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Film / The Dictator

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A 2012 movie starring Sacha Baron Cohen doing what he does best — pretending to be a guy from another country (this time ethnically non-specific) who makes fun of other people's ignorance regarding ethnic stereotypes.

In this film Sacha plays Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya, a fictional country in North Africa. Aladeen is pretty much the worst head of state this side of Pol Pot (in a funny way of course), but to him it's just everyday life. However when he's invited to give a speech at the United Nations in New York, his Treacherous Advisor Tamir (Ben Kingsley) arranges to have him kidnapped and murdered. Though Aladeen escapes, his captor shaved off his iconic beard, making him unrecognizable.

Now penniless and without status, Aladeen finds himself picked up by Zoey (Anna Faris), a kindly grocery store manager who offers him a job. Hilarity Ensues as Aladeen tries to find a way back to his throne, prevent a 'democratic' constitution being signed by a body double (part of Tamir's plans to sell Wadiya's oil to the highest bidder), and build weapons of mass destruction, all at once.


Not to be confused with the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator, or an aborted TV show concept from the late 80s called "The Dictator" starring Christopher Lloyd.

The Dictator provides the following tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Aladeen, among other world leaders and countries. His approval in Wadiya may not be 50%, but based on the crowd scenes, it's certainly not zero.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Aladeen is initially enraged that his idiot body double is making him look like a fool in front of the UN and the entire world. However, after the double pours a pitcher of urine over the head of the Israeli ambassador, Aladeen admits that's actually a good one.
  • Adam Westing: Megan Fox as a celebrity who prostitutes herself to powerful world leaders.
  • Affably Evil: Guess who?
  • All Muslims Are Arab: Clayton looks forward to torturing General Aladeen because he's "an Arab"note , although the nation Wadiya replaces Eritrea (which is in the Horn of Africa), making Aladeen African. Aladeen explicitly says he isn't Arab in response to Clayton.
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  • Ambiguously Brown: It's not super clear just which ethnicity Aladeen is supposed to be if he's not Arab, as Aladeen and Wadiya are both Arabic (or at least Arabic-sounding) names. Of course, many Muslims do speak Arabic (and have Arab names) though not Arabs themselves, but still it isn't explained.
  • Anything That Moves: Aladeen is shown to be with several women and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And it's later stated that 14 year old boys are his weakness.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Aladeen, although not an Arab (or so he claims) and not an actual sheikh, is really ostentatious in his displays of wealth and has the requisite Middle Eastern flavour. Wadiya is also said to have 'Unlimited oil wealth'.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Nadal's pep talk to Aladeen:
    Nadal: You are the last great dictator! All of the others are gone! Qaddafi, Saddam, Kim Jong, Cheney.
    • The Western world condemns and wants to execute Osama bin Laden for terrorism. Aladeen hates bin Laden for overstaying at his guesthouse and ruining his bathroom.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: The birth scene. Soooo much wrong there. Though it is supposed to be funny, not medically accurate.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: When Aladeen and Nadal take their helicopter ride, they're speaking Hebrew, not "Wadiyan". Possibly a Stealth Pun, since Aladeen is virulently anti-Semitic (and also a Running Gag in Cohen's work).
  • Asshole Victim: Clayton, the racist xenophobe who kidnaps and tries (and fails) to torture and murder Shabazz and gets burned to death.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Aladeen defeats his uncle for betraying him, but the ending falls under this trope on account of Aladeen being a Villain Protagonist who never undergoes a complete Heel–Face Turn, and instead continues oppressing his country afterwards. It's notable that his main opponent was also evil though, as he was simply trying to sell the country to the highest bidders for its oil resources. The real sufferers in this case are the Wadiyan people.
  • Babies Ever After: Zoey is revealed to be pregnant during the credits. Subverted in that Aladeen makes it clear he will kill the child if it turns out to be a girl.
  • Bald of Evil: The Evil Uncle and Evil Chancellor Tamir is played by Ben Kingsley.
  • Beard of Evil: Aladeen, he becomes milder after he loses it, but goes back to the same old oppressive routines once he gets a new one.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Nadal doesn't actually like Aladeen getting back into power. He just wants out of his boring job in New York.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Aladeen's body double is more, err, comfortable with goats than women...
  • Big Applesauce: Justified, as Aladeen has a perfect reason to go to New York (giving a speech in the UN).
  • Bilingual Bonus: As in Borat, "Wadiyan" is actually Hebrew. The greeting "Jachnoon" is actually a type of Yemenite Jewish pastry. Also, the description Aladeen gives of himself as like the mafrum fruit ("hard and spiky on the outside, but soft and really mushy on the in") is the same as the "Sabra" stereotype of Israelis.
  • Black Comedy: Tons. Many of the horrible things Aladeen does, like executing people for slight offenses, is Played for Laughs.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Strongly implied several times that Aladeen has participated in this before.
  • Blatant Lies: Shabazz's propaganda about himself is full of this. For example, read his biography.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Aladeen is protected by a group of female bodyguards. They also act as a Paid Harem, judging from their behavior with the body double.
  • Body Double:
    • Aladeen employs these regularly. After one is shot in an ambush in front of the Royal Palace, a clueless shepherd is recruited as the next replacement.
    • The movie also reveals that Osama bin Laden used a body double that was killed by Seal Team 6; the real Osama is living in Aladeen's guest house.
  • Boobs of Steel: The "virgin guard" with the enormous breasts, Etra (played by Busty Heart), is also the most physically aggressive of all the guards, and the only one depicted engaging in violence...using her comically large breasts as weapons (in a scene from the unrated extended addition).
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Aladeen and Zoey get closer and closer. Aladeen finally confesses that he loves her and just after that he is the dictator Aladeen. Because of the latter confession, Zoey rejects him. In the end, Aladeen sees Zoey in the crowd as he is going to reject the democratic constitution. This makes him change his mind and he declares that he embraces democracy, so Zoey falls for him.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Aladeen, who proves later in the movie that he CAN be a competent (although brutal and ruthless) leader if necessary.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Aladeen invokes this trope by mocking Clayton for his (supposedly) poor choice of weaponry and then for pissing off the restaurant waiter with fake Line of Sight Aliases.
    • The fat kid who sabotages Zoey's inventory invokes Aladeen's wrath.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The Wadiyan people, who all live in an impoverished Third World country run by a brutal dictator who cares more about their allegiance than their economic and physical well-being.
    • Nadal, especially as Aladeen keeps harassing him over the nuclear warhead's tip shape (which doesn't matter in the slightest bit how effective the warhead is) and a dead corpse's head.
  • The Caligula: Aladeen inherited the power from his father. He is irrational (for example he wants a pointy bomb even if his point scientist tells him a rounded one is more efficient), violently moody (he is very prompt to sentence to death someone he trusted just moments before), and debauched (see Anything That Moves).
  • The Cameo: Lots.
    • Megan Fox sleeps with Aladeen in the beginning.
    • John C. Reilly has a two-scene role as Clayton.
    • Garry Shandling as the health inspector.
    • Fred Armisen as the restaurant owner. Again.
    • Chris Elliott as hotel security.
    • Aasif Mandvi as the Wadiyan doctor
    • In a huge Brick Joke payoff, Edward Norton is heavily implied to have committed homosexual acts for money.
  • Character Blog: The Republic of Wadiya site.
  • Character Filibuster: Aladeen's final speech about America totally not resembling a dictatorship.
    "Imagine if America was a dictatorship! You could let 1% of the people have all the nation's wealth! You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes, and bailing them out when they gamble and lose! You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education! Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family! You could wiretap phones! You could torture foreign prisoners! You could have rigged elections! You could lie about why you go to war! You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group, and no one would complain! You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests!"
  • Chest of Medals: Aladeen, albeit with ribbons, so he has that going for him.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Basically all of Aladeen’s evil acts.
  • The Comically Serious: Tamir. While everyone else is hamming it up, Ben Kingsley maintains a dignified facade throughout all the silly events happening around him.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The oil magnates ready to pounce upon Wadiyan oil.
  • Crapsack World: Wadiya is so worthless that the European colonial powers all played hot potato with one another for the ownership of the country because none of them wanted the hassle of actually running it. First the Italians claimed it, but they then they traded it to the Swiss for a truckload of cheese, who then outright bribed Imperial Germany to take it off their hands. The Germans then had to trick the people of Wadiya into declaring independence to be rid of it.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Aladeen may look like an idiot, but he's frighteningly competent at leading any group of people, be it a country or a grocery store.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • Zoey teaches Aladeen how to do this, much to his joy.
    • Implied by Nadal, who says that his job as a Mac Genius consisted primarily of cleaning semen from MacBook laptops.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: Aladeen seek a beard from a deceased African warlord and has Nadal chop off the head while they're at the funeral. Afterwards, Aladeen plays with the decapitated head like a puppet.
  • Death by Racism:
    • Played straight by Clayton, the racist assassin who tries to kill Aladeen.
    • Averted by Aladeen himself, who spends the greater part of the movie making various racist and politically incorrect remarks, but never really gets punished for it.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: Aladeen gives out a speech on why he despises democracy near the climax. He states that you have to accept votes from people who are black, female, disabled, etc. even if you don't like it. In conclusion, Aladeen retorts there is chaos with so many trying to push their own agendas and there's no way to please or satisfy everybody. Played with in his speech on why he prefers a dictatorship, in which many of the things he says are also applicable to American democracy (such as 1% of the population having all the wealth, manipulation through media, neglect of people's needs).
  • The Dictatorship: The Republic of Wadiya does not have an overly long name, but it deserves a mention for just now blatantly undemocratic it is. From the official site:
    Aladeen righteously declared his father Eternal President of the Republic and called for free elections to determine who would serve as Vice-President under his dead father. Aladeen won with only 99.999% of the vote. After an exhaustive government investigation, it was discovered that the one dissenting vote came from Aladeen himself, who deliberately misspelled his own name as an ingenious test of the system.
  • The Ditz: Aladeen and Zoey both come across as pretty flaky, but they are far more on the ball than Aladeen's moronic double.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Aladeen pleasures Zoey by tonguing her hairy armpit.
  • Eagleland: Aladeen makes no secret out of his disdain for the USA.
    Aladeen: Ah, America! Built by the blacks, owned by the Chinese!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Aladeen now knows why everyone hates Bin Laden. Played With: it's because Bin Laden won't leave Aladeen's guest house. And keeps messing up his bathroom.
    "You go to the bathroom after Osama, you will realize the true meaning of terrorism."
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even Aladeen is amazed at how stupid his body double is.
  • Evil Chancellor: Aladeen's uncle Tamir, seemingly a loyal advisor, but secretly planning to subvert Aladeen's authority and sell off the country's oil to foreign corporations. Subverted, because Aladeen is not a good ruler either.
  • Evil Is Petty: Aladeen kills people for very petty reasons. He orders one person executed for getting the cereal toy prize he wanted, and another for blocking his path on a staircase.
  • Evil Versus Evil: A ruthless egomaniac dictator versus a corrupt Treacherous Advisor who wants to sell off his country to oil tycoons. Whichever of them won, the people of Wadiya would still suffer.
  • Expy: Aladeen is one to (former) real world dictator Kim Jong-il of North Korea- sorry, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The film is even dedicated to Kim's memory! He also appears to be one for (again former) real world dictator Muammar Gaddafi of The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, now just Libya.
  • Fake American: In-universe. Aladeen does an expectedly horrible job of impersonating an American tourist.
    "I love being an Americans! America is number one! Oh, I am from U.S.A.! My father also from U.S.A.! My great-grandfather fought in the American Civil Jihad."
  • Faking the Dead: The "Osama bin Laden" killed by Seal Team 6 was actually a Body Double. The real Osama is mooching off Aladeen and messing up his bathroom
  • Familiar Soundtrack, Foreign Lyrics: After being shaved of his beard and abandoned by his cronies, Aladeen wanders New York to an Arabic-language cover of MC Rai's 'Everybody Hurts.'
  • Funny Foreigner: Cohen's preferred shtick, it would seem.
  • Gag Boobs: Aladeen's guard Etra. She smashes a stack of bricks with them, and in a scene from the extended unrated edition, attacks Aladeen himself with them.
  • The Generalissimo: Aladeen embodies the exaggerated version of this.
  • Glorious Leader: The official Wadiyan website goes on and on in praise of Aladeen.
  • Granola Girl: Zoey, who manages a completely democratic health food store which is hyper eco friendly and takes in political refugees as workers.
  • Hairy Girl: Playing alongside the Granola Girl image, Zoey is also seen sporting armpit hair for the length of the movie. She and Aladeen even manage a particularly funny fake out during their "sex scene" swapping oral sex for him instead licking her furry armpits.
  • Happily Ever After: The film ends with the marriage of Aladeen and Zoey.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Zigzagged towards the end, with Aladeen going back and forth between deciding to introduce democracy and remaining as a dictatorship. Ultimately subverted as Aladeen decides to introduce "real democracy" to his country, but they just turn out to be sham elections.
  • Hidden Depths: For all of Aladeen's many, many faults, he's actually an incredibly efficient manager. This is evidenced when he forcibly takes control of Zoey's store. After a couple of days, he's got the right employees doing the right job, has the store looking nice and generally running smoothly. Albeit by employing some questionable methods, including kidnapping and extortion.
    • Whereas Aladeen once seemed to genuinely believe that - quote - "the Wadiyan people love being oppressed", his declaration of democracy being "instated" in Wadiya is the start of his first actual effort at feigning benevolence for the rest of the world, holding an election with an actual opponent (winning by a full 1.19 percentage points less compared to his last and what was once his only one), changing his main title to President-Prime Minister, and not being pathologically resentful to those who dispute his ballistic missile design choices. Baby steps towards being Repressive, but Efficient.
  • Historical In-Joke: SEAL Team Six did not shoot Osama bin Laden, but a double. The real one is hiding in Aladeen's guesthouse being a sloppy, freeloading guest who won't leave.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Clayton sets himself on fire, right after arguing with Aladeen over the quality of his weapons and gas torch.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Zoey. So friggin much.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Aladeen has gone from being a feared dictator to a poor refugee working at a grocery store.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Aladeen ordered many civilians and his own scientists and generals to be executed for very selfish, trivial reasons (i.e. disagreements over what shape the nuclear warheads should be, jealousy over a cereal toy prize, blocking his path on a staircase) but he does nothing against Osama bin Laden for squatting at his guesthouse (let alone ruining the bathroom there) other than complain about it.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Nadal shows up when Aladeen is going to kill himself. He talks to him so that Aladeen gives up his project.
  • It's All About Me: Aladeen madafakas!
  • Jerkass: Double subverted. Aladeen eventually thinks he has becomea Jerk with a Heart of Gold, at least. Nadal knows better.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: A Running Gag. Aladeen keeps comparing Zoey to a boy.
  • Let the Bully Win: In the games he organized, Aladeen won all medals, but he is shown shooting some of his competitors (and random people) during a race.
  • Liar Revealed: Aladeen willingly reveals his true identity after pretending to be an activist.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Borat and Brüno (2009). While those two films were R-rated (and very hard R's, at that), this one seems to play it on the safe side and with a few trims could have easily been a PG-13 (which was the studio's original plan).
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Parodied. Aladeen seems almost incapable of coming up with an alias any other way. It works the first time with "Allison Burgers," but it leads to obviously fake names like "Ladis Washerum" and "Emploice Muswashans" that don't fool anybody.
  • Love Redeems: Downplayed. By having shown Aladeen compassion by standing up to the cop who falsely arrested him for allegedly trying to hijack a helicopter and bomb NYC, Aladeen falls in love with Zoey and her presence at the hotel meeting alone is able to convince Aladeen to at least let Wadiya remain a democracy even if a terrible one where Aladeen still gets to direct it however he wants. So, Aladeen's feelings for Zoey help him become a (slightly) better person.
  • Mad Scientist: Nadal agrees to help Aladeen regain power so he can continue working on nuclear weapons, instead of his lame job in America.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Aladeen's robe flies up as he tries to swing between two buildings, before thwacking right into a window.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Shabazz seized power from his father after murdering him in a "hunting accident". Though he apparently did a really shitty job of making it look like an accident.
    Biography: When Aladeen was just a child, his father Omar died in a tragic hunting accident when he was hit by 97 stray bullets and a stray grenade. Shortly afterwards, Omar's Chief Advisor suggested that Aladeen should be officially declared the successor. The supremely-humble Aladeen responded by accepting the position.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: This happens to Aladeen and Nadal when they are on the helicopter. They're speaking about mundane things in Arabic (actually Hebrew), but with hand gestures and English names that give their fellow passengers the impression they're plotting to destroy various New York landmarks.
    Nadal: (in Wadiyan) "You know, while you are here, you should try to see some of the sights such as the <Empire State Building> and <Yankee Stadium>."
    Aladeen: (in Wadiyan) "I'd love to see the fireworks over the <Statue of Liberty!>"
    (starts making exploding sounds and hand gestures, then gives Nadal a high-five)
  • N-Word Privileges: Invoked and parodied, much like in Borat.
  • "Nations of the World" Montage: There is one when Aladeen is going to sign a democratic constitution. The people of the world are watching the signature ceremony live on TV.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers got a lot of mileage out of this exchange between Megan Fox and Aladeen (which never made the final film):
    Megan: What's this, a ruby? Is that a joke? What do I look like, a Kardashian?
    Aladeen: No, of course not, you are much less hairy.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Discussed between Aladeen and Nadal. Aladeen, being an idiot, is proven wrong.
  • Not Quite Dead: Aladeen admits to a shoplifter at Zoey's store that the real Osama bin Laden is hiding in his guesthouse being a sloppy, freeloading guest who won't leave and that the guy SEAL Team Six shot was a double.
  • Oh, Crap!: Aladeen when he ends up in the "death to Aladeen" restaurant in New York, and realizes that everyone he had executed is alive and in the restaurant with him.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Zoey. While she's a Benevolent Boss she's allowed such blunders as letting an African refugee from a tribe with no concept of money man the registers, a Salvadoran woman whose hands have been replaced with hooked prosthetics do inventory in a store with easily damaged and perishable merchandise, and is oblivious about one of her employees skimming from the till. Worst of all is probably hiring Aladeen, though it turns out his totalitarian "Supreme Grocer" managing style worked wonders.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Aladeen. This goes without saying, since it is a Sacha Baron Cohen film.
  • Prince and Pauper: Between Aladeen and his stunt double.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Aladeen's ideas on how bombs work comes from watching Daffy Duck cartoons.
  • Qurac: Wadiya. You can see at the beginning that Wadiya is where Eritrea should be.
  • Redemption Demotion: Aladeen's former minions went from being high-level officials to working menial jobs in New York City after they were snuck out of Wadiya. Aside from Nadal, who is so sick of the crappy job that he wishes to work with Aladeen, most of them seem content with their lives.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Aladeen, who very easily becomes unrecognizable without his beard.
  • Released to Elsewhere: Inverted; while Aladeen thinks he's had hundreds of people executed for the most trivial reasons, the royal executioner is part of La Résistance and has actually been smuggling the condemned to America, where they've been living quite happily.
  • Riches to Rags: After Aladeen is shorn of his identity and his beard, he's forced to live as an anonymous refugee.
  • Running Gag: Aladeen ordering the execution of someone for a petty reason with a Throat-Slitting Gesture, just after telling the concerned person that everything is OK.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Aladeen almost certainly killed off his dad in addition to all of his brothers.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The Republic of Wadiya website mentions that Aladeen appointed his father (who was obviously assassinated by his own son) to the position of "Eternal President", while "merely" bestowing upon himself the position of "Vice-President" under his deceased father. "Eternal President" is in fact the actual office currently "held" by the first dictator of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung. North Korea's laws even mandate that Il-Sung still be referred to in the present tense even though he died in 1994.
    • Aladeen has ordered that a great number of words in the Wadyian language be replaced with "Aladeen", including contradictory terms like "positive" and "negative", and "open" and "closed", causing a lot of confusion.
      Physician: Do you want the Aladeen news or the Aladeen news?
      Man: The... uh, Aladeen news.
      Physician: You are HIV... Aladeen.
      Man switches through happy and concerned facial expressions multiple times.
    • Crosses over with Unusual Euphemism with regard to why Katy Perry got a diamond watch, unlike Megan Fox.
  • Stock Footage: Stock footage of Barack Obama is used to introduce the fact that the world is worried about the nuclear programme of Wadiya.
  • Straw Feminist: Zoey is a wacky feminist who has a vegan shop, and is often portrayed as the complete other side of the spectrum to Aladeen.
  • The Starscream: The Treacherous Advisor who tries to kill Aladeen.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    Aladeen: Enriching weapons-grade uranium to be used for peaceful purposes, It will be used only for medical research and clean energy. It will, it will. And will certainly never be used to attack ls... Oh, boy.
  • Take That!: A BIG one at the US, when Aladeen states everything that a tyrant state does, the US has been doing, leading, to Aladeen to say this at the end.
    • Among MANY other examples of this, the list of previous dictators that Nadal recounts to Aladeen concludes with "Cheney."
  • Taking the Bullet: After Aladeen's speech about democracy, his double jumps before him to take a bullet that was shot at him by Tamir.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Nadal talks to Aladeen when he wants to commit suicide because he was rejected by Zoey for being a dictator.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: After Osama bin Laden's double got shot by SEAL Team Six, the real Osama moved into Aladeen's guesthouse and ruined his bathroom. Curiously, Aladeen never considered ordering bin Laden to be executed.
  • Throat-Slitting Gesture: The standard way for Aladeen to condemn someone to death.
  • Torture Technician: Aladeen's kidnapper tries to be this, but Aladeen, himself a Torture Technician, mocks and degrades his apparently outdated tool set, ruining the fun for his captor.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Aladeen's uncle Tamir, seemingly a loyal advisor, but secretly planning to subvert Aladeen's authority and sell off the country's oil to foreign corporations.
  • Villain Protagonist: Double Subversion. Aladeen is a ruthless egomaniac dictator and he is the protagonist of the film. He seems to undergo a Heel–Face Turn in the end and to embrace democracy (which would be a subversion of the trope), but actually this is just a façade: he intends to remain the absolute ruler of Wadiya.
  • Women Are Wiser: Subverted with Zoey, who's a terrible manager and a Horrible Judge of Character.
  • Uncertain Doom: Zoey. We see Aladeen ordering her to be executed after discovering her Jewish ancestry, but she's still alive in the mid-credit scenes so it's unknown if Aladeen has a change of heart or if the scenes are chronologically before the wedding.
  • Undying Loyalty: Efawadh the body double. He's genuinely concerned for his leader's health and instantly relinquishes power back to him as soon as he returns. He also takes a bullet for Aladeen in the climax.
  • You Have Failed Me: Aladeen is known for having people executed for extremely petty reasons. Subverted in that the executioner is part of La Résistance, so everyone he has sentenced to death escaped and formed a resistance movement against him in New York.