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After-Action Villain Analysis

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"Burns became consumed by greed, he'd steal from anyone...and when he tried to steal our sunlight, he crossed the line from everyday villainy into cartoonish supervillainy!"

This is when either an enemy of a major villain, or maybe a minion who turned against them, explains to others the nature of their conflict, typically when the villain is not around, likely after the villain has either been defeated (that is, during The Summation) or is at least temporarily out of power. An alternative title for this, "explaining the villain explains the conflict," refers to the notion that explaining what happened makes the actions of the villain's enemy or former rival more understandable.

Note that this is not a Motive Rant; the tone of the conversation will be very calm and gentle despite the subject matter, as indicated by many of the examples...

Named for the after-action reports filed by military officials following a combat engagement, also used for post-game play-by-play analysis of sporting events; not directly related to After-Action Report as a form of fan literature. Compare Kirk Summation, which is addressed to the actual villain. See also You're Insane!.

Not to be confused with How We Got Here.

Examples include:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Many a Batman story ends on this note. In Lighter and Softer stories of past generations, he's more likely to shake his head at the villain's wasted potential as a benefactor of humanity. In Darker and Edgier modern stories, he's more likely to reflect on how the villain is a Shadow Archetype and reflection of what he could've become had just one thing gone wrong with his upbringing.
  • Robin (1993): Tim often reflects on the circumstances which led to the villain he fought in the issue to a criminal lifestyle. He's usually sympathetic to their plight but never feels it excuses whatever they did to bring them to his attention.

    Film — Animated 
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
    Simba: Scar couldn't let go of his hate, and in the end, it destroyed him.
    Kovu: ... I've never heard the story of Scar that way. He truly was a killer.
    Simba (while brushing the remains of burned plants): Fire is a killer. Sometimes what's left behind can grow better than the generation before, if given the chance.
  • Chuckles the Clown does this in Toy Story 3 to explain Lotso's turn to evil.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Aliens has an expository scene with the surviving marines hypothesizing about the life cycle of the aliens and that there has to be a queen laying the eggs. They're right.
  • Bride of the Monster has a very brief one in the film's final line, after Bela Lugosi's Mad Scientist character gets killed by his own radioactive octopus:
    He tampered in God's domain.
  • Subverted at the end of The Day of the Jackal, where Mallinson and Inspector Thomas discuss the villain they spent the movie pursuing, and concede that he will remain a Riddle for the Ages:
    Insp. Thomas: But if the Jackal wasn't Calthrop, then who the hell was he?
  • Predator (1987).
    Mac, to Dillon, describing the encounter with the Predator: Those eyes...disappeared. But I know one thing, Major... (pause) I drew down and fired right at it. Capped-off two hundred rounds and then the Mini-gun; the full pack. Nothin'...nothin' on this earth could have lived...not at that range.
    Schaefer: He uses the trees.
  • Perhaps most famously (and more than a little extensively) in the Alfred Hitchcock film, Psycho.
  • The film (and comic) version of Sin City has a scene in which Cardinal Roarke explains to Marv why his adopted son ate people and subsequently admitted to joining in.
  • Troy: The Trojan priest says this when they find the beach abandoned. (It's a Trap.)
    Plague! Don't get too close, my lord.
    King Priam: What happened here?
    They desecrated the temple of the gods, and Apollo desecrated their flesh.
    They thought they could sack this city in a day. Now look at them... fleeing across the Aegean.
  • Valentine: At the end of the film after Adam guns down the Cupid Killer and unmasks them to reveal Dorothy, he and Kate discuss Dorothy while waiting for the cops to arrive. Adam's theory is that Dorothy finally snapped after years of loneliness and the only way to alleviate it was going on a killing spree. However, it circles right back into a Motive Rant because Adam was the real killer all along. Having been framed by Dorothy for sexually assaulting her years ago, he'd never gotten over what she and her friends (minus Kate) did to him until he started murdering her friends, leaving Dorothy for last so he could frame her for his crimes like she framed him.
    Adam: All I can think is... if someone is that lonely or that angry, they can learn to hide it. But inside, it never dies. It just stays there, eats away at you, until one day, you have to do something about it.

  • In Another Note, Mello does this for Beyond Birthday, saying he could understand why B did what he did.
  • Also a recurring feature in the work of Agatha Christie as an alternative to a Summation Gathering, with villain exposés delivered by Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or another detective to an assembled group of people after, not before, the villain has been identified and taken into custody, committed suicide, or been killed. This usually happens following a Wham Line, a surprise arrest, or another very sudden and as yet unexplained reveal of the villain.
    • Occasionally subverted, when it is revealed that the main villain is actually present in the room, and is not the person who just got taken into custody, died, or played along with the detective so to catch the true culprit off guard. Examples include Cards on the Table and At Bertram's Hotel.
  • The Magicians: Jane Chatwin explains to Quentin how the Beast became a supernatural monster: Martin Chatwin gave up his humanity in exchange for power and the opportunity to stay in Fillory because he was the target of a sexual predator on Earth.
  • The Poet: The Detective Mole ending has Bob Backus, the agent in charge of the FBI task force hunting a serial killer, actually be the serial killer. Afterwards the FBI tries to figure out what was going on with Bob Backus. Apparently when he was a boy, his father would cuff him to the towel bar in the shower if Bob wet the bed. Jack himself noticed how Bob was a Neat Freak. An old girlfriend said that Bob wanted her to shower both before and after sex.
  • Happens frequently in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: After trying and executing Littlefinger for treason in Season 7, Sansa and Arya stand on the battlements of Winterfell and discuss him, with Sansa admitting he did have some redeeming qualities.
  • It Conquered the World. "He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature, and because of it, the greatest in the universe..." A catchphrase of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Doubles also as a Patrick Stewart Speech.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel demands information from a captured Adar about Sauron's whereabouts, which he offers. Galadriel learns from him about Sauron's true goals of trying to gather the power of the unseen world by doing torturous experiments on the Orcs that followed in the Forodwaith. Adar relates further turning on Sauron and killing him for treating the Orcs so cruel, and later becoming their new leader. Galadriel has hard times believing what she is hearing and becomes infuriated at Adar, almost killing him in a fit of rage.
  • Perry Mason often employed these to tie up loose ends after badgering the real culprit into a dramatic courtroom confession.

    Video Games 
  • When she defeats Kefka one final time in Dissidia Final Fantasy, Terra reflects on his lust for destruction and concludes that he was trying to fill the void left by his broken heart.
  • Injustice 2: After Regime Superman was defeated in the previous game, Batman reflects on his Start of Darkness in the opening, noting how the Joker, who is usually Batman's Arch-Enemy, goaded the Man of Steel into killing his own wife Lois Lane and nuking Metropolis out of pure sadism. Batman may be sympathetic to Superman's plight, but doesn't feel it excuses any crimes he committed for Lois's sake.
    Bruce Wayne: In my years fighting crime, I've learned one truth... That every villain is the hero of his own story. Superman was no exception. The Joker drugged him, tricked him into killing his pregnant wife, Lois, and made him trigger the bomb that nuked Metropolis. So when Superman killed the Joker, I understood why. We all did. But once that line was crossed, there was no going back. He gave himself and the Justice League a new mandate. Stop all crime before it happened, by any means necessary. But he couldn't see his good intentions were leading him down a path of tyranny and evil. That's how our greatest hero became our greatest threat.
  • The Last Story: In the epilogue, Lowell and Zael will discuss about Dagran's motivations. Among which is the fact that while this is all his own fault, Lowell feels that maybe they could have reached out to him more. Zael wonders whether he really meant when he called the mercenaries nothing but pawns for his revenge, considering how much Dagran seemed to genuinely care for them. In the end, they acknowledge that with him gone, they'll probably never know, but the mercenaries still make a grave for him, leave him flowers and thank him, since it was under his leadership and care that they even managed to survive for so long.
  • Subverted towards the end of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: After Link defeats Ganondorf's first form, Zelda's Crystal Prison slowly moves towards the roof and dissipates, and Zelda looks at Ganondorf's body and says "Ganondorf, pitiful man. Without a strong, righteous mind, he could not control the power of the gods." Then they realize the place is collapsing, that Ganondorf is using his "last breath" to bury Link and Zelda in the remains of the castle...of course, after they escape, it turns out Link has to fight another of Ganondorf's forms, confirming that Zelda's earlier line isn't really an AFTER action villain analysis.
  • In the postgame in Pokemon Platinum, you come across an old man who explains why Cyrus was after a world without emotion. Of course, the old man (probably) doesn't know that you're the one who defeated Cyrus, or even that you ever met him. He's just a grieving grandfather who blames himself for his grandson turning out like that.
  • Star Fox: Assault: After beating the final boss, Fox pauses before making his escape to calmly muse on what the enemy was trying to accomplish and how it couldn't have worked.

    Visual Novel 
  • A variant is done in the Ace Attorney trials. While Phoenix pieces together the actions of the guilty party to the court as the trial proceeds, it's usually not until the very end of the trial that all the pieces come together and the full motives of the killer are figured out. One notable case that plays this straight is Case 5-2, in which, following Le'Belle's freak out, Simon Blackquill revives him long enough to get his testimony offscreen. He then reports to the courtroom that Le'Belle's criminal activities were motivated by being bankrupt, something which hadn't been revealed before then (while the goal of Le'Belle was determined, why he did it all exactly was not).
  • In the Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night Shirou analyzes Archer who has already been defeated. He realizes that despite his cynicism and attempts to Ret-Gone himself by killing Shirou, Archer never regretted his choices in life, only the consequences he faced after dying. That was why during their last fight Archer did not counter Shirou's final attack.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Villain Protagonist Skitter is analyzed several times in this fashion. Dragon notes her sliding further into acts of villainy and speculates that her past as a bullied teenager has led to a severe distrust of authority, and the government's therapist for superheros, Mrs. Yamada, analyzes her repeatedly and discovers a pattern with her escalating her levels of force in response to threats to her father.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns", quoted above.
  • Frequently parodied in The Tick, when the eponymous hero gives one of his Cloudcuckoolander speeches concerning the villain which seldom make any sense.

Alternative Title(s): Villain After Action Report, Explaining The Villain Explains The Conflict