The Good, the Bad, and the Evil
So Draco in Leather Pants
baddies are making your villainous faction more popular than your protagonists. However, they're really good villains too, and you don't want to get rid of those. So what's a writer to do?
A faction split, of course. Arms will be taken up, Anti Villains
will fight Complete Monsters
, Enemy Civil War
erupts, and the end result will, at the least, be a Mêlée à Trois
, but more likely, this slides into Enemy Mine
by allowing the Good Antagonists
to join with the actual protagonists, as a way of sidestepping that pesky Failure Is the Only Option
rule that most bad guys inevitably seem to be stuck with.
A subtype of Enemy Civil War
in that the splinter factions tend to distinctly divide between "Actual Bad Guys" and "People the Good Guys Can Work With". One faction may claim that they're Eviler than Thou
, the other faction may respond that Even Evil Has Standards
and anyway they are A Lighter Shade of Grey
Compare Morality Kitchen Sink
, in which characters from everywhere on the moral spectrum are present but they aren't conveniently sorted into white, gray, and black factions.
See also Angels, Devils and Squid
, and Evil Versus Oblivion
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Anime and Manga
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED had this with the Three Ships Alliance (The Good) vs the Earth Forces (The Bad) vs ZAFT (The Bad) vs Rau Le Creuset (The Evil). Most of the sympathetic villains ultimately defect to the Three Ships Alliance.
- During Fullmetal Alchemist, Yoki, Scar, Barry the Chopper, Greed, and Kimblee's chimera are all introduced as antagonists to the Elric brothers note . However, all end up joining the heroes at various points to fight against the main villains, Father and the other homunculi.
- Greed worked for Father, too; they just had their family strife civil war before the plot began. Or the main characters were even born. It was a pretty tightly plotted series.
- Hellsing has the Hellsing Organization (mostly good), the Iscariots (bad), and Millennium (evil). At the end of the series the Iscariots briefly
team up with leave Hellsing alone to fight Millennium but end up being annihilated by Alucard when their leader crosses the Moral Event Horizon.
- The exact words of the trope were used by Cartoon Network to advertise Dragon Ball Z at one point, referring to Goku, Vegeta and Freeza respectively.
- Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas; Athena's army is the good, and Pandora splits up from Alone upon learning that he was never truly possessed by Hades.
- In Saint Beast, the Saint Beasts are the good, Lucifer is the bad, and Zeus is the evil, although initally the latter two seem the other way around. The angels know things aren't right with the missions Zeus is sending them on but reject Lucifer's offer to join him because they know he's responsible for demons attacking humans. However, when they finally decide to rebel against Zeus they end up on the same side as Lucifer without actually agreeing to work together.
- Angel Sanctuary: Granted it's an oversimplification, but humans and Evils are generally the Good (in spite of the latters' name), Lucifer, the Satans and their ilk are the Bad, and the Angels are the Evil. Granted, there are a few good angels, (Adam Kadamon, Alexiel, Anael, Zaphkiel, Raziel and Gabriel), and a few others who are more neutral (Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and the Metatron), but the ruling powers (Rosiel, Sevothtarte, Sandalphon, YHWH) are all bad, and even the good angels are occasionally antagonists.
- Two examples from the Tournament Arc of Fairy Tail.
- The title guild enters the tournament to reclaim the reputation they lost during the Time Skip. Sabretooth, the current #1 guild, isn't very nice to anyone trying to unseat them, but at least they aren't cheating like Raven Tail.
- Erza is one of the few people who knows the true story behind Jellal's crimes. Kagura is in the dark, only knowing that Jellal killed her brother, Simon. So when Kagura sees Erza talking to Jellal, Minerva uses Kagura's rage (and holds Millana hostage) to goad her into fighting Erza so she doesn't have to face them both herself.
- Another example from the Taiyou Village arc: Fairy Tail's is the good, trying to save the frozen village and revive the Eternal Flame; the treasure hunters are the bad, not caring about the village and trying to steal the flame for themselves; and Succubus Eye is the evil, trying to kill Fairy Tail, the treasure hunters, and destroy what's left of the frozen village.
- In Star Wars: Legacy, it is finally estabilished for good in Star Wars canon. The Empire is split into Darth Krayt's Sith Empire (the evil) and Roan Fel's Empire (dictatorial but not really evil).
- In G.I. Joe, this eventually happened in Cobra's ranks. Serpentor's splinter group the Coil fought against Cobra proper. Of course, matters only become more complicated when you realize that Cobra was already a little shaky, being an alliance between Cobra Commander's actual Cobra forces, Destro and his Iron Grenadiers, Zartan and the Dreadnoks, Tomax and Xamot and the Crimson Guard, independant contractors like Dr. Venom, Kwinn, Major Bludd, and Blackout, and Firefly and the Arashikage ninjas, with each group constantly vying for ultimate supremacy... Cobra's got to be one of the least stable factions in all of fiction, really.
- The Open Door has developed into a situation like this with dozens of sides in all three corners. Most notably, the main characters may be the Bad or the Evil depending on your opinion of them (They definitely aren't the Good, not with Nanoha and the crew around to be compared against them).
Films — Live-Action
- The film Hard Rain does this with its three main characters. Tom (Christian Slater)'s security guard is the good, with Jim's (Morgan Freeman) armed robber apparently the bad, as his gang attempts to rob Tom's armoured car, and were responsible for killing Tom's uncle Charlie (Ed Asner). In a twist, the Evil is the corrupt Sheriff who likewise goes after the money from the truck, which Tom had hidden. When Jim is revealed to have been in cahoots with Charlie and had not wanted to kill anyone, he teams up with Tom, kills the Sheriff and Tom lets him escape.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (which is unsurprisingly a partial Trope Namer) has Bounty Hunter Blondie (The Good) as the (antiheroic) Good, Bandito Tuco (The Ugly) as The Bad, and Professional Killer Angel Eyes (The Bad) as The Evil.
- Truth or Consequences, N.M. On one side, there's a gang of four Villain Protagonists who steal drugs from the Mafia and intend to sell them for money. On another side is the FBI chasing the misfits. And on another side is a gang of mobsters led by a ruthless hitman who has no problem torturing an innocent man by cutting off his fingers.
- The gang itself would also qualify. Two of the protagonists are bad, but they usually prefer not to kill anyone unless they absolutely have to, and they try to make sure no civilians get hurt. Another protagonist is evil; he's a sociopath who has no problem killing cops just for fun and then justifying the murders to the other three characters. The fourth member is good, largely because he's an undercover FBI agent.
- In Skulduggery Pleasant, the popularity of southern-fried Psycho for Hire Billy-Ray Sanguine means that more often than not his later appearances feature him aiding the protagonists; first in order to contain the Remnant outbreak and later during the War of the Sanctuaries.
- Honor Harrington does this with the second coup d'etat of Haven, firmly putting the Anti Villain group in control of the government, and a lot of the former SS and power hungry types out on the run as renegades. Notable for having it simply flip the status quo in a few areas: there're still bad Havenites, but now they're the exception rather than the rule.
- Even before the second change of government, Haven filled the role of "The bad" when it came to the relationship between Manticore, Haven, and Mesa/Manpower Inc. There were references that Manticore and Haven not only shared a loathing for Manpower, Haven was considered, even by Manticorans, to be the more dedicated opponent to slavery.
- After the Emperor's death, the Empire in the Star Wars Expanded Universe started breaking up. Various captains and admirals left with their forces and became warlords, sometimes rejoining the Empire later, sometimes the New Republic, sometimes becoming isolationist, and most often fighting everyone. The Courtship of Princess Leia and three books of the X-Wing Series deal with the New Republic's campaign against Warlord Zsinj. In Courtship he's a cardboard baddie, but in the X-Wing Series he's really clever and nasty. Enough so that both the Empire and the New Republic form task forces to take him down, and surreptitiously they end up working together, both aware that this wouldn't last and if this cooperation was ever reported they'd face treason charges.
- Warlordism and the attrition that comes of a new leader rising to the fore, striking the New Republic, and getting beat down eventually whittled the Empire down small enough that Captain Pellaeon, who'd patiently served under each leader and picked up the pieces after, was forced to join a warlord. Eventually, during the Jedi Academy Trilogy, Daala talked the various warlords into meeting together to try and get them to join forces; she and Pellaeon sat out their arguing, then put on gas masks and watched the warlords die. Then Daala lost a good portion of this newly-replenished Empire and left it to Pellaeon. A few years later, and Supreme Commander Pellaeon worked to make peace with the New Republic, while other elements of the Imperial Remnant fought furiously to prevent this. Decades after that, Grand Admiral Pellaeon was one of the heroes' most reliable allies until he was assassinated by the Sith.
- In The Dresden Files, Johnny Marcone turned out to be such an intensely awesome Anti-Villain that he's on Harry's side more often than not. This irritates Harry, who really, really wants to be able to write him off as "criminal scum," but has some trouble with that when Marcone is going to incredible lengths just to try to get a girl out of a coma.
- In Mistborn you have several levels of this- Vin, Elend, and Sazed are the good, Kelsier and most of the skaa rebellion are pretty good, the Lord Ruler and most of the human bad guys are the bad, and Ruin and the Inquisitors are the evil.
- Do note, though, that Vin is the one who states something along the lines of "Good? Bad? I'm just here to kill people."
- At one point in his commentary, Sanderson points out that a particular fight is "a good, old-fashioned showdown between good and evil! Or, at least, between Kelsier and evil".
- In the Warrior Cats book The Darkest Hour, ThunderClan and WindClan, the two heroic Clans, team up with ShadowClan and RiverClan, the two villainous Clans, to fight a worse evil; Scourge, who wants to take over their territory.
- In The Dresden Files, the purpose of the Winterfae is to protect humanity from the Outsiders. The purpose of the Summerfae, meanwhile, is to protect humanity from the Winterfae.
- During season 4 of LOST, Ben, Affably Evil and Magnificent Bastard that he is, talks his way into sort of teaming up with the good guys against Psycho for Hire Keamy and his men, although Ben still had his own agenda the whole time.
- The season 2 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends with Buffy teaming up with Spike to stop Angelus from destroying the world. As Spike explained it, he likes the world; lots of fun things to do and plenty of humans to eat. Although Spike decided "screw it" halfway through their team-up and left with Drusilla.
- I think that was the original plan—he got her in and took out half the threat, then left her to risk her life on her own. May be considered the first instance of his having faith in her? More to the point, he likes the world to live in. If he gets killed trying to save it, no point to the saving.
- To say Dollhouse uses this trope a lot would be to understate dreadfully. While actives themselves are good, Paul Ballard is good-ish, and the entire LA Dollhouse staff is deeply grey. We all just agree Alpha is evil as are the people in charge of Rossum as a whole. And by the end this has fragmented even further. The surviving staff of the LA Dollhouse are firmly on the good side, and so is, surprisingly enough, Alpha. Victor and a few others have gone grayer, but by now the only true evil people are the remnants of Rossum.
- Sons of Anarchy takes this and shifts it a few steps down the morality scale. The Sons are at best a Villain Protagonist group and tend to team up with some very nasty people to take on enemies who are even nastier characters.
- The IRA are a long time ally and business partner of the Sons but lately Jimmy O'Fallon is trying to cut the Sons out of the lucrative gun running business. However, he has a lot of enemies among the other leaders of the IRA and they try to use the Sons as a weapon against Jimmy. So while Jimmy is the evil guy, it is a toss up whether the Sons or the IRA are the 'good guys' in this mess.
- Well, Hale could have been considered the "Good" until they killed him. And really only Clay and Gemma can be considered Villain Protagonists, the others are more nominal heroes with Jax and Opie straddling the line between Nominal Hero and Anti-Hero.
- The Cape now seems to have established something like this with the Cape as the Good, the Carnival of Crime as the Bad and Fleming/Chess as the Evil. it may even be a fourway with Scales somewhere between the Carnival and Fleming.
- Juken Sentai Gekiranger, sort of. GekiJyuKen school is the Good, RinJyuKen school is the Bad, where GenJyuKen is the Evil.
- Season 2 of Nikita is shaping up like this, with Nikita and her allies as the Good, Division and their Man Behind the Man Oversight as the Bad, and Gogol and their Man Behind the Man Zetrov as the Evil.
- Though it should be noted that Division only seems better than Gogol and Zetrov because Alex is in an Enemy Mine against the latter two with the former. And on top of that, somewhere between Bad and Evil we have Amanda (who runs Division but is now plotting against Oversight) and Percy (who's plotting against everyone).
- Following the status quo changing events about midway through the season, the list is a bit different now — Team Nikita is still the Good along with the Heel Face Turned last living members of Oversight, but Zetrov's head Semak is now closer to the Bad, and the Evil can be best represented by Amanda and her partner Ari (Semak's Starscream), with Percy still somewhere between Bad and Evil.
- Defied in The Wire. As the incredibly ruthless and cold-blooded sociopath Marlo Stansfield rises to the top of the Baltimore drug trade in seasons 4 and 5, longtime drug dealer and unrepentant thug Bodie develops a case of Even Evil Has Standards and somewhat reluctantly agrees to inform on Marlo to the police. Marlo has Bodie killed before this can happen, and no one else dares cross Marlo in a similar way.
- Breaking Bad has some elements of this, though who's where depends on which season. A few constants are that Hank is The Good, Pinkman is The Bad, and the various druglords and cartels that are the antagonists (Tuco, Gus, etc.) are The Evil. Where the protagonist Walt is depends on the season; he starts off on the lighter side of The Bad and starts settling toward the bottom from there; by the later seasons it starts to seem more like he's the Villain Protagonist.
- Deadwood, once George Hearst shows up in season two. Seth Bullock is the face of the Good; he's not the morally purest person around, but his devotion to justice makes him at least more heroic than others. Al Swearengen's faction, Bullock's antagonists in the first season, are the Bad; a pimp and his cronies attempting to prevent the town from rising above the status of Outlaw Town so they won't have to deal with the government. Hearst, though, is a Nietzsche Wannabe mining magnate who doesn't shrink from having competitors, unionisers and those who've personally slighted him murdered by hired guns, and who openly seeks to buy the town wholesale by whatever combination of corruption and violence will best suit the job.
- In the Halo series, an Enemy Civil War divides the Covenant between the Elites and the Brutes. The Elites join forces with the humans and eventually make peace with humanity when the war ends.
- BioWare tends to have this setup in their original series:
- Dragon Age: Origins had the Warden (the Good), Teyrn Loghain and his posse (the Bad), and the Darkspawn Horde (the Evil).
- Mass Effect 2 has Paragon Shepard, his/her crew, and Anderson as the only spots of good, the politicians and people like Aria in the grey area, and various mercenary groups, the Collectors, and the Reapers as evil.
- Mass Effect 3 has Shepard, Anderson, and Hackett as the Good, Cerberus and particularly the geth (who can be pulled over to the Good side) as the Bad, and the Reapers as the Evil.
- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn has the Featureless Protagonist as the Good (canonically), the Shadow Thieves as the Bad, and Bodhi's vampires as the Evil. To emphasize how Evil the latter are, some party members will flat out leave your party forever if you deal with them.
- In the Dune II, Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle For Dune games you have 3 playable factions (minus the subfactions, you can be allied to those) that fit this trope, the good House Atreides, the insidious House Ordos that is willing to do nasty things if necessary for it's endless pursuit of wealth and probably drugs its citizens to make them more submissive, vs. the evil House Harkonnen who are a royal house consisting almost entirely of perverted, deranged psychopaths who enslave, backstab, and a lot of other nasty things and their soldiers are more afraid of them than their enemy.
- In the Freespace stategy guide, it describes the Terrans as the "Good Guys," the Vasudans are the "Bad Guys," and the Shivans are the "Really Bad Guys."
- Mega Man Zero: Zero, Ciel, and La Résistance are the Good; Copy-X, the Guardians, and Neo Arcadia in general (or rather what Neo Arcadia has become) are the Bad; and Dr. Weil and Omega are the Evil.
- Elpizo can be considered to be all three. He starts out with the Resistance (that's the Good part), and although he certainly never rejoins Neo Arcadia, his hatred of it causes him to become an Anti-Villain (that's the Bad part) who stoops to using (and more importantly unleashing) the Sealed Evil in a Can that was created by the true villian Dr. Weil (that's the Evil part). Moreover, that power itself was originally a force of good, which was corrupted by Weil.
- Something like this happens in Fallout 3 with the Enclave splitting up. An interesting variation, as the player is actually given the option of siding with the more evil faction, but not the lesser one, so the game's final confrontation will always be against the same guys, regardless of moral choice.
- In Fallout: New Vegas the Courier gets to choose whose side he can join: NCR, Caesars Legion, or Mr House. Which ones are the good, bad, and evil depends on the player's perspective, but most characters in the game generally agree that the Legion are the worst of the three.
- Command & Conquer, starting with Yuri in Red Alert 2, the Scrin faction in Tiberium Wars (double the fact that the Brotherhood of Nod has received even more fandom by this time). Not so much in Red Alert 3, since the 'bad guys' are technically still the Soviets.
- BlazBlue also adheres this, although there's no pure Good or Bad due to the rather gray moralities of both sides. Oppositions of the NOL (Ragna, Sector Seven) is the Good. NOL is the Bad. Hazama/Terumi and Relius Clover are the Evil.
- Chrono Phantasma mucks things up within it. The NOL and Sector Seven at large are Bad; some individual members of both groups, and all known entities unaffiliated with either, are Good. Terumi and Relius are still Evil. Things change at the end, however:
- The Good: Jin, Noel/Mu, Makoto, Tsubaki/Izayoi, Hakumen, Jubei, Celica, Kagura, Rachel, Valkenhayn, Taokaka, Tager, Bang, Platinum (if Luna and Sena survive; Trinity is dead)
The Ambiguous: Bullet, Amane, Carl, Litchi.
The Bad: Azrael, Relius, and Nu
The Evil: Imperator Saya/Izanami, Phantom/Nine by extension
The Mindless: Arakune and Ragna
- Psychic Force, by the second game, exemplifies this. The Good is Anti-NOA (no official leader, the closest is Burn), the Bad is NOA (led by Keith), and the Evil is the Army (led by Wong). There are other forces such as magicians (Genma/Genshin) that don't take sides and instead be a Knight Templar and just target all three sides because they're Psychiccers and Psychiccers are EVIL (in their head).
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Empire and the Stormcloaks are the Good and the Bad, which one depending on whose side you pick in the Civil War. The Thalmor are always the Evil, one of the few things both sides agree on.
- Final Fantasy VII: Oh yes. The main character is a mercenary employed by eco-terrorists. Your enemy is a Mega Corp. whose fuel usage is literally killing the planet. That becomes less important when this other guy comes along and plans to kill everyone via Colony Drop to ascend into Godhood. (Said Mega Corp. dedicates its operations to stopping said guy from that point onward.) You can count the named characters who have not killed many, many people (directly or indirectly) on one hand, and by far the most prominent one dies a third of the way through. Yeesh.
- Vagrant Story has this going on from beginning to end with Ashley, Sydney and Romeo.
- Blip. Heaven is run by Knights Templar willing to ruin the lives of humans for the sake of preserving order. Hell is run by a genuinely nice guy, who nevertheless wants to plunge the world into chaos by amplifying the titular blip in God's plan. The real good guys aren't allied with either side.
- Sluggy Freelance has Torg and his friends (the Good) sabotaging Hereti Corp, No Fun, and other ruthless organizations (the Evil) by working for the supervillain Minion Master (the Bad).
- Rather than splitting the evil, Sinfest splits the good. God and Satan Are Both Jerks, but Buddha acts as a neutral figure in the conflict, ironically acting more "good" than the supposed good faction. (The protagonists themselves are all over the place—Slick in particular has declared allegiance to all three factions simultaneously.)
- There Will Be Brawl: Red, Peach and Luigi are Good; Link and the remaining mob bosses are Bad; and Kirby, along with Ness and Lucas, is completely batshit evil incarnate.
- Homestuck: Although Bec Noir is incredibly powerful and is responsible for over half of the deaths seen so far, Lord English is powerfully evil, threatening the very existence of paradox space itself.
- And given recent updates to his backstory, he is doing it purely For the Evulz.
- In Tales From My D&D Campaign, Humans are the Good, the Illud are the Bad, and the Deluvians are the Evil.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender 's second season broke down into this, with Aang and friends being the good, Zuko being the bad, and Azula the evil. At the end of the second season Zuko would subvert the opportunity for a Heel-Face Turn, but eventually do it in the third.
- This is actually true for most of the show. In the first season, Aang and co. are the good, Zuko is the bad, and Zhao is the evil; in the first part of the third, the good and bad roles are the same, but with Ozai joining Azula in the evil. After Zuko's Heel-Face Turn the system breaks down, though at the very end you have the Gaang as the good, Azula as the crazy yet pitiable evil, and Ozai as the stone-cold irredeemable sadistic evil.
- Danny Phantom turned into this pretty early on and kept building on it. It used to be that Team Phantom was the good and the various ghosts he fought were the evil. Now, Team Phantom is good, Vlad and Valerie (along with a few more sympathetic ghosts) are the bad, and most of Danny's Rogues Gallery is the evil. By the end, however, Vlad is the evil and most of the Rogues Gallery is the bad.
- The '90s X-Men animated series had one of the most memorable and sympathetic portrayals of Magneto ever to exist, out to defend mutantkind from its human oppressors, who were generally portrayed as pretty heavily bigoted. Of course the show couldn't have him be too evil with such a sympathetic cause, so he got thrust into Enemy Mine situations in all but his very first appearance against villains who were more evil than him at his worst.
- Gargoyles did this often in the second season, most notably with Goliath and Xanatos (who may be the king of self-interest trumping morality, but isn't evil per se) teaming up against the out-of-control transformed Fox in "Eye of the Beholder" and the serial-killing Demona in the "City of Stone" arc.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man Spidey is the good and most of his Rogues Gallery are the evil, with Tombstone as the bad- he's unquestionably a villain and a very ruthless one, but he sees his criminal empire as a business first and foremost and tends to avoid pointless cruelty. He (briefly) teams up with Spidey on a couple of occasions against the blatantly psychotic Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus.
- It's not just him, either - Sandman, Black Cat, and (to a much lesser extent) Rhino are just in it for the money, and don't really go out of their way to hurt anyone (except Spidey himself, in Rhino's case). Sandman even gets to team up with Spidey for Redemption Equals Death in the course of saving a little girl.
- And Molten Man was working for the truly psychotic Green Goblin, but against his will - it was a pretty clear set-up for a Heel-Face Turn, but the show was canceled just two seasons in.
- In the fourth season of Kim Possible, Affably Evil Dr. Drakken and his Deadpan Snarker dragon Shego developed into "the bad". First by toning down their evil throughout the season and in the final episode by putting them in an Enemy Mine position against a race of Always Chaotic Evil alien invaders.
- The Teen Titans had an alliance with Slade against Bigger Bad Trigon that lasted all of 2 episodes.
- In Xiaolin Showdown there are varying degrees of bad and evil, while the Monks are unquestionably good, though they dip their toes in the darkside sometimes, there is Jack on the bad side but he wants to be the Big Bad. Chase could be considered bad also as he spends most of his time helping the monks while trying to fullfill his own goals. There is Wuya who is evil, but mostly harmless except when she reveals herself to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain, and finally Hannibal Bean who is very evil.
- The Justice League temporarily side with the Legion of Doom against Darkseid and his army.
- Luthor and company accidentally rescued Darkseid, and rather sensibly went straight to the League and explained there was going to be an alien invasion now and the planet needed saving, let us help. The League gave them a five-minute head start afterward.
- At the end of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Death Watch and Darth Maul team up. Eventually Maul takes total control, but not all of Death Watch is willing to follow him; things end with Maul's Death Watch as the Evil vs. original Death Watch as the Bad; with the Good (in the form of the Jedi) yet to get involved.