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Arc Villain

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The Super-Trope to Filler Villain, an Arc Villain serves as the Big Bad for one Story Arc, having an Evil Plan to threaten the heroes. After that, though, they’re killed off, imprisoned, sent into a Humiliation Conga, make a Heel–Face Turn, or are otherwise taken out of the picture, and the heroes continue their adventures to the next arc.

There's no The Man Behind the Man for the Arc Villain and no greater threat inspiring them, and they’re certainly not something so minor as a Monster of the Week. At the same time, they aren’t really the ultimate Big Bad of the series, either, since their defeat doesn't mark the end of the plot — or even the end of the hero's character arc. They are only the in-universe Big Bad for a limited time, after which someone new takes over the position. However, an Arc Villain can be the final antagonist of a series (of which he/she isn't the overall Big Bad).

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Not the same as the situation where a character is intended as the ultimate Big Bad, but a Post-Script Season (or sequel) starts an entire new story. In fact, Arc Villains are often used as middle rungs on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, and may overlap with Starter Villain, if surpassing them takes one or more Story Arcs.

Compare Big Bad Wannabe. Contrast Disc-One Final Boss and Interim Villain. When the villain is around for a great portion of the series (or all of it), they're an Overarching Villain.


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Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Season 8 of Happy Heroes, Big M. and Little M., the main villains of the show, get help from a wizard named Huo Haha to locate some magic staffs that are contained within a book his ancestor Xiao Haha wrote called A History of Magic. Thus, Huo Haha has the closest connection to the season's plot, and he also does not appear in a major role in the show outside of this season until the spin-off season Happy Heroes and the Magical Lab.

    Comic Books 
  • In most contemporary Super Hero comics, which are written with collected editions in mind, this has effectively replaced the older villain-of-the-month trope.
  • The longer, four-issue story arcs of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) each have their own villain:
    • The "Return of Queen Chrysalis" arc (issues 1-4) has the titular Changeling Queen.
    • The "Nightmare Forces" arc (issues 5-8) has the new Nightmare Moon, Rarity.
    • The "Reflections" arc (issues 17-20) has the Mirror Universe versions of Celestia and Luna.
    • The "Siege of the Crystal Empire" arc (issues 34-37) was entirely engineered by Sombra's mother Rabia in order to free the Umbrum.
  • Each arc of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men had one:
    • "Gifted:" Ord.
    • "Dangerous:" Danger.
    • "Torn": Cassandra Nova and the Hellfire Club.
    • "Unstoppable:" Aghanne.
  • The Disney Comics got many, such as Evil Sorcerer Mirengue in the Millennium Orbs arc.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues the precedent established by the show:
  • Star Wars Republic had Palpatine as the Overarching Villain, but individual arcs have their own antagonists.
    • "Prelude to Rebellion": Jabba the Hutt
    • "Outlander": An Big-Bad Ensemble between Jabba and Gardulla the Hutt, who are in an Enemy Civil War. Aurra Sing is The Heavy. Sing has been hired by Gardulla to assassinate Sharad Hett, but is later revealed to be an informant for Jabba.
    • "Emissaries to Malastare": Myk'chur Finux Zug for the fist part of the arc, in the second part of the arc, is was Gargonn the Hutt.
    • "Twilight": Chom Frey Kaa.
    • "Infinity's End": Zalem
    • "The Hunt for Aurra Sing": Aurra Sing. Although she has been hired to kill a senator by Tallet and Lekket, Aurra Sing is clearly The Heavy of the arc, and is the ones that the Jedi spend arc trying to capture, as indicated in the arc's very title, even before Tallet and Lekket hire her. Tallet and Lekket only appear in a single issue to hire Sing, and even then, Sing only accepts because the mission will also ger her an opportunity to kill her mentor, the Dark Woman.
    • "Darkness": Volfe Karkko
    • "The Stark Hyperspace War": Iaco Stark
    • "Honor and Duty": Venco Autem
    • "The Defense of Kamino": Passel Argente is the mastermind of the attack on the cloning facilities on Kamino, with Commander Merai as The Heavy leading troops into battle. In a larger sense, Argente is The Starscream to Count Dooku, hoping that a successful attack will allow him to supplant Dooku as the leader of the Speratists. However, Sidious and Dooku caught on to his plans, and ensure his plans are leaked to the Republic in order to sabatoge the invasion and discredit him after the Separatists are defeated.
    • "The New Face of War": Asajj Ventress and Durge
    • "The Battle of Jabiim": Alto Stratus
    • "Show of Force": Kh'aris Fenn is responsible for putting bounties on Jedi, although Mika is The Heavy, as the leader of the bounty hunters trying to collect the bounty.
    • "Dreadnaughts of Rendili": Asajj Ventress and Mallor Yago
    • "Siege of Saleucami": Sora Bulq is The Heavy directly at the battle. However, Bulq's master, Count Dooku, does appear via hologram in attempt to turn Vos over to the dark side.
    • "Into the Unknown": Clone Commander Vill, who is hunting Jedi Dass Jennir after the activation of Order 66.
    • "Hidden Enemy": Clone Commander Faie, who is hunting the Jedi Quinlan Vos after receiving Order 66 directly from Palpatine himself.
  • Animosity so far has the Dragon for its synonymous arc, and the Headmistress for the "Power" arc.
  • Hellblazer:: As different writers take runs on the title, they each give Constantine a Arc Villain to tend with:
    • Jamie Delano: Nergal.
    • Garth Ennis: The First of the Fallen.
    • Paul Jenkins: God.
    • Warren Ellis: Joshua Wight.
    • Brian Azzarello: S. W. Manor.
    • Mike Carey: Rosacarnis.
  • Hellboy: While the Ogdru Jahad serves as the greatest threat to Hellboy's world, most individual stories have their villains:
    • Seed of Descruction and Wake the Devil: Rasputin
    • The Wolves of St. August: William
    • Almost Colossus: The Colossus
    • Box Full of Evil: Igor Bromhead
    • Conqueror Worm: Herman von Klempt
    • The Third Wish: The Bog Roosh
    • The Island: The Book
    • Darkness Calls: Baba Yaga
    • The Wild Hunt and The Storm and the Fury: Nimue the Queen of Blood

    Fan Works 
  • Perfection is Overrated
    • Chapter 1-4: Hitomi
    • Chapter 6-7: Toki
    • Chapter 8-10: Shizune
    • Chapter 14-15: Sekai
    • Chapter 17-19: Bachiko and Meiko, as well as Ishigami
  • Ruby and Nora has the first four BigBads, who have nothing to do with Salem. There is also an Interim Villain after the Fall of Beacon.
  • Tales of the Undiscovered Swords: Ishida Sadamune, the series' first true Big Bad who only appears in one entry, story #4.
  • An interesting case in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series: though the fic generally is episodic, the fourth season had a shadowy figure always showing up at the end of an episode. Then, the two-part Season Finale "Our Solemn Hour" reveals that a decent amount of the season's plots were caused by Holographic Retro, who Calvin then proceeds to fight. It ends in a Cliffhanger where both characters try to take the other with them into the lava, and the fifth season premiere reveals Holographic Retro was Killed Off for Real.
  • Neomorphs: Mersa is a significant individual threat for several books before being dealt with.
  • A Minor Miscalculation: Mataro Mankanshoku becomes The Rival to Ryuko after his introduction and battles her on even ground for a few chapters, until Nui shows up and reasserts her status by brutally murdering him.
  • The Equestrian Wind Mage has Ganondorf in Season 2. While he's the Big Bad of the season, his presence in Equestria was (unknown to the heroes or even himself) engineered by Majora and Dethl, in order to a) keep his presence in Hyrule from messing up their own plans, and b) hopefully allow Vaati and the Mane Six to eliminate him for them.
  • RWBY Destiny Of Remnant:
    • The Haven Arc has Cinder Fall, who Team RNJR seek to bring to justice after everything she did at the Battle of Beacon. When the confrontation leads to Ruby and Jaune's capture, their friends need to band together with every huntsman and huntress they met to rescue the two of them.
    • The White Arc has Adam Taurus, whose brutal regime of the White Fang causes the members of Team Beacon to go on a mission to put a stop to him and free the founder and original leader Claudandus Pirinci.
  • The Grim EDventures of Ed Edd n Eddy has Eris the Big Bad... for the first 47 chapters, after which she is replaced by Pandora.
  • This is enerally averted in Forum of Thrones, as most villains hold significance for more than one storyline and over a longer period of time. However, there are some minor exceptions.
    • Maya's storyline in Book 1 Chapter 3 features Lord Trymon Brune, head of House Brune and lord of the Dyre Den. He is killed at the end of the same chapter and held overall little importance for her plot, other than to introduce Aldrik Wolver to her group.
    • After some minor encounters as an Arc Villain for Maya and John Gutten, Rodrik Stone becomes this to Samantha and the people that surround her in Chapter 7 and 8 of Book 1.
    • Rayden, Clayton's Arch-Enemy is the Arc Villain for a very short time in Kersea's storyline, during chapters 6 and 7.
  • Earth's Alien History has a few examples, mostly from its various War Arcs but also elsewhere:
  • TFA Kaleidoscope has a few standalone villains on top of the more prominent antagonists:
    • The CMX Police drone functions as this for the "Who Polices the Police Drones?" arc, functioning as the Starter Villain for the Orion crew.
    • Pyro Goblin in the "Fire Convoy" arc, serving as a Starter Villain for Optimus and Sari.
    • The Beast Pretenders in the "Beasts of Burden" arc, with Prometheus Black as the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • The A Song of Metal and Marvels series is a crossover between A Song of Ice and Fire and Marvel Comics, thus merging the former's complex Big-Bad Ensemble with the latter's vast Rogues Gallery. As such, each book has standalone plots and antagonists that are notably distinct from the series' main conflicts:
    • A Man of Iron: While the main plot plays out, The Mountain becomes the most prominent foe of Tony and Jon's storyline, as he becomes obsessed with defeating Iron Man, and later Centurion.
    • A Crack of Thunder has multiple storylines that are more fully fleshed out, each with its own villain:
      • Tony and Jon: Ivan Vanko, who is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the lords of Westeros.
      • Robb: Asha Greyjoy eventually emerges as Robb's main antagonist, as she launches an attack on Winterfell.
      • Jane and Thor: Melisandre, who eventually turns out to be Amora the Enchantress, and is manipulating Stannis to her own ends.
      • Tyrion: The Night's Queen, who is possessing Sansa Stark and competing with Tyrion for influence on King's Landing.
      • Daenerys: The Warlocks of Qarth, who try to take over the city and enslave Dany's dragons.
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    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 

    Podcasts 
  • Each arc of Sequinox has the team fighting the stars of one constellation, with the constellation attacking them once they've defeated the other stars. The first arc has them face Antares, Sargas, Shaula, and their leader Scorpius.
  • The first three seasons of The Magnus Archives are structured this way, with one Avatar menacing the heroes for an entire season then being destroyed by the season's end - Jane Prentiss in season 1, Not!Sasha in season 2, and Nikola Orsinov in season 3. Season 4 strays from this trope into a format closer to Monster of the Week, with the protagonists fighting multiple avatars over the course of the season (though Peter Lukas is the closest thing to a season-long villain) and Jonah Magnus being revealed as the Big Bad of the entire series at the season's end.

    Theatre 

    Toys 

    Web Animation 
  • Madness Combat features Tricky the Clown, who serves as the main villain of the Tricky the Clown Saga lasting from Depredation to Consternation. Before him was the Sheriff, who serves as this for the earlier episodes, and after Tricky was the Auditor in the Auditor Saga, though as the Interquels show, the Auditor's influence extends far beyond his arc.
  • In RWBY, the Nuckelavee Grimm is the overarching antagonist of the RNJR part of Volume 4, with its presence foreshadowed throughout the volume in destroyed villages across Anima, and its mere existence and memory of its attack deeply affecting Ren and Nora. The last quarter of the volume features the monster itself quite prominently, and it serves as the final antagonist in the last episode of the volume.
  • In Red vs. Blue: The Recollection The Meta serves as the overarching antagonist- first as the sole Big Bad of Reconstruction, then as part of a Big-Bad Ensemble in Recreation, and then finally as half of the Big Bad Duumvirate of Revelation (Before betraying his partner, Washington, and serving as the sole Big Bad for the last few episodes, as well as the Final Boss).

    Web Comics 
  • Damien in El Goonish Shive, followed by Magus. After their respective arcs ended, things have shifted into a Big-Bad Ensemble.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the main villain is Xykon the sorceror, but there are several lesser antagonists:
    • Daimyo Kubota is a villain in Azure City (and in exile) in the No Cure for the Paladin Blues and Don't Split the Party story arcs.
    • Bozzok is the leader of the Greysky City Thieves' Guild and the villain from Haley, Celia, and Belkar's perspectives in Don't Split the Party.
    • General Tarquin is only an Arc Villain in the Empire of Blood story, but he thinks he's the Big Bad and his son is The Hero.
    • Vampire!Durkon, the goddess Hel, and the vampire formerly known as Gontor Hammerfell are the Arc Villains in Book 6.
  • While Talzo and his gang serve as the Overarching Villains of Kirby Adventure several segments have their own independent villains.
    • The First Mission has King Dedede, though he surrenders before Division A can even fight him.
    • To The Tower has Fusion Kirby, the leader of a gang of thieves residing in the Old Tower.
    • Tear In The Fabric has Ybrick Etamitlu, the Evil Twin of the Author Avatar, Ultimate Kirby.
    • Master Of Puppets has Master Green, an enemy from Kirby's past who creates clones of Kirby and the other members of Division A in order to get revenge on Kirby.
    • Technical Difficulties has Captain Stitch, another enemy from Kirby's past who hijacks the Halberd as part of his plot to get revenge on Kirby.
    • C Central has Chef Freeze, a Chilly chef who speaks in Gratuitous French and who wants to cook the members of Division C for his recipe.
  • Loan Shark Kim Lurker from Tower of God in the first "episode"note  of season two.
  • Inverloch has Berard for the main antagonist for the first three volumes. He has nothing to do with Kayn'dar, but he stalks the party while they look for clues about Kayn'dar. After he kidnaps Acheron for a Forced Prize Fight, Varden kills him and the story turns completely to Kayn'dar.
  • L's Empire has had three, with each arc (referred to as sagas in the comic) named after them: Dark Star, Phala (the Pixl Queen), and Sergeant Smacka.
  • Sam Sanders in Endtown is a mixture of this and Filler Villain. Once the arc is completed, he is never mentioned again, and when Al and Gustine do reappear, they don't mention him. He is also one of the examples in which he had no minions or a dragon — he operated completely by himself.
  • A regular feature of Zebra Girl, starting with Lord Tool in the "Angels With Dirty Fur" arc.
  • Deities has had two Arc Villains. In the Evil Rising arc there is Lucifer and in the Flood arc there is Mother Nature.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: "Sleipnope" was the main threat to the crew for the second part of Adventure I, but was ultimately dealt with before that story arc ended.

    Web Original 
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, there usually is one major villain per story arc:
    • Mechakara in "His Heart is Steel".
    • Dr. Linksano in "The Other Insano".
    • Lord Vyce in "All That He Sees, He Conquers".
    • The Entity in "A Piece of the World is Missing".
    • Lord Vyce again in "His Blue Soul".
    • The "Guns and Sorcery" story arc is where the main villain is harder to place. Holokara serves as the main antagonist for the first half of the arc, the Gunslinger is the major antagonist for most of the story and Dr. Insano just steals the show by the end of the story arc.
    • Lord Vyce for a third time in "Ghost of the Machine".
    • The King of Worms in "The Machinations of Worms".
    • Mechakara in "The Atop the Fourth Wall Movie".
    • The Entity returns in "The Sleepwalker", with Lord Vyce being the final threat in the story after its death.
  • Total Pokemon has A LOT:
    • Lightning, Jo and Topher play the role of the Begubbubg arc's main antagonists, but it switches just to Lightning and Jo in the second arc when Topher is apparently killed off via Mc Arthur's truck exploding and incinerating him in the last episode of said arc.
    • Starting with the Diamond Days arc, Alejandro becomes the main antagonist for a LONG time. Topher also comes back (he apparently survived being incinerated in the explosion). However, once again, Topher is removed from the main antagonist role.
    • In the Ho-Oh arc, a Ho-Oh (which is just Ezekiel when he performed a Fusion Dance with his Fearow) is the main antagonist.
    • The Frozen Wasteland arc has Jacques and Josee take over as the main antagonists.
    • Evil clones of Cameron and DJ take over as the antagonists in the Nova arc.
    • The final time Alejandro takes over as main antagonist is in the Hellbent arc, where he is killed off at the end. Topher also comes back AGAIN. Arcs are planned beyond that point, but they don't have planned villains yet.
  • In the roleplay Tamrielic Adventures, the "Escape from Vvardenfell" had no real antagonist, but the "Threads in Windhelm" arc had Malvirian Linvail, a Dunmer pirate lord.
  • Critical Role had one for each story arc of the first campaign.
    • Kraghammer Arc: K'Varn, a powerful Beholder creating Body Horror abominations below the Dwarven city.
    • Vasselheim Arc: The party is split into two groups, each taking on one. The first has Rimefang, a White Dragon. The second has Hotis, a Rakshasa from the Nine Hells who had infiltrated the city. Hotis went on to become a recurring antagonist later in the campaign, as Rakshasas are vengeful and don't permanently die unless killed in the Nine Hells.
    • Briarwoods Arc: Lord Sylas Briarwood and Lady Delilah Briarwood, an Unholy Matrimony couple of a vampire and a sorceress, responsible for the death of one party member's entire family.
    • Chroma Conclave Arc: Four Ancient Chromatic Dragons: Thordak, Raishan, Umbrasyl and Vorugal. Thordak, being the leader of the Conclave, serves as the primary antagonist. Until Raishan is revealed as The Starscream and becomes the final opponent. This arc went on for so long that several mini-arcs occurred in between dragon fights, some of which had their own arc villains.
      • The Feywild Arc: Saundor, a corrupted Archfey.
      • The Ank'Harel Arc: Anna Ripley, former follower of the Briarwoods.
      • The City of Brass Arc: Ghurrix, a Pit Fiend.
    • The final arc has Vecna, an ancient lich who seeks to become a god. He was also The Man Behind the Man for the Briarwoods arc.
  • C0DA has a segment where the "Pseudo-6th-House" (essentially a superhero style team of Physical Gods) battles "The Intellective", "a bionic despot of a parallel reality" who attempting to invade the reality of the work. Meanwhile, the Reality Warping Humongous Mecha Numidium serves as the actual Big Bad of the work.

 
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The main antagonist of Season 1.

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