save the Doctor's life by granting him a new regeneration cycle.
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, The Woobie hires Michael to rescue his kidnapped daughter. In the next episode, the same man is the villain, as his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the men responsible claims innocent lives and Michael takes it upon himself to stop him.

  • Nicholas Adamsworth (voiced by Dick Beals), a minor character from Adventures in Odyssey, was an ethical, well-meaning child-prodigy in his first two appearances. He came back many episodes later as a hacker who changed people's grades to bribe some students and to get revenge on others. His change in character is lampshaded, but the reasons for it are never actually explored beyond a nonchalant handwave on how some people change for the worse over time.

  • The Masamune sword in Chrono Cross. In the Chrono Trigger, the Masamune is a coveted magical weapon which is said to be the only the only weapon capable of hurting the wicked sorceror, Magus. It's outright said many times that only the Legendary Hero can wield the sword and at one point, said Hero even goes through a Secret Test of Character which allows the sword to recognize him as its true owner and unlock its full potential. Then, in the sequel, the Masamune is explicitly stated to be an "evil" sword and anyone who wields it will immediately go insane. However, this is Hand Waved in that the Masamune is sentient and inhabited by two mischievous young spirits. When their big sister shows up and smacks some sense into them, the Masamune becomes good again.
  • Gray Fox, Schneider and Dr. Pettrovich were originally on Solid Snake's side in the first Metal Gear. In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, all three defected to Zanzibarland for personal reasons.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty cheerfully subverts this - the villain claims to be Solid Snake, but he clearly isn't.
    • Sigint, Para-Medic and Zero in Metal Gear Solid 4. It can be argued that their creation in the first place was to explain the Start of Darkness which lead to the creation of "The Patriots", but few can argue that it's a shock to learn that the diabolical "Dr. Clark" we heard about in the first game was the sweet and flighty Para-Medic.
  • In the 2009 Bionic Commando game the Big Bad is revealed to be Super Joe, the war hero you rescued in the original Bionic Commando.
  • Diablo II: the protagonist of the original is now the Big Bad.
    • Justified in that at the end of the first game the protagonist was forced to take Diablo's soul into his own body in order to contain him. The simple explanation was that it didn't work.
    • The other heroes, the Mage and the Rogue, also become bosses. It is a Crapsack World after all.
  • Lloyd Irving in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Well, sort of. It was an impostor and the real Lloyd was only hindering your goals because he was trying to set things right as well.
  • In the Wing Commander video game series, the game Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger had Col. Ralgha nar "Hobbes" Hhallas who was throughout game 2 a Proud Warrior Race Guy who was disgusted with his race's lack of honor suddenly do a Face-Heel Turn in which he turns out to have been a sleeper agent hiding behind a fabricated personality.
    • Likewise, the Big Bad of Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom turns out to be Admiral Tolwyn, who lost his direction in life and ultimately went rather nuts once he no longer had a war to fight. Although he was something of a jerk towards your maverick ace character throughout the series, he was also mostly the main Big Good.
  • This happens to heroine turned Action Mom, Sophitia Alexandra, in Soul Calibur IV; where she's made to defend Soul Edge in order to save her daughter's life.
    • It also happens to the eponymous Soul Calibur itself in the fourth game; when the sword reaches full power and gains sentience, it's revealed that the Calibur, long thought to be the "good" sword throughout the series, is technically just as "evil" as the Soul Edge. The difference is that the Soul Edge likes to spread chaos and misery while the Soul Calibur wants tranquility, order and peace... by freezing the entire world solid.
  • Vladimir Lem in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. It wasn't that he was a particularly nice guy to begin with, being a high-ranking member of the local Russian mob as well as more fond of explosives than is strictly healthy, but he was a Worthy Opponent in an Enemy Mine situation. As Max himself puts it:
    "Vladimir was one of those old-time bad guys with honor and morals, which made him almost one of the good guys. None of us was a saint."
  • Contra: Shattered Soldier reveals that Blood Falcon is actually Lance, who was player 2 of the original game. He went insane trying to reveal the Government Conspiracy he and Bill were duped into helping cover up. Likewise, in Neo Contra, Lucia, player 2 in Shattered Soldier is revealed to be part of the Quirky Mini Boss Squad and dies attempting to kill Bill and exterminate humanity for reasons which are not even vaguely explained.
  • Alex Mercer becomes the Big Bad in [PROTOTYPE 2] after crossing the Despair Event Horizon. The fandom has been split over this.
  • World of Warcraft has gone hard on various characters from the previous games or the expanded universe in order to turn them into bosses which may be killed for loot.
    • Illidan is a notorious example, to the point where Blizzard has vowed to one day bring him back and redeem him to make up for it. They even admitted that they only made him a villain so the expansion would have a popular character to confront and get loot from.
      • In Warcraft III Illidan was a complex Anti-Hero who used any means necessary to save his people, but despite fears from those around him, never succumbed to the corruption of the dark powers he was toying with. This finally came to light when his brother attempted to stop him from destroying Northrend, only to find out after disrupting the spell that Illidan was only trying to destroy the Frozen Throne and the Lich King. After saving their mutual love, Illidan saw the error of his ways and they parted on good terms. In Burning Crusade, with the flimsy explanation that he went crazy after losing to Arthas, Illidan is suddenly a Card-Carrying Villain who is even known to sabotage his own goals if it means he gets to do something evil. This culminates in his death, where you are assisted by a character who is arguably an inversion of this trope. Maiev had dogged Illidan before as an insanely zealous Inspector Javert who went too far into Knight Templar territory, but is treated like a mostly heroic paragon of justice here.
    • Sylvanas wasn't exactly the most shining example of heroism, but her character in Frozen Throne revolved around how horrible a fate undeath was. Arthas raised her as a banshee while defending her homeland just so he could force her to massacre the very people she died defending. Even when she regained her mind and body, she still saw undeath as a fate worse than death that no one deserved, and wanted nothing more than to get revenge on Arthas and stop the Scourge once and for all before finally dying and being able to rest. Come World of Warcraft, Sylvanas is creating plagues that are explicitly worse than the ones the Scourge employed, and she suddenly likes talking about how she wants to kill the living and proliferate her undead "race". After Arthas is finally killed, she becomes the exact thing she hated in Arthas: using the Val'kyr to raise Lordaeron farmers and Galen Trollbane specifically to fight and kill their own families, with not the briefest hint of irony or justification for the blatant hypocrisy. She makes the Forsaken nation into a fascist dictatorship with a cult of personality and a heavy dose of hypocritical nationalism as justification. In her short story, Edge of Night, she also claimed that she doesn't actually care to die for her people at all, and only sees the Forsaken as fodder to keep herself from dying and meeting the hell that awaits her in the afterlife.
    • Kael'thas is another example. In Frozen Throne the blood elves were the epitome of the concept that a scary name does not mean evil. Kael'thas was arguably one of the most heroic characters in the campaign. He fought for a place for his people after the destruction of their homeland, he assisted the night elves, who his people were exiled from long ago, his actions even saving their leader, Tyrande, and he contributed as the sane man and moral center to Illidan's morally ambiguous outcasts. In Burning Crusade, he's eventually revealed to be The Mole in Illidan's army for the Burning Legion, and is even implied to be the true reason for many of Illidan's most evil tactical decisions, in a way that couldn't be further from his original characterization. Blizzard expressed regret at this change as well, but after almost immediately bringing him back from the dead as an even more desperate Legion pawn, figured they missed their chance to properly repair his character.
    • Garrosh Hellscream is an oft-argued version of this trope. He goes from an ineffectual but lore-important side character in The Burning Crusade, to a warmongering jerkass with a following in Wrath of the Lich King. He appears to gain some character development in Cataclysm by executing an officer who killed children and showing that he has standards when interacting with Sylvanas, but he goes full-villain in Mists of Pandaria and becomes a genocidal warlord who wants to subjugate the entire world, sees orcs as the Master Race, uses Fantastic Nukes at the drop of a hat, attacks his own allies the second they refuse to obey, and doesn't care about working for an Old God if it leads to victory.
    • The orcish race and the Horde as a whole have been struggling with this trope in a more general sense. One of the major plot points of Warcraft III was that the orcs weren't Always Chaotic Evil, and Thrall was building a new Horde that was good. By the end of the game, he's succeeded, and the Horde, Alliance, and night elves save the world and celebrate together. Right off the bat in World of Warcraft however, you have the Horde getting the darker races like the Forsaken, who are openly doing horrible experiments on innocent civilians. In Wrath of the Lich King, the Horde players help to create the new plague that is used to devastate both Horde and Alliance forces at the Wrath Gate, and while its use was the result of a coup, Sylvanas openly works on such projects and talks about killing all life. In Cataclysm, while the exact start of the war is a bit ambiguous in canon, the Horde are the main aggressors, gleefully defiling sacred lands, massacring civilians, and generally keeping the Alliance on the defensive. This war culminates with Garrosh essentially dropping an atomic bomb on a city that once championed for peace. While the majority of the Horde ultimately rebels in Mists of Pandaria, most of the damage had already been done by that point, and most of the rebelling happens as a result of Garrosh personally attacking or insulting his allies, not them being horrified by his atrocities and war crimes. While Warlords of Draenor ostensibly recovers from this, with Garrosh no longer leading the Horde, we get the unfortunate implication from the Iron Horde that the orcish race (and the Horde) are genocidal conquerors by default. Even the Frostwolf NPCs (the only good clan) threaten to kill Alliance characters (who their only experience with in this timeline is positive) for no apparent reason, and main timeline Horde questgivers are shown acting and talking like they're still under Garrosh.
    • The Zandalari trolls were introduced as allies of Horde an Alliance alike, seeking to stop the return of Hakkar and record the history of the collapsing Drakkari troll empire. In Cataclysm they began inciting the Amani and Gurubashi to reclaim their empires due to growing fears about trolls being wiped out. Mists of Pandaria escalated this when the Zandalari willingly joined forces with the Thunder King. Here their reason is finally explained: The Cataclysm is causing their homeland to sink into the ocean; without a new homeland they'll be wiped out.
  • The Ax-Crazy Big Bad of Army of Two 3: The Devil's Cartel is revealed to be Salem, one of the two main characters from the first two games.
  • In Fire Emblem Akaneia, Hardin is on the hero's side in Shadow Dragon. In Mystery of the Emblem's second book, it is revealed that he has turned evil.
  • Penelope Mouse from Sly Cooper turns bum at some point between the third and fourth game, and it came right the hell out of nowhere.
  • Donkey Kong Jr., the only professional game in existence to treat Mario as the main antagonist.
  • Leon Silverburg in the Suikoden series went from a recruitable ally to a Well-Intentioned Extremist in the sequel. This is a justified example, though - the stories are always set in different countries (and different points in time, though II is only several years after I), and so the characters who do reappear will take different approaches based on who they're working for. Leon isn't even a villain anyway, he's just taking a different approach (Suikoden thrives on Grey and Gray Morality), so he's not really that different from the original game in terms of personality.
  • Dead Rising 3 brings back Isabella Keyes as the Bigger Bad and Well-Intentioned Extremist behind all of the events of that game. In a lesser example, Chuck Greene becomes a crime boss to provide his daughter Katey with more Zombrex. This drove away his Love Interest Stacey from the previous game and Katey, who took on a different name "Annie" and ran away from home.
    • Also, in the Alternate Continuity of Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, Chuck Greene goes crazy and becomes a psycopath after Katey dies.
  • In Season Two of The Walking Dead, it is shown that the group that the protagonists of the 400 Days DLC can possibly join is none other than Bill Carver's group. However, Bonnie ends up helping Clementine and her group escape Carver and ends up going with them by the end.
  • In Super Dangan Ronpa 2 Big Bad Junko Enoshima attempts to convince the survivors that Makoto Naegi, The Hero of the first game has fallen victim to this. He hasn't.
  • Though calling Ada Wong a "good" guy is being rather generous, she was never as outright heinously evil as she is in Resident Evil 6 where she mercilessly infects the same soldiers who protected and escorted her to safety just for kicks and is soon discovered to be the leader of a NEO Umbrella that plans to destroy the world. It's revealed that Ada is actually a woman named Carla Radames and the real Ada is still the same snarking Leon-loving Anti-Villain she always was and is actively working to stop Carla.
  • Knights of the Old Republic:
    • In the first Knights of the Old Republic, Master Vrook is a character who many players saw as a grumpy, grouchy old man. In truth, he only acts this way if the player takes dark side options. If they play light side and talk to Vrook, he'll compliment them on their actions. By the time of the sequel however, Flanderization sets in and he just hates you regardless of how well you act.
    • By the time of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Revan, the protagonist of the first game, has clearly gone insane from his 300 years of captivity. At first, he takes over an old battle station and cooks up a plan to wipe out 98% of the Imperial population (and likely, a good chunk of the Republic's population in the process). Then he returns, waging war on both the Republic and the Empire as the leader of a fanatical cult.
  • A minor example in Far Cry 4. CIA agent Willis Huntley, a major character around the mid-point of the previous game, shows up again to give new protagonist Ajay a couple missions. These missions turn out to be eliminating other CIA assets in the area to remove evidence of the CIA's presence in Kyrat, after which he throws Ajay out of his plane, leaving him to be captured by the guards of the person whose lieutenants (the aforementioned other CIA assets) he just killed.

Western Animation
  • In Beast Machines, former Maximal Rhinox turns into Tankor. It was intended to be genuine turn towards Megatron's way of thinking - that series seemed to make a point of making everyone the Same Character, but Different - but ultimately it moved away from that extreme. It was still a shock, because we'd thought Tankor had the IQ of dirt until he revealed he was The Chessmaster and was only pretending to still be the Dumb Muscle Megs had tried to reprogram him into.
  • In the first episode of Home Movies, Brendon makes a pair of cop movies that both play this trope straight and invert it (the hero from the first movie becomes the villain of the second movie while the Dirty Cop villain of the first movie rejoins the force and becomes the hero of the second movie).