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Conflict Killer

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We have a Conflict. In one corner, there is Party A, who is fighting for a cause that they believe in. In the other corner, there is Party B, who is fighting for a different cause.

Now, Party A and Party B are not willing to reconcile. Maybe their causes are in firm opposition to each other. Maybe they have a sour history and are unwilling to negotiate. Maybe they just aren't willing to sit down and talk.

Then Party C enters. They don't fight for the same cause as Party A. They don't fight for the same cause as Party B. And if they succeed, both Party A and Party B are screwed over.

That is the Conflict Killer: a hitherto unimportant figure who proceeds to abruptly become the new Big Bad. They come in and replace the existing plot with a completely new conflict, often by causing the hero and previous villain to put aside their differences and face the new threat, earning a new respect for each other and frequently never getting back to the conflict we were watching in the first place. This isn't necessarily negative, however, as sometimes a conflict killer is a Magnificent Bastard who takes the work to another level. Evil Versus Oblivion can also be a cause - the villains don't want the world/universe destroyed any more than the heroes do (after all, there won't be any world to take over if it's gone, nor do they want to die), so they're willing to put aside their differences with the heroes to fight this bigger threat if only because it's pragmatic.

Distinct from The Man Behind the Man because this villain was either heretofore a minor player or had no previous role in the story.

Occasionally overlaps with The Worf Effect when the new villain shows off their might and the Sorting Algorithm of Evil when the Conflict Killer is clearly more powerful than the previous villain. Sometimes the new villain is conveniently Black in terms of evil, as opposed to merely Gray like the previous villain, and kills the previous villain off.

Compare Plot Tumor and They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot. Nearly always present when a Debate and Switch is used. If this happens in a video game it may result in a Bait-and-Switch Boss, but only if said boss is driving the plot. Contrast the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere that appears with no explanation. If the mystery surrounding him and/or the existing players' ignorance of him are plot points, this is Outside-Context Problem instead. If this is invoked by a character as a means to stop the prior conflict, that's a Genghis Gambit.

This is a spoiler heavy trope, so read on at your own risk.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Alive: The Final Evolution, the three way conflict between the American government, the alien Mitama and her followers, and the protagonists over possession of the "Heart of Akuro" gets derailed near the end by Hirose, who was given the Heart on the assumption that he could be easily manipulated. With the Heart making him the strongest thing on the planet, Hirose ignores the secrecy all the other factions were fighting under in favor of single-handedly launching a war against everyone else on the planet. The previous conflict between everyone is put aside in order to stop his attempt to commit genocide on all of humanity.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Piccolo and Son Goku's rivalry was left unresolved at the end of the original Dragon Ball. It effectively ends in Dragon Ball Z when the arrival of Raditz, Nappa, and Vegeta force Piccolo into a Heel–Face Turn. Vegeta himself shortly afterwards teams up with the heroes to take on Frieza and the Ginyu Force.
    • Cell, who was introduced shortly after the androids, ends up becoming the Big Bad of the arc. His case is more unique in that he establishes himself by absorbing the androids to get them out of the way and power himself up, rather than the androids making a Heel–Face Turn to fight him with the heroes (although that does briefly happen when 17 hears what Cell has in store for him).
  • High School D×D: The emergence of the Khaos Brigade is such a threat to the Angels, Fallen Angels, and Devils that it forces their cooperation and ends the literally Biblical feud between them. It's downplayed a bit; there had been talks about peace for a while, but none of the leaders could extend the olive branch despite all figuring the war had become stupid and pointless a long time ago, because there were enough crazies working under them all to risk a humongous rebellion if they had. The Khaos Brigade was sufficient to mollify the more hotheaded subordinates and give them a reason to negotiate a more permanent peace.
  • Moo served as this for the Backstory Horror of the world of Monster Rancher. Created by the Pangeans in hopes of ending the Final War, he did so by turning against his creators and seizing control of all the other monsters. This led to them creating the Phoenix in hopes of bringing him down, with the remnants of humanity rebuilding afterwards.
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, Milverton inserts himself between William and Sherlock's conflict, hoping to neatly remove them both from his life as problems and score a win, and winds up the target of both. It doesn't go well for him.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, this is how Tertium treats the other Fates, tell them that upstarts who show up out of nowhere to steal his prey is grating on his nerves. An unusual villainous example since to the heroes, this doesn't make a lick of difference, they're still fighting for their lives against impossible odds.
  • The Water Seven storyline of One Piece seems to set up Franky as that arc's Big Bad by having him and his goons beat Usopp to a bloody pulp. The Strawhats vow revenge and tear Franky's henchmen a new one, causing HIM to swear vengeance in turn... it all seems to be leading up to a big showdown between Franky and Luffy, until the Wham Episode which turns the plot on its head leaves our heroes with much, much bigger problems to worry about. Franky does a Heel–Face Turn and proves to be far more interesting as a good guy, anyway. And ultimately ends up joining the crew.
  • Same with the Overdevil from Overman King Gainer. The final scene of the series is practically a Lampshade Hanging: "er, guys, weren't we supposed to be headed to Yapan instead of dealing with Eldritch Abominations?"
  • Kyoji Mujo from s-CRY-ed managed to take over the story entirely, burying the whole Kazuma vs. Ryuho rivalry until the final episode.
  • The entire premise of Strike Witches for World War II. Instead of World War II being fought against each other, it's against the Neuroi Alien Invasion.
  • Transformers: Armada concerns the Autobots and Decepticons battling one another for control over the minicons, up until Unicron shows up near the end, forcing the two to team up.
  • A unique variation in the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh!, where Yugi had to deal with the mind-controlling Marik and his Rare Hunters, with it seemingly leading up to a final showdown between the two. Shortly after the two finally meet face to face, however, Marik's body ends up getting overtaken by Yami Marik, who is much more malevolent and dangerous, and takes the place as main threat for the rest of the season.

    Comic Books 
  • Annihilation: Discussed by Peter Quill and Nova during the Darkest Hour, when they wonder what would happen if the Annihilation Wave reaches Earth, whose heroes are busy fighting each other over government policy. Quill, normally the far more cynical of the two, thinks the heroes would get their act together and try to fight it off. Nova disagrees. Later on, an issue of What If...? shows Quill actually would've been right.
  • Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir: Dooku agrees to put aside his previous differences with Darth Maul when Republic forces arrive to capture both of them, and they jointly engage Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Aayla Secura, and Tiplee in lightsaber combat as part of a short-lived alliance of convenience.
  • In Transformers: Generation 2, it seems like the coming of the Swarm (hinted by visions Optimus Prime had) will end the conflict between the Autobot-Decepticon Alliance and the Cybertronian Empire, but the trope is averted when Optimus tries to reason with Jhiaxus to work together against the Swarm, since Jhiaxus responds trying to kill Optimus. Besides, after Jhiaxus dies and the menace of the Swarm is over, the Cybertronian Empire still exists at the far reaches of the universe, led by The Liege Maximo.
  • In the Ultimate Universe during Ultimatum, Magneto launched a horrifying attack on New York that destroyed the city and killed millions. This put a hard stop to basically every storyline going on at the time as The Ultimates, Spider-Man, the X-Men and Fantastic Four had to scramble to save lives, counterattack and defeat Magneto before he destroyed the planet.
  • The third X-Force run started out as Wolverine's team of black ops killers taking out the evil Purifiers, but they got sidetracked not once but twice — first, the villain of the Cable series shows up and the team goes on a merry chase through the timestream after him, and second, a minor character from the first story arc goes to work for a would-be goddess previously unseen in the series. Both times the Purifiers plot is put on hold, and as a result the threat they pose builds into the next Bat Family Crossover.
  • The "Lost Tribes" story arc in X-Men: Legacy features this trope as a plot point within the story, as Well-Intentioned Extremist villain Exodus decides the X-Men have become A House Divided (he's not wrong) and decides to make it his mission to bring the team together again. Even though he fails to kill Cyclops (who he identifies as the source of the split), he still accomplishes his goal by forcing the two factions to work together to defeat him.

    Fan Works 
  • Post-reveal Wilhelm Kriegsen from (On the) Path of Vengeance, possibly reprising this role in Endless Waltz.
  • The Raven's Plan: The Others tend to have this effect on Westeros. For particular examples:
    • Jonos Bracken and Tytos Blackwood's lifelong feud died thanks to the Long Night. In fact, the camaraderie they fostered together has reached a point where they're Heterosexual Life-Partners.
    • Many of the Great Houses reluctantly give up their grudge against House Lannister for the sake of the coalition. Though this is mostly because Tyrion is now Lord of Casterly Rock in place of Tywin, and many are still hoping that Jaime will still get punished when this is all over.
    • There's an implicit meta example with Daenerys and Jon. In canon, Daenerys didn't take it well when she learned that her lover was a rival claimant for the Iron Throne. Here, the Others have made taking the Iron Throne so irrelevant that she doesn't care who sits on it now, as long as it's her, him, or (preferably) both of them.
  • Zigzagged in The Mountain and the Wolf: After the threat of the White Walkers is gone, the Wolf cements his status as the archenemy of Westeros by (indirectly) killing Daenerys and actually demanding all of Westeros join forces to fight him so as to bring the gods of Chaos there (something the Red Priests show up to confirm as being Very Bad Indeed). While Daenerys' forces, the Dothraki and the Unsullied are quite willing to take up arms as they have firsthand experience of the Wolf, the Reach is noted as not participating as much since they have other things to worry about (specifically, the power vacuum left by the fall of House Tyrell).
  • Invoked in Stabilization. The rivaling political factions of Genoa quickly learn to stand together against the hateful, duplicitous Paolo Albiani who suddenly goes from the Doge's loyal right-hand man to a powerful rebel who'd stop at nothing in pursuit of his (rather nebulous) goals. In fact, he has carefully constructed such an image of himself for that very purpose.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K: The sudden introduction of the Imperium of Man to the Star Wars galaxy proves to be one for the Clone Wars as both the Republic and Separatists suddenly face simultaneous invasions by the Imperium, forcing the two warring governments to put their own conflict on hold as they recall nearly all of their military assets to defend their territories from this new threat.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Infinity War: After the events of Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers are largely split up over the Sokovia Accords, but Thanos's arrival forces them to set aside their differences and join Earth's other protectors in fighting Thanos. Subverted in that the old conflict isn't quite dead yet. Though a majority of the Avengers fight with Captain America on Wakanda, Iron Man still hasn't forgiven Captain America for what he did in Civil War, so he can't bring himself to ask for Cap's help and instead runs off to handle things on his own. Since the Avengers can't form a united front, they lose. It's only after Cap and Iron Man put aside their differences in Avengers: Endgame that they're able to defeat Thanos.
  • In Bad Times at the El Royale, any other conflicts between the guests at the titular hotel go flying out the window the moment Billy Lee and his cult arrive.
  • In Changing Lanes, the two man rivalry between Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson is put aside when they both decide to go after Sidney Pollack, thus eliminating the violent escalations that defined the movie up to that point.
  • Cowboys & Aliens begins with a fairly standard Western conflict between a cattle baron and the local law, but gets derailed by the sudden appearance of aliens. The two sides join forces to attack the aliens and reconcile their differences. Later on, the coalition runs afoul of a Native American tribe and a bandit gang. These conflicts are also killed by alien attacks, and all four factions ultimately end up cooperating.
  • Gangs of New York: The main plot of the build-up to the Final Battle between Amsterdam Vallon and Bill "The Butcher" Cutting gets abruptly and bloodily interrupted by the New York Draft Riots (which were building up as the film's B-Plot) and the Union Army's decision to end them by blowing away all rioters. The battleground gets peppered with artillery fire, Bill ends up fatally wounded by shrapnel, and Amsterdam gives him a Mercy Kill, making him feel bitter that all his efforts were for naught.
  • Godzilla:
  • Hard Rain twists in the third act as the police force turns on the protagonist and the villain, forcing them to team up in order to survive.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: The armies of elves and dwarves, gathered at the lonely mountain after the death of Smaug, are ready to tear each other to pieces (in the Extended Edition on DVD, they do, for a few minutes) for the treasures in the mountain... until nearby mountains starts collapsing apart, caused by were-worms, revealing legions and legions of orcs. At which point the elves and dwarves ends up forging a quick alliance to fight a common enemy.
  • Independence Day: The alien invasion and near-extinction of the human race pulls this off on a global scale. The entire world sets aside centuries worth of bad blood and disagreements for the sake of survival. Even better, the sequel reveals that it stuck.
  • The Matrix centers around the conflict between humans imprisoned in a virtual reality and the machines. When one of the machines' computer programs, Agent Smith, goes rogue and becomes a virus that threatens to assimilate and destroy both factions, they are forced to make a truce.
  • The Wash: In the film's final act, the main characters Sean and Dee Loc free their boss, Mr. Washington, from the kidnappers who have been harassing him throughout the movie. This all gets forgotten about when the vengeful former manager Chris (who has also been harassing Mr. Washington) shows up with an AK-47 to exact vengeance upon Mr. Washington for firing him. He quickly takes centerstage as the villain for the last few minutes of the movie by offing the lead kidnapper and scaring off the other ones.

  • In the Codex Alera series, the Vord serve as this, allowing a lot of Enemy Mine opportunities in the later books due to the cleverness of one of the characters.
  • The Culture novel Matter replaces the inheritance conflict between the Princely Young Man and the Evil Chancellor by having them both be nuked by some world-destroyer only slightly implied in setting fluff. Later much of the cast is killed at the end of the book as they just barely defeat it, without showing the moments directly following. Finally a single page in the epilogue implies how the government restructuring was finally resolved without going into much detail. This keeps with one of the main themes in Matter about inter-galactic politics and interactions between different tech-level species. The inheritance conflict was very important to the people living in the empire, but insignificant to the rest of the galaxy. This sequence was set-up as a Wham Episode to show how none of it really Mattered in the end.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Mule": A splinter group of the Foundation, made of merchants, traders, and colonists, prepare to rebel against the group on their capital planet, Terminus. However, the Seldon Plan is disrupted by the previously unexpected appearance of The Mule. The Mule forces the two sides into teaming up against this common enemy. They lose, and the Mule takes over the entire First Foundation.
  • Following the first arc of Worm the Undersiders were just gearing up for a conflict with Empire 88 when Leviathan attacks the city, causing all of the major villains and heroes to team up to fight him, and killing Empire 88's leader in the ensuing battle. In the next arc, Coil and his subordinates are getting their plans to take control of the city from the PRT and the remaining supervillains when the Slaughterhouse Nine come to town, prompting another Enemy Mine scenario to defeat them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bonanza had an episode where a former Confederate Major was living peacefully with his family, only to be tracked down by a former Union Colonel and his men who were out for revenge. At first it's clear the Major is the good guy, being a loving family man, but soon it becomes clear that the Colonel and his men are also good guys, going out of their way to not kill, asking to parlay and attempting to capture the Major as peacefully as possible, and even having the valid motive of wanting the Major to face justice for mistreating the Colonel and his men in a Confederate prison by not providing enough food or medicine which caused some of them to die. It ends with the two negotiating at a table and learning the Colonel's second-in-command was to blame: the Colonel had indeed provided what little food, water, and medicine he could, but the man in charge of giving it to the prisoners was selling it outside the camp to profit from the famine that was happening at the time. The Colonel and Major make peace and the second-in-command is shot as he attempts to escape.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the fourth season, Knight Templar and Manipulative Bastard Maggie Walsh was replaced as the Big Bad by Frankenstein's Monster Wannabe Adam in the second half of the season, turning an interesting "do the ends justify the means" conflict into an excuse for the heroes to turn into some spirit magic version of Voltron.
    • Season 2 did this twice. Season 1 ended with the Anointed One, a sort of Vampire Messiah in a child's body set up as the new Big Bad. That was awesomely undone when Spike showed up and started his plans to reassemble The Judge. Spike vs. The Slayer was later taken over when Angelus appeared in the middle of the season.
    • Also happens when Willow goes Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds and kills Warren in Season 6. Buffy is fond of this trope.
    • Happens yet again in Season 3, with Mr. Trick, a clever vampire crime lord who gave Buffy a great deal of trouble early on in the year, getting abruptly staked by Faith, just in time for her and The Mayor to step in as the real villains of the season.
      • By then Mr. Trick had already become The Dragon to The Mayor, Faith just replaced him in that role.
  • Cobra Kai the return of Evil Mentor John Kreese slowly but inevitably leads to the end of Daniel and Johnny's conflict by taking over Cobra Kai and turning it back into the Thug Dojo it was in the original film.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In Season 1, Matt's conflict against the organized criminals of Hell's Kitchen is initially fixated on the Russians for their human trafficking operations. He also finds that the Ranskahovs have a partnership with Wilson Fisk after Fisk hires Nelson & Murdock via James Wesley to defend an assassin of his who killed a rival of the Ranskahovs'. As the conflict between Matt and the Ranskahovs goes on, the brothers struggle to meet their quotas, and Fisk has Wesley reach out to them with an offer of support in taking out Matt. Anatoly botches the acceptance offer by crashing Fisk's dinner date with Vanessa, prompting Fisk to decapitate him with a car door. Fisk then has the Ranskahovs' bases blown up to get rid of the remaining parts of the organization, including Vladimir. Vladimir ends up resolving his differences with Matt long enough to give him crucial information about Fisk's operation, and then goes out guns blazing by holding off a corrupt ESU team while Matt escapes.
    • In Season 3, Ray Nadeem spends the first half of the season thinking that he's doing a good thing turning Fisk as an FBI informant, which puts him at odds with Matt, Karen and Foggy, who know that Fisk is using his house arrest to continue engaging in criminal activity. They even warn him a few times that Fisk is using him, but Nadeem blows off their warnings out of a sense of pride. That is, until Fisk turns Nadeem's colleague Dex into an assassin, and has Dex attack the New York Bulletin to get rid of Jasper Evans. Evans' death, combined with Matt finding out from Melvin Potter that the imposter is an FBI agent, finally force Nadeem to realize Fisk has played him. He teams up with Matt to investigate Dex, though gets wounded trying to escape when Dex catches them in his apartment. And after being forced to serve as a getaway driver for Dex while Dex tries to kill Karen to avenge James Wesley's death, he finally decides enough is enough, and agrees to testify in front of a grand jury with Matt and Foggy serving as his lawyers.
  • In the third season of Deadwood, Hearst enters town and forces an uneasy alliance between Bullock and Swearengen.
  • Scorpius of Farscape: he shows up near the end of the first season, usurps Captain Crais and forces him to run off to the heroes to save his life. Doesn't completely end the conflict, given that Crais and the crew of Moya are still at odds for most of the second season — just for different reasons. Then after a few seasons of Scorpius tormenting Crichton, the Scarrans show up and suddenly Scorpius winds up with a bunk on Moya.
  • Game of Thrones: Zig-zagged. The White Walkers represent a threat to all of the Seven Kingdoms, forcing some factions to resolve their differences to face the threat. Other factions stubbornly continue their conflicts regardless of their mutual enemy.
  • In the first season of Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, the Akibarangers and Malshina work together to resist Executive Meddling.
  • Iron Fist (2017): In Season 2, once Davos steals the Iron Fist from Danny, he starts killing Triads left and right, which forces the two rival factions to put aside their differences in order to protect themselves from Davos. With Colleen's urging, this ultimately results in a permanent truce even after Davos has been stopped.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Gaim: Played straight in escalating fashion throughout the first half of the series, then inverted in the second. During the first half, the warring street gangs put aside their differences and unite under a common banner as it becomes clear the evil Mega-Corp controlling the city is a much bigger problem than their petty feuds, and then the corporation in turn becomes an ally because of the even bigger threat of the alien Overlords. By the time the Overlords are slain, however, circumstances have changed enough that the final surviving members of the corporation have discovered the key to a new evil scheme that requires dealing with them, and by the time that gets resolved, the rival gang leader who served as the very first antagonist has successfully gone From Nobody to Nightmare.
    • Kamen Rider Drive: The introduction of Tenjuro Banno puts the conflict between the Riders and the Roidmudes on hold, as even though Banno created the Roidmudes and turned them evil in the first place, he's such a scumbag that they hate him even more than they hate other humans.
    • Kamen Rider Geats: The conflicts between the Riders of the Desire Grand Prix are put aside halfway through the series when the Immoral Reality Show gets hijacked by Beroba, leading everyone else to have to team up to stop her if they want to resume their contest or even have a world left to hold it in.
  • This happened a few times in Lost. Ben Linus's nemesis Charles Widmore brought about an Enemy Mine situation with the 815 survivors and the Others. Widmore became the off island Big Bad in Season 5, which also revisited in detail another faction in conflict with The Others that had only made a few scattered appearances beforehand. A handful of 815 survivors became this faction's enemies in the final stretch of that season while the Linus/Widmore conflict was put on hold until near the end of the sixth and final season. The Season 5 finale introduced two characters who had been alluded to for some time, but who had never been portrayed by actors until then, and their conflict became the focus of the final season.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Zigzagged in season 2. The season begins with Luke's existing conflict with Mariah Dillard. But the stakes change pretty quickly once Bushmaster starts muscling his way into Harlem by brute force seeking to settle a score with Mariah over past family ties (his father was a partner with her grandparents, and they killed him rather than sell out to the Italian mafia). After Bushmaster bankrupts Mariah, burns down her brownstone and seizes her nightclub, Mariah and Luke form a temporary Enemy Mine to deal with him, but it ends after Bushmaster is arrested and subsequently escapes, and Mariah decides to massacre a restaurant owned by Bushmaster's aunt and uncle to smoke him out. Resulting now in a bit of an Enemy Mine between Luke and Bushmaster to take out a drug lab where the Triads are producing heroin that they've been allowed by Mariah to sell in Harlem.
  • Season 4 of Prison Break has almost everyone team up against The Company. Michael lampshades the situation by saying "there's a lot of history in this room".
  • Happens in Stargate SG-1 when the Replicators start destroying the Goa'uld, suddenly fixing the problem the heroes have been dealing with for the past eight seasons. This also forces them to work with Ba'al to destroy the Replicators, but they go back to being enemies shortly thereafter.
  • Occurs in Stargate Atlantis when the Replicators start to attack the Wraith by attacking humans (the Wraiths' food source). Atlantis teams up with Todd and his Wraith to destroy the Replicators, but they do resume their regularly scheduled conflict once the Replicators are dealt with. An interesting example in that the Atlantis team intentionally created their own conflict killer by reprogramming the Replicators to attack the Wraith. They didn't expect them to try to starve the Wraith but they did get (almost) what they wanted.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the introduction of the Dominion rapidly took over the entire series, spanning the entire rest of the show's run at the expense of most episodic plots.
  • Played straight in the final episode of the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise. The Xindi take over the story for the next full season.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In AT-43 the arrival of the Therians in Ava prompt the UNA and the Red Blok to temporarily join forces against them.
  • BattleTech at first it was the Inner Sphere against each other, then the Clans come in between them. Then years later the Word of Blake becomes the main opponent for everyone.
  • Warhammer 40,000 was originally a conflict between the Imperium, the Forces of Chaos, Orks, Eldar and Tyranids. Then in the 3rd edition they added two armies, the Dark Eldar and the Necron and attempted to cram the Necrons in as the new Big Bad. Games Workshop also attempted to add the Necrons in as a mysterious, subtle horror, which doesn't always work in a universe about as subtle as being bludgeoned with a GWAR concert.
    • This said, it has to be taken as a growth from being Warhammer IN SPACE! to being its own work. The game is a far cry from being Rogue Trader. (The original game, not the RPG)
    • Chaos has a tendency to induce this in some cases. Absolutely no one likes Chaos, not even Chaos itself; the Gods of the Warp LOVE clashing against one another in their "Great Game". Orks are okay with stopping with killing humans if they see another big enemy around (like Chaos or Tyranids), the Eldar are reasonable enough to be trusted temporarily (although they'll inevitably betray their temporary allies once their objectives are achieved), and some parts of The Imperium are at least reasonable enough to ally themselves to Xenos when Chaos rears its ugly head.

    Video Games 
  • A common phenomenon in many strategy games (particularly of the Four X type) which involve multiple competing sides and a Tech Tree. What happens is that while the more active players expand and compete with each other militarily, a less aggressive faction is able to sit back in their corner of the map and climb the Tech Tree undisturbed. This eventually gives them an unstoppable advantage over the apparently superior competitors when they do join in the fray. Occurs less often in multiplayer games, as humans know to team up and gank the techer early on.
  • In Anarchy Reigns, Nikolai serves this purpose as the real Final Boss.
  • The "Kickstart My Heart" trailer for Battlefield 2042 features a scene in which two factions vying for control of a city are interrupted by a massive tornado bearing down on them. Both sides promptly forget their current grudge to run for their fucking lives as the twister begins demolishing the city around them.
  • Early in Clash at Demonhead, you have an inconclusive fight with Tom Guycot, the apparent boss of the terrorist organization you're trying to defeat. About halfway through the game during a seemingly-unimportant sidequest, the player character is tricked into releasing a demon. Said demon promptly clobbers him and kills Guycot, forcing the player to go on a quest for a magic sword to kill the demon. You'd think the demon would then take over the plot, but in a weird subversion, you just kill it with the sword, destroy its eggs, then go right back to fighting terrorists. The Final Boss is the guy who was giving Guycot orders.
  • Subverted and Lampshaded in Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars with the introduction of the Scrin, who note that the two factions (Nod and GDI) are continuing to fight each other while battling the Scrin invasion.
    • Played interestingly in Yuri's Revenge, where the reveal of Yuri's treachery and the fact that he has built up an army of his own leads to the Allies and Soviets having to work together to stop him. However, neither campaign has the two simply deciding to join forces, but rather they have to use a Time Machine to go back in time and win the original war again before going after Yuri. The Allied campaign simply has the Allies winning the war as normal and leaving themselves in better shape afterwards to take on Yuri with the Soviets' help. The Soviet campaign instead has them stealing Allied technology to win the war much faster, then turn their attention to dealing with Yuri.
    • Played straight in Tiberian Sun: Firestorm, when CABAL going rogue actually does lead to Nod and GDI collaborating to bring him down, although neither side particularly enjoys it; particularly pronounced in the Nod version of the penultimate mission's briefing, where GDI General Cortez wastes no opportunity to insult Slavik for having reawakened CABAL in the first place, and Slavik himself tells the player that once CABAL is dealt with, Cortez is next.
  • In the majority of the Dead Space series, conflict has been with elements of EarthGov primarily, in terms of human antagonists. Come Dead Space 3, the Church of Unitology, which has generally served as a loosely organized collection of secondary antagonists at worst and never really come together in a united front in any significant way, band together under the Circle led by Jacob Danik, who had never been mentioned before that game. This new group has its own military and seemingly overthrows EarthGov in the opening of the game, which Isaac Clarke doesn't seem to even be aware of happening, let alone that The Government is on its last legs, until he is told up front.
  • Destiny 2:
    • Throughout the original Destiny and this game, the Solar System has been a five way battleground between the forces of the Last City (which includes the Guardians and is allied with the Awoken of the Reef), The Fallen Houses, the Hive, the Vex, the Cabal, the Taken, and the Scorn. Then comes Season of Arrivals, which sees the arrival of the Black Fleet and, two years later, the Witness, which shakes up the entire playing field. As revealed in Lightfall, the Witness is the true Big Bad of The Saga of Light and Dark - it is the entity to which all Hive and the Vex of the Sol Divisive owe allegiance to, and is indicated to be the entity controlling the Darkness. The Taken, being its direct servants, immediately fall under their control, with the Scorn soon following suite. The events that follow see the Fallen and the Cabal finally forced to choose sides in the conflict of Light and Dark - the Fallen split between the City aligned House of Light under Mithrax and the Black Fleet aligned House of Salvation under Eramis, while the Cabal are divided between the Cabal Ascendancy serving Caiatl and the Loyalist serving her father Calus who align themselves with, respectively, the Last City and the Black Fleet. These events mean that, by the time of Lightfall, the Mêlée à Trois for the system has turned into a binary conflict, with the stakes being higher than ever, as it's made very clear that the Witness winning would likely result in the universe as we know it ceasing to exist.
    • A smaller scale version of this happens in Season of the Splicer, where the multiplayer factions - New Monarchy, Dead Orbit, and the Future War Cult - all put aside their differences after the House of Light moves in to the Last City after reaching an agreement with the Vanguard. All three work to try and inflame tensions with the Eliksni so that the Vanguard will kick the Fallen back out into the wild. This ends with Lakshmi-3 opens a Vex portal in the district the House of Light was occupying, almost seeing the city destroyed, leading to her death and all three factions collapsing.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, the animosity between Dante, Vergil and Lady is toned down once Arkham's true intentions are revealed, as they all consider killing him to be the top priority. When Arkham becomes a monster in the penultimate mission, the brothers team up in one of the franchise's many awesome moments just to defeat him. Vergil also lampshades it when he arrives. Immediately afterwards, the brothers go back to dueling each other over the power of Sparda stored in the Force Edge.
      Dante: Look at you... making a big dramatic entrance and stealing my spotlight.
      Vergil: Well, you don't possibly believe that he deserves to be our main event, now do you?
    • At the end of Devil May Cry 5, Nero and the Qliphoth take this role for the Sons of Sparda, with the former actually deliberately intervening in their fight to stop them from killing each other so they can focus on the latter.
  • Subverted in Dragon Age II. The Arishok seems to be this for the mage-Templar conflict in Kirkwall. He's the military leader of the most alien faction in Thedas (physically and philosophically), and it takes both sides working together to stop him once he's been provoked. However, that's just the second of the game's three acts — afterwards, the prior conflict resumes. He indirectly worsens tensions by killing the Viscount, leaving a power vacuum for the Templar leader to fill.
    • Played straight in the sequel. The appearance of Corypheus acts as the catalyst to bring two major conflicts (the Mage/Templar war and the Orleasian civil war) to an end to face his far greater threat.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Downplayed. The Stormcloaks and Imperials can, depending on the player's actions, come to an uneasy truce to allow the Dragonborn to do what he needs to do to stop Alduin, but it's a very temporary one. Both sides know the war will resume as soon as Alduin is dealt with, and neither is willing to do anything more for this cause, despite the world-ending threat.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: This can happen in the first DLC, Dead Money. Side with Elijah, and you unleash the Cloud and the holograms on the Mojave, thus destroying New Vegas and making Hoover Dam inaccessible to the warring factions, while you wait for the world to begin again. There was going to be an option for this in Old World Blues, where you joined the Think Tank and reshaped the Mojave with its mad science, but that was cut.
  • Final Fantasy VI spends the first half of the game focusing on the conflict between The Empire and the Returners, before Kefka, formerly The Dragon, reveals that he has his own apocalyptic ambitions. The Emperor belatedly tries to stop him, but Kefka proceeds to settle the the conflict by destroying both sides, along with most of the world, and setting the stage for a final showdown with him instead.
  • Final Fantasy VII begins with AVALANCHE and their battle against Shinra. Then the president of Shinra gets assassinated by Sephiroth, a Fallen Hero who was believed to have died years ago. The war against Shinra takes a backseat for the rest of the game as Cloud and company focus on thwarting Sephiroth's apocalyptic scheme.
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Part 3 is a war embroiling most of the known world, stopped short by the awakening of a god. It had been foreshadowed since the previous game that such a war would cause this to happen, and comes right in time since the player controls both sides of the old conflict.
  • Freedom Force: Throughout the game, Mentor repeatedly foreshadows that the Domain will invade; building up to the Alien Invasion that is to come ... and then Time Master comes in with his goal of stopping time itself (which would wipe out all life in the universe; possibly even Multiverse). Suffice to say that besides two relatively small spats, the Alien Invaders are quick to assist the heroes in stopping him.
    • And again in the Sequel's final mission, after Freedom Force finally defeats Entropy ... Time Master steps in once again, wanting to absorb Entropy's power to use for his own ends.
  • FreeSpace is based on this. The game starts off in the middle of a war between the Galactic Terran Alliance and the Parliamentary Vasudan Empire, until the Shivans suddenly show up and start slaughtering both sides indiscriminately. The Terrans and Vasudans have to put their differences aside and work together in order to stand a chance of survival.
  • In Godzilla Unleashed, you become this in the Tyrant ending, by becoming so powerful and insane through crystal use that everyone else's agenda has become irrelevant; either everyone takes you down or the world is doomed.
  • Martinez in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is an annoying example, where he interrupts the plot near the end, thinking that the player is the same nobody he pushed around in the beginning, despite the player at this point having taken out Martinez' boss' boss' bosses, and can buy and sell his entire racket millions of times over.
  • Injustice 2 is about a three-way conflict between Batman and his allies, Superman and the Regime's remnants, and Gorilla Grodd's Legion of Doom. The fight comes to a halt the moment Brainiac shows up with the intention of destroying Earth, believing it to be compromised after the Regime's downfall. As such he is a threat not only to the heroes, but to everyone else including villains that have their own agendas and nothing to gain from their world being destroyed. It doesn't stick, with the conflict returning almost immediately after Brainiac is defeated, albeit not without a rather somber scene where Batman and Superman share fond memories of better times and admit to missing the way things were and their former friendship.
  • In Jak II: Renegade, the main villain at the start is set up as Baron Praxis, who Jak has sworn to get revenge on. They fight twice, but the Baron is never really defeated. Near the end, he is killed by the real Big Bad, the Metal Head Leader, who we had only seen fleetingly until this point in his true form at least.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon the apparent villain is Zieg Feld, Dart's father, thus giving the characters a great, morally conflicted enemy. Then it turns out Zieg was being possessed and controlled by Melbu Frahma, the Greater-Scope Villain.
    • Double duty. That sealed evil, upon revealing himself, hijacks the body of the Virage Embryo in Shana's place, saving Dart and Rose from having to mercy kill her themselves.
  • After the events of the Mass Effect 2 DLC "Arrival", the Batarian Hegemony is likely going to go to war with the Systems Alliance over the destruction of the Alpha Relay and deaths of 300,000 Batarian civilians in the star system by Shepard or a group of Alliance Marines, until the Reapers arrive, enter the Hegemony and destroy it with ease, and then storm Earth and Arcturus Station. If you play your cards right, you can even pull an Enemy Mine with the remaining Batarians and enlist their surviving fleet as a War Asset.
    • The war also made the age-old krogan-turian and possibly the geth-quarian conflicts moot. About the first half of the game that doesn't deal directly with Cerberus or the Crucible is getting the krogan to help the turians hold Palaven for time, and then much of the second half is either leading one side to victory in the geth-quarian war or managing to achieve a peace between both sides.
  • Shantae: At the end of Shantae: Risky's Revenge, Risky succeeds in stealing Shantae's magic and then forcing her to destroy it. She has a perfect chance to attack and defeat her old foe in the next game, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, but as soon as she realizes that Shantae's former magic is now powering up the Pirate Master, her old master, and might cause him to return from the grave, she forgoes any chance to finish Shantae off and instead teams up with her to prevent his return.
  • In Space Pirates and Zombies, every system has two factions: the UTA and the "Civilians", who are almost invariably trying to kill each other, while the player can profit from the conflict. The Zombie Apocalypse eventually puts a stop to that. When it gets powerful enough, the UTA and Civilians become permanent allies of one another and the player in a desperate Guilt-Free Extermination War to save humanity.
  • The first Starcraft campaign concerns the conflict between La Résistance and The Empire. Then the Zerg show up.
    • Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void has Amon who has control over the Protoss, Moebius Corps, and Zerg under his thrall, that every force not under his control are banding together to resist him. This includes Artanis's free Protoss, the Terran Dominon, and Kerrigan's Swarm.
  • Star Ocean:
    • Jie Revorse in Star Ocean for SNES/SFC. In the PSP remake, this is much better handled and explained and he no longer comes out of nowhere.
    • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Fayt is stranded on a backwater fantasy planet with no way off, and the main conflict is a fairly standard fantasy world war between religious matriarchy Aquaria and hostile, warlike Airyglyph, until the plot from the beginning catches up to him, and the space fleet that attacked the planet he was previously on comes to the backwater fantasy planet to attack it. The two countries realize they have to join forces, and Airyglyph as a country is revealed to be not that bad (it helps that the warmonger who'd been driving the conflict got killed in the attack).
  • The beginning of Super Mario RPG, where instead of a normal "Mario defeats Bowser" story, the two rivals join forces to defeat a giant sword.
    • The three first Mario & Luigi games begin with Mario battling Bowser in Peach's Castle to stop him from kidnapping her, just before they find out about the true villains- Cackletta in the first game, the Shroobs in the second, and Fawful in the third.
  • The Scourge in Warcraft III, which manages to mostly derail the Alliance-Horde conflict for three expansions of World of Warcraft as well. The Scourge is an undead plague created by demons from space (no, seriously). However, more than just being extremely terrifying, the Scourge manages to wipe out the Kingdom of Lordaeron, by turning Prince Arthas Menethil evil. They then proceed to conquer the "unconquerable" elf city of Quel'thalas. Everyone moves to the other side of the world, except for the Scarlet Crusade. The Alliance-Horde conflict returned in Cataclysm, only to get derailed again by Deathwing. Other expansions have managed to mostly keep it going while having a certain elite group of operatives from both sides (including you, naturally) work together to stop the villain.
    • In Battle for Azeroth, after the most intense and violent open war the Alliance and Horde have ever had and when Saurfang's rebels an the Alliance's united front are standing at the gates of Orgrimmar ready for a siege they expect to lose, things grind to a halt when Saurfang manages to bait Sylvanas into screaming aloud that the Horde means nothing to her, immediately shattering her follower's faith in her. When she doubles down on it and kills Saurfang out of spite, then flees, neither side of the army have willingness to continue the war, Sylvanas' loyalists quietly open the gates to Alliance and Rebel alike to allow Saurfang's body to be taken inside and laid to rest. This proved to be a drastic, long-lasting conflict killer for the Alliance and Horde's enmity, as the armistice is still in effect even after a five-year Time Skip in Dragonflight, the longest period of time the factions have been at peace since World of Warcraft began.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night has several over the course of its three storylines. First, in the Fate route, Gilgamesh takes out Caster during Caster's sudden attack on the heroes' base and establishes himself as the new villain (he actually turns out to be The Dragon). In Unlimited Blade Works, Archer takes out Caster when she's about to kill them. Then Gilgamesh kills him shortly afterward when it turns out that Archer may not be all that bad. Finally, in Heaven's Feel, the Shadow and True Assassin practically ruin the whole Grail War by dropping bridges on all the Servants except Rider. The one that the heroes first discover? Caster.

  • 8-Bit Theater has what looks like a final conflict brewing between the Light Warriors and the Dark Warriors; but then the Other Warriors show up because they want to kill the Light Warriors too; but then, the Fiends show up to kill the Light Warriors as well, so they look like the Big Bads; but then Black Mage anticlimactically absorbs their power for himself, which makes it seem as if he is the Big Bad; but then Sarda reveals himself as the Big Bad (although he actually claims that the Light Warriors themselves are the Big Bads, except Fighter, who is collateral damage); but finally Sarda blows up due to absorbing too much power, and becomes a portal for Chaos, who is the actual Big Bad. All in all, there are five Conflict Killer moments in succession at the end of the comic.
  • Homestuck has Jack. Usually just an NPC used as a back-door quest to bypass a difficult fight. In the kids' session, he gets hold of a powerful artifact and goes on a rampage, utterly obliterating the chess-like battle between the kingdoms of Prospit and Derse.
    • In turn, Jack Noir is supplanted by Lord English as the Big Bad, to the point that one character claims he's old news and barely a threat any longer.
  • In STICKFODDER, Morgan takes over Troy's role as the Big Bad when the characters' masks start to come off. Because he is hideously disfigured (chemical splash at college), he refuses to allow people to be different and forces people to wear masks like he does.

    Web Original 
  • Aldrivers, Devourer of Cos: Need to know how bad Joan Rivers' campaign was in her quest to devour the entire earth and then the entire universe? Batman, Hannibal Lecter, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, and Al Capone are all willing to team-up to take her down. On most normal days, they would be at conflict with each other (such as Batman investigating Lecter's murders and Oprah and Donald debating with each other).
  • Reds!: A Revolutionary Timeline: Nazi Germany ends up being this to pretty much all the major powers, to an even greater extent than real life because it headed off what could have become a three-way cold war between Soviet Russia, the newly-formed Union of American Socialist Republics, and the remaining capitalist bloc led by the British and French empires. The outbreak of war forces the American and Russian socialist movements to set aside their growing doctrinal disagreements in the face of a common enemy, and the nascent Franco-British Union is forced to admit that the Nazis (who they'd been tolerating with increasing reluctance as a buffer state) were a bigger threat than the Communists ever were. Even "Americuba", a tiny rump state with delusions of being the Government in Exile of the "real" United States, makes something more than a token effort to mend fences with the UASR. It doesn't last, of course, but postwar tensions between the communist and capitalist spheres are never quite as high as they were in real life.

    Western Animation 
  • The main conflict of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender revolves around Prince Zuko following the Gaang around the world trying to capture Avatar Aang so he can return from his exile, accompanied by his uncle Iroh. However, Admiral Zhao steps in halfway through the season and proves to be the bigger threat. This is then followed by the second season opening with Zuko's sister Azula (who had previously only been mentioned in passing and seen in a flashback) attempting to arrest the two of them for their actions in the previous season's finale, turning Zuko and Iroh's part of the plot into a Fugitive Arc for the reminder of the season while Azula takes up the role of Aang's pursuer. Only one episode has Zuko still actively trying to capture Aang, and he has to compete with Azula to do it. A bit more palatable than usual, as the first season had clearly ended on the fact that Zuko and Iroh had become vilified by the Fire Nation, as well as having lost the resources which would let them follow the Gaang.
  • A heroic example in Castlevania: the Enemy Civil War between Dracula and Carmilla's forces is in full swing, and the two sides are duking it out in the entrance hall of the castle. But then they stop: Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, and Alucard have all come strolling into the castle. The vampires, who are all but pissing themselves at this point, immediately turn their attention to the three.
  • Chaotic's second season has a fifth tribe, M'arrilians, appear and change the plot from the previous search for the Cothica and fights between the tribes to the tribes working together to fight the new threat.
  • Played for Laughs in one episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, where there was an all-out melee between the KND and their Rogues Gallery (the episode takes place in a convenience store for supervillains) for a box of Rainbow Munchies cereal, only for Knightbrace to buy the box in the end. Obsessed with dental hygiene, he doesn't intend to eat the contents, he's going to destroy it instead. In the end, everyone agrees to a temporary ceasefire to gang up on Knightbrace, and even enjoy the cereal together in the end.
  • DuckTales (2017) has one of its Season 1 plotlines, uncovering the mystery behind Della Duck's disappearance, result in the main cast blaming and hating Uncle Scrooge for the role he played in it once he agrees to tell truth about the event. The season finale has the other major plotline of the season, the return of Magica DeSpell, force the family to put aside their issues in order to save Scrooge and the world from the mad sorceress. Scrooge lampshades this, thanking Magica for her attack actually saving his family.
  • The majority of Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show deals with the Eds trying to escape the wrath of the Cul de Sac kids, who are looking to tear the trio a new one after their latest failed scam wrought havoc on the neighborhood. The Eds are trying to track down Eddy's Brother, whom they believe is the only one who can help them escape the neighborhood kids' wrath... and then we finally meet Eddy's Brother and hoo boy. As it turns out, he is nothing like what Eddy made him out to be, and his abuse of Eddy is so brutal that it causes the neighborhood kids to completely forget their ire against the Eds, likely because nothing they would do to Eddy could hold a candle to what this asshole had done to his own little brother, who is completely broken by the encounter to the point that he outright admits he made up everything he said about his brother just so he could have friends. Needless to say, everyone is on Eddy's side with the neighborhood kids forgiving him after that, Eddy's Brother gets some Laser-Guided Karma from Ed and the Kankers, and the kids finally accepting the Eds as their friends, which is highlighted by Jonny arriving too late and beating up the Eds, only for the kids to turn on him.
  • Family Guy had a joke poking fun at this. At the beginning of "Brian Griffin's House of Payne," Peter mentions an idea he has for a "Jaws" sequel where the humans and the shark team up to fight an even bigger shark, named "Big Jaws." At the end of the episode, we find out he got it produced, and get to watch the scene introducing the Conflict Killer in question. Not surprisingly, it's awful.
  • In the third season of Jackie Chan Adventures, the J team has to go through the talisman hunt again in order to keep the powers from Dalong Wong. The finale, however, ends up having the Final Battle being with a resurrected Shendu while Dalong is one-shotted in a brief scene.
  • This occurred at the end of both Seasons 2 and 3 in Justice League Unlimited. In Season 2, Word of God states they couldn't come up with a way of resolving the conflict between Cadmus and the Justice League, so they revealed that Braniac was controlling Lex Luthor all along. In Season 3, the Conflict Killer is the unexpected revival of Darkseid, forcing an Enemy Mine between the League and the (unnamed in series) Legion of Doom.
  • In the Series Finale of Legion Of Superheroes, Imperiex, who had been the Big Bad for the entire second season, is Killed Off for Real by Brainiac-controlled Brainiac 5 (much to Superman X's rage), leaving the legion to deal with Brainy as the ultimate threat instead.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has the primary conflict in "Bats". There was Applejack and Fluttershy's argument over whether they needed to drive a swarm of Vampire Fruit Bats off of Applejack's family farm. Then Fluttershy gets accidentally turned into a feral batpony, and the rest of the episode is dedicated to figuring out how to turn her back.
  • ReBoot subverted this. When the Web invades Mainframe, Bob and Megabyte are forced to team up. Instead of ending their conflict, Megabyte takes advantage of the situation to get rid of Bob before the Web invasion is over.
    • However, Megabyte's betrayal and imprisonment of Hexadecimal right after this ended her conflict with the heroes, and after being healed from damage by Bob, she becomes the heroes' ally from then on. It helped that Hexadecimal was more outright insane than malicious.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, when Obi-Wan and Anakin are sent to retrieve the detained Count Dooku after Hondo Ohnaka's pirates agree to hand him over to the Republic in exchange for a hefty sum, they end up being captured and used as hostages as well, and are forced to make a tenuous alliance with Dooku to escape the pirates. Ironically, when Dooku sends General Grievous to exact his revenge against Ohnaka for his earlier capture several seasons later, Hondo and his pirates then team up with Ahsoka and the Jedi younglings whom he had just stolen lightsaber crystals from to escape Grievous' forces.

    Real Life 
  • The Persian Empire forced the bickering Greek city-states to work together to fight back an invasion.
  • The Roman and Persian empires fought each other off and on for centuries, from the time of Julius Caesar well past the fall of the Western Empire and the transition from the Parthian to Sassanid Empires in Persia. From 602 to 628, the two sides fought their longest and bloodiest single conflict, leaving both sides utterly exhausted militarily, financially, and psychologically. Then the formerly passive and easily-controlled tribes of Arabia suddenly emerged from the desert as a united force under the new religion of Islam, taking advantage of their vulnerable state to conquer the most lucrative provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire and eliminate the ancient Persian Empire entirely.
  • Britain and France had spent their entire histories being at each other's throats, until both realized that the Central Powers were too strong for either of them to take on alone. This led them to form the Triple Entente and later the Allied Powers.
  • Nationalist China and the Chinese Communist Party were forced to briefly set aside the Chinese Civil War in order to unite against Imperial Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
  • The Islamic State terrorist group for the sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria and possibly beyond. The former has been locked in civil war between Sunnis and Shias since Saddam Hussein's overthrow in 2003, while the latter escalated into fighting between the Ba'athist regime and several rebels discontent with the government in 2011. While everyone else was too distracted to deal with them, IS managed to quickly gain territory, threatening to collapse the local governments and commit several atrocities including genocide, cultural destruction, sexual enslavement, and many more that shocked the world community and even other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda. As such, they have not only fought against literally everyone else not on their side, but also pushed countries that usually don't get along with each other like the USA, Russia, Iran, and etc. to supply their opponents specifically to fight against them.