When the good guy leading by example rebels and does a Face-Heel Turn, and others continue to follow his example and turn to the "dark side" along with him.
The Paragon isn't just a good guy, he's the good guy. Everyone looks up to him. He's at the forefront of every battle, gives the Rousing Speeches, and has probably personally trained most of the heroes.
What happens when someone like that turns evil?
So does everyone else.
This trope is about when the brightest beacon of hope and good decides despair and evil are better options and manages to worm his way into the hearts of the men and women who look up to him, turning them to the dark side as well. This is the distinction from Fallen Hero: He's not just falling, he's making sure to take everyone else with him.
So, to reiterate: it's not just the paragon falling by themselves; it's not this trope just because the guy is the number two good guy or the greatest whatever; it's about their dragging others with them. (For those who refuse to join, see Rebellious Rebel.)
Compare Fallen Hero, Broken Pedestal. See also The Paragon.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
YuYu Hakusho: Sensui is regarded as a prodigy among Spirit Detectives; he was killing spirits before he got the job. When he shows up as a villain he recruits other spiritually powerful people by his powerful personality. He's an Evil Counterpart to Yusuke himself.
Sailor Galaxia in Sailor Moon, though in the anime it's explained because she simultaneously extracted her own star seed and absorbed elemental chaos. She just got corrupted in the manga. And she cast it out to protect it from Chaos.
Orochimaru in Naruto: while lacking anything regarding morality, he certainly was considered one of the brightest minds of his generation. He pulled a Face-Heel Turn prior to the start of the story. Later on, Sasuke does the same thing.
The anime delves a little more into Orochimaru's backstory, wherein he starts as an orphan, developing into an obsession with rebirth and a desire to overcome death. It even adds a small moment where old Orochi is there when Tsunade learns about her little brother's death.
Itachi could be considered an inversion - in this case, The Paragon was the only one to not rebel.
Itachi did, however, betray his own clan, the Uchiha, by being loyal to the Konoha government. As such, this is also an example of playing it straight, since the Uchiha considered Itachi to be their best.
So what you're saying is Itachi likes to play it both ways. Since he's a Paragon to both sides of the conflict... No wonder he seemed like such a troubled guy in the flashbacks.
And no wonder Sasuke doesn't get what he's trying to teach him...
Nagato was seen as The Messiah but personal tragedy transformed him into a Dark Messiah. Hidden Rain and Konan followed him.
Kagura on the other hand doesn't rebel as much as she cracks under pressure, taking the world with her.
In Saint Beast, Lucifer refuses to stay as number two and takes Gabriel to hell with him. History then repeats itself with Judas and Luca, their students, whose motives are better but who also fall from the highest rank to ruling hell.
Sosuke Aizen from Bleach was once the greatest and most beloved of the Gotei 13 Captains. When he betrayed Soul Society he took two other captains with him and drove a lieutenant into a Heroic BSOD.
Played straight when revealed, but subverted later with flash backs. He was evil before hand. He cultivated the paragon persona and reputation to throw people off his trail.
Originally applied to Hal Jordan - Green Lantern of the Silver Age - who fell from grace during the 90's when the Guardians refused to give him enough power to restore his home town (which had just been destroyed in an unrelated Superman story arc). Jordan did not take this well and went on a killing spree of his fellow Lanterns to amass enough power to do so, becoming the villain known as Parallax.
Depending on which Retcon you choose to believe, this may have happened to Xorn of the X-Men.
Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch turning on Magneto seems to be a villainous version of this, since they're by far the most competent of his original Brotherhood.
Irredeemable is all about this. And with the rise of The Survivor, it appears to be doing it again.
Captain America, the most respected hero in the Marvel Universe, rebels against the US government in Civil War. Notable in that the majority of fans agreed with him and disliked his supposed Heel Realization.
A'Sharad Hett, a Tusken Jedi in the Republic comic series, is considered one of the greatest Jedi of his generation, though he resents the status as it conflicts with Jedi ideals. Fast forward 150-some-odd years to Legacy, and he's become Darth Krayt, the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Happens in the movie Gabriel, which is all too appropriate considering the movie is about angels and demons. Michael betrays his fellow angels and assumes the identity of the fallen angel Sammael with the intent of making the souls in the purgatory dimension they're fighting over into his own kingdom with which to battle Heaven and Hell.
In the Star Wars Prequel trilogy, Yoda says Count Dooku was his finest student and one of the greatest Jedi, but then he turned to the Dark Side. There is also the fact that his negotiations caused several THOUSAND star systems to break off from the Republic, meaning that he plays this trope straight, taking a good number of the systems in the Republic for the Confederacy and causing many systems who would otherwise just be part of the Republic to break off. They were convinced by the Count that the Republic is too corrupt to be repaired, and the Count even tries to persuade Padme that they have to start over. Supplemented in the Clone Wars CGI show, where we have sympathetic senators like Mina Bonteri who joined the Separatists for honest reasons.
Melkor was the greatest of the Valar, and when he fell, he dragged a number of the Maiar with him.
Fëanor. The most gifted, talented and intelligent of all Noldor, who rebelled after the theft of the Silmarils, and drew the Noldor - the High Elves - with him from the Undying Lands to Beleriand, Middle-Earth, to wage war against Morgoth.
For a nation-wide example, Númenor was the greatest of the nations of Men and specifically chosen by the Elves and Valar for nurturing (because the ancestors of the Númenóreans fought for them against Morgoth). Then the Númenóreans tried to take over Valinor under the mistaken belief it would make them immortal...
This is something of a running theme in Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman was the leader of the wizards and widely considered the greatest among them, but was also the only known member of that order to become corrupted. He attempts to take Gandalf with him, but Gandalf sees through him; he still manages to turn his home of Isengard into the most major stronghold of evil in Middle-Earth after Mordor itself.
Not identified with Satan in Isaiah. When Jesus addresses the matter in the Gospel, He says, "I have seen Satan fall like lightning from heaven," referring to the fall of Lucifer mentioned in Isaiah.
David is possibly a subversion when he was on the run from Saul, he pretended to serve the Philistines but was really attacking Israel's Enemies.
Although, technically, just going by Satan's (or Samael's, they're really the same being) record, he's got to be up there - and given that in the Book of Job he actually challenges God to a bet, and God accepts... well, Satan was quite possibly among the greatest of the angels.
Inverted in Caro King's Seven Sorcerers. The Bogeyman Skerridge is the paragon of evil, the best bogeyman in employ of Strood, and one of the most ruthless. Then he develops second thoughts, and rebels against Strood, causing many of Strood's servants to defect as well.
Live Action TV
In Power Rangers S.P.D., A Squad, the top team of Rangers, join with Emperor Gruumm. The only explanation given for their decision is, in Red Ranger Charlie's words, "Everyone wants to be on a winning team."
Makuta Teridax from BIONICLE was once the assigned protector of the island city Metru Nui, one of the most important places in his universe, a universe which he and his army once saved from ancient evil warlords. But owing to the Makuta race's powers being associated with darkness, and for doing tasks that most citizens took for granted (for example creating wildlife to preserve biodiversity, as opposed to performing heroic deed in public), they mostly got ignored by society, though still remained respected and thought of as protectors. Teridax, being fed up with this role, then turned into the story's Big Bad himself, taking all of his brethren with him — and executing or imprisoning those Makuta that didn't choose to follow.
In Warhammer Fantasy, the High Elven king Malekith. His followers became the Dark Elves.
In Warhammer 40,000, Horus was the Warmaster of the Imperium and out of all the Primarchs, he was probably the one with the closest relation to the Emperor. He's also the person after which the Horus Heresy, the cataclysmic civil war that reduced the Imperium to the Crapsack state we all know and love, was named. Technically he wasn't the first Primarch to turn to Chaos (Lorgar turned before him, and orchestrated the corruption of Horus), but he was the one that caused half of the other to turn to his side and start the war.
In a twist, Horus himself always considered Sanguinius to be the Paragon (and he was right). His fall was partly motivated by the feeling that he wasn't fit for the title of Warmaster with someone like that around.
Lucifer in Demon: The Fallen was canonically the most powerful and wise of the Elohim, second only to God Herself. However, in this case, his "Face-Heel Turn" was not caused by suddenly growing evil but by him shifting priorities from loving God to loving humans, just as God ordered him in the first place. Of course, this being the World of Darkness, things get worse and Lucifer remains a Hero with Bad Publicity.
Henry "Hotspur" in Henry IV part 1. Probably the greatest fighter in England, Hotspur and his father were on Henry IV's side in Richard II, but become disillusioned sometime between the events of the two plays and rebel against the king. Notably, King Henry thought of Hotspur as the son he should have had (his own son, Hal, is a listless drunkard— although this turns out to be a massive case of Obfuscating Stupidity).
This seems to be a running theme in the Mega Man meta-series:
The original series has Dr. Albert Wily, a genius roboticist. Appropriately enough, his own greatest creation in this series, Bass, rebels against him. Quite a bit, in fact.
Mega Man X has Sigma, once the greatest Maverick Hunter and protector of humanity. However, despite the atrocities he commits, his inclusion here is debatable; he's as much a victim of The Virus as a willful rebel.
Commander Elpizo in Mega Man Zero 2 goes from being the champion of the free Reploids to opposing them when he becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist out to utterly destroy Neo Arcadia and everyone in it.
Big Boss is the Deconstructor Fleet version of this and numerous other tropes. A few of the games' other antagonists probably count as well, at least the ones who weren't always acting as The Mole.
Final Fantasy, Garland is the top knight in Cornelia, but turns evil and kidnaps their princess.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII has Angeal, Genesis and Sephiroth, the top-ranking SOLDIERs of Shinra who are famed and idolazed worldwide. By the time the game is over all three of them have gone insane and betrayed the company, though Angeal's turn to darkness is a bit more complicated then Genesis or Sephiroth's.
In Final Fantasy X, Seymour is a high-ranking Maester in the Church of Yevon, proposes to the main heroine and is polite and helpful. He's also totally insane, wants to kill everyone in Spira, and made his entire race Always Chaotic Evil. However, turns out all of Yevon's leaders except for Kelk Ronso are corrupt.
You could argue Kelk Ronso was also corrupt, just to a lesser extent. After all, he did knowingly allow dead people to rule.
In Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, Lightning gets back to Order's Sanctuary to report that Kain is going around killing his allies off, only to find out that the Warrior of Light not only is in on Kain's plan, he tries to finish Lightning off himself. Doubly effective since his fighting style actually is "Paragon". Subverted though in that he and Kain are Well Intentioned Extremists who believe they're doing the right thing, and after a What the Hell, Hero? speech for the two of them they come to their senses.
Larry Foulke, alias Solo-Wing Pixy, in Ace Combat Zero starts off as the Number Two in the best squadron of the entire Allied air force, but eventually grows disillusioned with the Allied strategy (his own Belkan heritage probably helps) and joins the terrorist organization A World With No Boundaries, eventually facing off against his former flight lead. Needless to say, that fight is so epic, they made an entire extra level just for the two of them.
Saren Arterius in Mass Effect was considered one of the best Spectres before his Face-Heel Turn, and ends up dragging an Asari Matriarch, her commando team, and a large collection of corporate assets and various mercenary bands with him to help an abusive precursor destroy galactic society. It also makes the council and the other Spectres very reluctant to chase him down.
Played with in Mass Effect 2, as while Commander Shepard can still be the Paragon, during the two years they were dead, they were subject to a massive smear campaign by the Council. Without being able to count on any official support to thwart the Collector's attacks, Shepard is forced to work with Cerberus, which unfortunately only solidifies the growing belief that they've gone rogue.
Further compounded in the Arrival DLC, where Shepard is forced to detonate a Mass Relay and wipe out an inhabited star system to prevent the Reapers from gaining a beachhead. This leads to Shepard starting Mass Effect 3 in custody and about to be put on trial for War Crimes against the Batarians, when the Reapers finally invade Earth. Suffice to say, Shepard is quickly exonerated of their crimes and pressed back into service.
In the Back Story of Knights of the Old Republic, Revan was an immensely gifted and charismatic jedi, who (along with his sidekick Alek who would face the same fate) inspired a number of others to join him in fighting the Mandalorians against the wishes of the Jedi Council. That was still rebellious action for a good cause, but the next thing you know, he had turned to the Dark Side, reforming the Sith order and trying to take over the Republic.
In Knights of the Old Republic II, the Exile, a Magnetic Hero if ever there were one, can become a Sith Lord. Depending on the strength of her relationships, she will drag her companions' alignment down too.
The canonical light-sided Exile plays even more heavily with this trope. Despite breaking away from the Jedi to join Revan in fighting the Mandalorians and being responsible for ending the war by detonating a superweapon over Malachor V, they remained on the light-side and were the only one to return to face punishment from the Jedi Council after the end of the war. Furthermore, while the Exile accepted responsibility for disobeying the Council and being sentenced to exile, they refused to accept that they were wrong to stop the Mandalorians from taking over the galaxy and when asked to turn over their lightsaber, defiantly buried it into the stone in the middle of the Council Chambers before storming out.
This trope has been so common in the Republic's early history that the Disciple comments that the Jedi teachings must have some kind of fundamental flaw, because it keeps happening.
Dragon Age: Origins gives us Teyrn Loghain, the kings commander and Fereldens national hero for driving out the Orlesians despite being a mere peasant. He goes on to abandon his king to his fate, the son of the man he fought beside during the war against Orlais, before usurping the throne and throwing Ferelden into chaos at the worst possible time. He did, however, truly believe he was right and that his detractors were wrong.
A somewhat literal example lies in the story of Branka, the dwarf Paragon whose obsession with the Anvil of the Void led her to commit unforgivable atrocities. Although it is implied that she was a pretty bad person long before she found the Anvil. The Anvil just helped things along.
The Dwarf Noble is another example of this. Due to being more popular than their elder sibling and heir-apparent, Trian, the Dwarf Noble was heavily pipped by the Assembly to be the child of King Endrin most likely to ascend to the throne of Orzammar after his death. Due to the machinations of their younger bother Bhelen however, the Dwarf Noble is either tricked into killing Trian directly or framed for his murder, earning them exile and certain death in the Deep Roads. Even after returning to Orzammar as a Grey Warden, the Dwarf Noble is derided as a kinslayer.
In Star Wars:The Old Republic, this happens with Havoc Squad. It can also happen to Republic player characters who turn to the dark side.
Republic players on Nar Shaddaa are sent into Shadow Town, an Imperial prison for war criminals, to free a legendary Jedi by the name of Ako Domi. Guess what they find.
Garret from Thief was seen as the most promising Keeper acolyte of his generation. Naturally, he decided he'd rather use those skills for his own sake rather than the balance. Despite this he remains a (very reluctant) ally of the Keepers, which means they permit his freelance life because he keeps preserving the balance (unwillingly) at the cost of some nobles losing some gold every now and again. However, when interpreter Caduca is murdered in Deadly Shadows and Garret is pinned with the blame, the Keeper organisation essentially tears itself into pieces because so many within the organisation refuse to believe he did it.
Beluosus in Earthsong is a planetary consciousness that has decided to become a Planet Eater by eating the soulshards of other planets and sentient beings.
Deconstructed in ThunderCats (2011) with the character of Grune, who always wanted to rebel and become his kingdom's usurper due to his limitless ambition, and realized that becoming a paragon by rapidly working his way up the military ladder to General was the best way to succeed.