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Criminal Amnesiac

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As you can see, this trope also caused Sonic to commit Superdickery.

One consequence of Easy Amnesia is that a character can be up and about, wandering around with all their faculties about them but with no clue who they actually are. If their arch-enemies find them in this state, they may decide to turn a liability into an asset, by convincing the character that they're really on the bad guys' side.

Thus, the rest of the protagonists find themselves having to not only fight against the amnesiac character, with all his abilities turned to the service of antagonism, but somehow rescue and Deprogram him. If the experience has a larger toll on a character's loyalties or sense of self, even after regaining their memory, it becomes Amnesiac Dissonance.

Used mostly by the kind of show that would use Easy Amnesia in the first place. By necessity this pretty much requires an Idiot Hero to make any kind of sense- one hopes that most people would at least try to figure out who they are before quickly agreeing to a plan that involves killing or seriously maiming a large number of people. This can be averted if the bad guy did a more thorough job of brainwashing than just saying "clearly I am your friend" and the amnesiac just took his word for it.


Then again, Amnesiacs are Innocent.

If the lie comes from the character himself, it's Amnesiac Liar. If it happens to a villain, it's Amnesiac Villain Joins the Heroes. Contrast with Forgot the Call.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • As far as the original manga (and first anime) are concerned, Mamoru is dead when Queen Beryl infuses his corpse with evil in Sailor Moon. In the DiC dub, however, they make it clear Darien's still alive as Beryl erases his memories and creates a powerful lackey.
  • In the Pokémon episode "A Scare To Remember", the Team Rocket trio managed to finally capture Ash's Pikachu after seven seasons via this method... until Pikachu regained his memory and the Reset Button was pushed at the end of the episode.
  • Excel♡Saga:
    • In the manga Excel gets amnesia and winds up living with Umi Rengaya and her family, including Professor Shiouji, who works for Kabapu, sort-of-arch-enemy of Excel's boss Il Palazzo. All the while, Excel is replaced by a fake Excel so neither Elgala nor Hyatt realize she's gone.
    • In the anime, as well, during its one totally serious episode, Excel forgets who she is after getting shot by Il Palazzo, and winds up being saved by the Municipal Defense Force.
    • Hyatt gets amnesia in the manga too, and ends up getting engaged to her neighbor Watanabe. Until Il Palazzo restores Hyatt's memories and she leaves with him.
  • The Saber Marionette J manga inverts this when the Saber Dolls (the Big Bad's Terrible Trio of Bodyguard Babes, and the Psycho Rangers for the heroic harem of superpowered robot girls) get amnesia when struck by lightning, and fall in Love at First Sight with the male hero, Otaru, after he repairs them. Amnesiac Dissonance kicks in once their memories start coming back.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) has a variant of this. Scar's brother's lover and Trisha Elric were resurrected as Lust and Sloth, to a degree. They don't have the souls of the original and thus are more akin to evil clones. Lust wants to become human, while Sloth is trying to replace the Elric brothers with Wrath.
  • Captain Neo Roanoke of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, a Manipulative Bastard, Evil Mentor, and dark take on the Team Dad and Big Brother Mentor tropes is eventually revealed to be Mu La Flaga of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED with his own memory gone, and false ones implanted on top. Sadly, the writers never took (or never had) the time to address the consequences of this, and it's one of the chief complaints fans have about the series.

    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy: Adu Du utilises BoBoiBoy's weakness - the longer he uses his Triple Split, the more that his memory will worsen - by kidnapping the Lightning elemental to prevent the three from reuniting. After failing to get any info on his grandfather's recipe from him, Adu Du tortures BoBoiBoy Lightning until he snaps, causing the latter to unlock his more powerful form, BoBoiBoy Thunderstorm, out of rage. Due to his worsening memory, he easily believes Adu Du's claims that they were his actual friends, to the point where Adu Du could get him to fight the good guys. He regains his memory when Adu Du's Robot Buddy Probe exclaims BoBoiBoy's catchphrase "Terbaik!" ("Awesome!") as a general comment to BoBoiBoy Thunderstorm, who turns against them as a result.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Franco-Belgian comic Thorgal, when the title hero is stripped of his memory by the gods, Kriss of Valnor convinces him that he is a pirate lord.
  • Spider-Man has Doctor Octopus attempting this with Spidey during the original Stan Lee run (Octavius's attempt to use a stolen invention that was intended to 'nullify' nuclear warheads to shut down Spider-Man's web-shooters resulted in the device's energy mixing with Spider-Man's radioactive blood to erase his memory). Quite possibly the Trope Codifier. Spidey realises something's not right when Ock wants to find out his secret identity — if they were partners, he'd already know.
  • Medusa, queen of the Inhuman sub-species, was given amnesia by her evil brother-in-law Maximus, and was found hiding in a cave by the criminal mastermind called the Wizard, who made her Susan Storm's counterpart in his Frightful Four.
  • Batman:
    • An issue of The Batman Adventures had Catwoman turn an amnesiac Batman into "Catman".
    • In The Golden Age of Comic Books, Catwoman herself was a criminal amnesiac, without even a villain talking her into it. She had been a flight attendant who suffered a head injury in a plane crash and lost her memories, with her subconscious memories of growing up in a pet shop causing her to become Catwoman. A later Retcon said she'd made this up to facilitate her Heel–Face Turn.
  • Some Space Pirates did this to Legion of Super-Heroes's Ultra Boy once. When it actually came down to fighting, he didn't like it. He tried fighting on the other side; that was much more natural to him.
  • Reverted in a Disney Big Bad Wolf comic; BBW has a nasty fall when chasing the Three Little Pigs, gets Easy Amnesia, and Practical Pig convinces him he is a pig and got hurt when chased by a wolf. Cue Zeke Wolf becoming horribly scared of his own son...
  • Superman:
    • Superman became one in a Legends-related side story when he was abducted by Darkseid and manipulated by Amazing Grace. Fortunately, Orion and Lightray helped restore Superman's memory and true self.
    • One early comic had Lois Lane suffer shock-induced amnesia after thinking Clark died, and subsequently believing herself to be a dangerous criminal.
    • The Leper from Krypton has criminal boss Ventor brainwash Clark Kent into forgetting his real identity and believing he is one of Ventor's henchmen.
  • In Tomahawk #110, Tomahawk loses his memory when his skull is creased by a rifle. Captured by the British, Lady Shilling (secretly the Hood) is able to persuade him that he is a Loyalist officer and her fiancée. This leads to the Rangers believing that Tomahawk has turned traitor and attempting to kill him.
  • In one issue of Richie Rich, Richie suffered a head injury while trying to stop a Parisian Street gang from mugging a little boy and proceeded to join the gang, participating on a robbery of himself. Richie suffers yet another blow to the head during the robbery and goes back to normal.
  • An early issue of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) has Robotnik manipulate an amnesiac Sonic into joining him and turning against the rest of the Freedom Fighters.
  • One issue of The Simpsons had Lisa get amnesia after suffering a blow to the head. Bart takes advantage of this by convincing her that she's just as much of a troublemaking hellion as him, only for her to become even worse than him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Modesty Blaise:
    • A vengeful enemy managed to do this to Blaise once, in order to make her kill her sidekick. It almost worked.
    • In "A Present for the Princess", Willie loses his memory after he hits his head on a rock in a river. An old enemy convinces him that he is a hitman for his organization.

    Fan Works 
  • In Mario and Sonic: Heroes Unite!, Luigi suffers amnesia following the transfer to Sonic's world. Metal Sonic takes the opportunity to claim that Luigi is on his side and that the heroes are actually his enemies.
  • Empath becomes one in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Empath The Bandit Smurf", which is an adaptation of "The Jewel Smurfer" with Empath substituting for Jokey in the original.
  • Church in The Things We Wish We Could Forget is reprogrammed by Malcolm Hargrove and has his memories and moral code erased so that he will serve aid in Hargrove's campaign to wipe out the population of Chorus. He gradually regains his memories over the course of the story, and it's deconstructed afterwards, since the Reds and Blues no longer trust him after his stint as a bad guy.

  • Deconstructed with Memento. Several people try to use Leonard Shelby's anterograde amnesia by setting their enemies up to look like John G., the man whom Leonard is planning to kill for raping and murdering his late wife. At the end, it's revealed that Leonard has been playing himself as well by killing fake John G.'s to give himself purpose in life.
  • Push features this in the climax, when a character is convinced that she has been assisting the others because she was 'pushed' into it.
  • In Unknown, the "Jean Jacket man" gets flashes that suggest that he was part of the kidnapping team, which leads him to collude with them. He's actually an undercover cop. Who engineered the kidnapping in the first place.
  • In The Addams Family. A loan shark Abigail Craven and her son Gordon, along with crooked lawyer Tully Alford, concoct a scheme to rob the Addamses by having Gordon pose as Gomez's long-lost brother Fester. Turns out, Gordon really is Fester, having lost his memory twenty-five years ago, with Craven having found him and decided to use him as her muscle.

  • A variation: In Michael Kurland's Professor Moriarty novel The Empress of India, there is a gang leader in London with a Chinese name (but he doesn't look Chinese). Turns out he's Sherlock Holmes. See, he'd been posing as a Chinese gang leader as part of his investigation. After he got a bad knock on the head, he forgot his real identity but remembered his alter ego, and thought that's who he was. Eventually, another knock on the head restores his memory.
  • In Ian Fleming's novels, James Bond suffered from this for a period — specifically, starting at the end of the last chapter of You Only Live Twice (Bond in a Quest for Identity goes to the Soviet Union) and ending at the beginning of the first chapter of The Man with the Golden Gun (brainwashed Bond fails to assassinate M).
  • Artemis Fowl: This happens after Artemis's mind-wipe, although to be fair he just reverted to his self before he met the fairies, which was a criminal mastermind.
  • In the Modesty Blaise novel Dead Man's Handle, Willie loses his memory and is recruited by the villains as a weapon against Modesty, who they attempt to persuade him is his deadliest enemy.
  • In Rebel Force, Rezi Soresh develops torturous brainwashing techniques used to convert normal people into emotionless assassins. When he destroys someone's memory and ability to feel normal emotion, they lose their personality as well; he also plays mind games on them and culls anyone who doesn't end the process loyal to him. It's left ambiguous whether the most prominent assassin, X7, is one of the main characters of The Last of the Jedi. Time away from Soresh starts giving X7 some emotions back and a few flashes of memory, but they are completely without context and make no sense. Whoever he was, it's gone for good. Soresh later captures Luke Skywalker and puts him through the torture-and-brainwashing routine, but Luke is somehow immune and just fakes losing his memory, the better to turn on Soresh when the time is right.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Power Rangers Zeo: Tommy is given amnesia by Prince Gasket, then convinced that the other rangers are evil.
  • Inverted in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Past and Present", in which the amnesiac is discovered to be the evil Mad Scientist (known as the Destroyer of Worlds) responsible for infecting an entire planet with an amnesia virus. She cured herself of the amnesia, then tried to kill herself when her old, murderous personality conflicted with her new, peaceful one. Eventually, she re-amnesiaed herself so she could live a peaceful life on the planet where these whacky adventures took place.
    • Subverted again in another episode, "Collateral Damage", where a man on another planet who murdered his ex-wife used a device to erase his own memories of the murder and transfer them to SG-1's current leader, whom his ex-wife had spent the night with. However, since the real murderer had been in love with the murder victim, he then helped solve the murder, and then had his memory of the fact he killed her erased again instead of being put in jail, because his government considered his research too important.
  • In the episode "Ill Gotten Grains" of Good Eats, Alton Brown gets Easy Amnesia, but is still a brilliant cook. He's rescued by Francis Andersen (his "biggest fan" and a dangerously obsessed pastiche of Stephen King's Misery), who tells him his name is "Abe," and...
    Francis:'re here to create wonderful wheat recipes for my store.
    Alton: I am?
    Francis: Yes, and...and you live here with me.
  • There was an episode of Monk where Monk gets bonked on the head, and a woman unscrupulously convinces him that he's her husband. This doesn't stop Monk from attempting to solve the mystery of the week, although it causes his OCD to become significantly less serious.
  • In an episode of MacGyver (1985), the Villain of the Week takes advantage of MacGyver's amnesia to convince him that Peter Thornton is actually a terrorist to be apprehended, and even supplies him with a gun to do the job. Since Mac's memory has started to come back, though, and since he and Pete are such good friends, it doesn't take long for Pete to talk him out of it.
    • In another Mac-Gets-Amnesia episode, the writers play around a bit. Since all the flashes of memory (played by clips from other episodes) he gets are of explosions or other violent acts with him in the middle, Mac almost convinces himself that's he's really a Criminal Amnesiac.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys has a variation; as a result of a misfiring favor from Fate, Iolaus loses all his memories of working with Hercules... which is a large enough chunk of his life that it takes him back to his days as a teenage gang member, and he promptly hooks up with that week's villains.
  • On Miami Vice, Crockett got amnesia while working undercover and began behaving as his cover identity would.
  • On The Dukes of Hazzard, Bo Duke got amnesia and Boss Hogg convinced Bo that he was Hogg's son.
  • Narrowly averted in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when the crew's memories are erased so that they can be manipulated into ending a conflict by destroying one of the two feuding species. The villains of the episode make sure that the Enterprise's "mission" involves complete radio silence to keep them from talking to anyone who's either not on the ship or not a spy. Ultimately, the crew become suspicious when they realize the ship's advanced weaponry can reduce their foe's military equipment to scrap within a few seconds- a foe they've supposedly been fighting for several decades.
  • An amusing semi-subversion pops up on the 1990's Zorro series remake, when Harmless Villain Sgt. Mendoza is conked and convinced he's a seriously ruthless bandit leader, and it's up to Zorro to rescue him without getting captured...
  • Happened once on Sci-Fi's The Invisible Man. Big Bad, Arnaud, puts on an American accent and convinces the amnesic hero, Darien Fawkes, that Arnaud is Fawkes' brother (while Fawkes' brother, in reality, was killed by Arnaud).
  • You could say this happens to Olivia in the third season of Fringe. Olivia gets captured by Walternate and through some technical mambo-jumbo that has to do with serums and the blood-brain barrier, manages to give her all of Alternate-Olivia's memories, skills, and emotions convincing her she is from that reality fighting against her own reality.
  • A particularly gut-wrenching example happens on Chuck in the fifth season's final arc. As Sarah suffers amnesia as a result of a faulty Intersect, she's convinced by Nicholas Quinn that Chuck and his allies are evil, and is promptly ordered to kill Chuck.
  • In the second season of Heroes, immortal psychopath Adam Monroe convinced an amnesiac Peter to work with him. Somewhat justified in that he lied to Peter, who is something of an Idiot Hero.
    • And in season 5, Sylar's memories were suppressed and replaced by Nathan's! Sylar is nominally a villain, but these false memories interfered with Sullivan's attempts to control him.
  • One episode of T-Bag Bounces Back had Debbie be captured by a pirate. When she gets amnesia after a botched escape attempt, the pirate, who wants Debbie on her crew because of her bravery, convinces her that she's her Dragon Red-Haired Rosie.
  • Played With on Dark•Matter with One and Six. The six main crew members are all amnesiacs using numbers as names who learn from their wanted files at the end of the pilot episode that their original selves were ruthless criminals (except Five, the Mysterious Waif, who has no profile). In truth, One and Six are not really Jace Corso and Griffin Jones, respectively; One is a philanthropist CEO named Derrick Moss who impersonated Corso through plastic surgery to get close to the murderer of his wife (Marcus Boone/Three, or so Moss believed) and Six is an undercover cop named Kal Varrick tasked with bringing them all in, whose criminal identity is fake. But now without their original memories to go on, they believe they really are part of the Raza crew like the others. However, both of them remain among the more moral members of the cast and are a big part of why the crew as a whole, while still participating in illegal activity and mercenary work to make their living (One and Six included), now shies away from the more brutal sort of jobs they used to take on pre-mindwipe (like wiping out entire planetary populations so that the corporate overlords could take over their land).

    Video Games 
  • A key plot point in Knights of the Old Republic is that the player is actually Darth Revan, former master to the game's current Big Bad. The game drops subtle hints and references. Interestingly the amnesia is done by the Jedi Council, the good guys of the setting. If you embrace The Dark Side, then it's inverted and Evil All Along, if you choose the Light Side ending, then it's Heel–Face Turn via Becoming the Mask. Either way, it's an excellent Tomato in the Mirror Plot Twist worthy of Star Wars.
    • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, it happens again. The Dreaded spymaster The Shroud turns out to be the silly, sweet droid with memory problems that's been helping the player all along. In the end, the droid doesn't want to be a bad guy, but it's up to you if you destroy her or recruit her.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, this gets pulled on Bowser, who doesn't turn evil, obviously (since he already was), but gets recruited by a two-bit thief to become half of the game's Goldfish Poop Gang.
  • This happens a few times in Planescape: Torment. The first time it happens you can get them to confess about it after you've already done what they asked.
  • Variation in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. After beating the final boss, Sly gets hit and has amnesia. The first person to come up is Carmelita, the police officer who's been after Sly, and learning that he has amnesia, convinces him that he was her partner. The variation comes when an epilogue scene reveals that Sly doesn't actually have amnesia, and is just faking it to get out of the thieving business, which also left the series open enough for a sequel.
  • Possible in Town of Salem if the Amnesiac chooses to remember he was an Arsonist, Serial Killer, or a member of the Mafia.
  • In FusionFall Buttercup gets hit by Mojo Jojo during a fight and ends up with amnesia. Separated from her sisters and deemed missing, she meets up with Ace of the Gangreen Gang. The two begin dating and Buttercup becomes a delinquent. We never do find out how she got her memory back, however in the future she's back to normal. Unfortunately she's the Sole Survivor out of her sisters.

    Web Comics 
  • The Ctrl+Alt+Del storyline starting here has Ethan, a Microsoft fanboy, getting hit on the head while in an Apple store and subsequently take over the "Mac Rights" movement as Malcolm OSX, and changing it from a peaceful to a violent protest.
  • Faraway: Zippy fights in a war against the tigers where he survives a plane crash and develops amnesia. The tigers find him and manipulate him into believing he is their commander.

    Western Animation 
  • A unique example occurs in one episode of Jackie Chan Adventures where Valmont convinces the amnesiac Tohru that he was a criminal working for him. What makes this unique is that, before his Heel–Face Turn, Tohru did work for Valmont (indeed, Tohru's old criminal records are part of what Valmont uses to convince him).
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Taotie discovers that the Furious Five have lost their memory after being exposed to Po's memory-erasing move. While Po and Master Shifu are away, Taotie took the opportunity to use this to his advantage by having them attack Master Shifu and Po upon their return. When the Furious Five regain their memory, they attacked Taotie causing him to get away.
    • In another episode, Po is the one to lose his memory, and is convinced by Fung that he is the leader of the Croc Bandits. Po embraces the role, becoming so villainous that even Fung is disturbed by him.
  • The Danger Mouse episode "Public Enemy Number One" had Baron Greenback convince an amnesiac Danger Mouse he was really a super-thief known as "The White Shadow". It backfired spectacularly on Greenback when Danger Mouse proved to be a better criminal than he was.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers had it happen to Dale in "Le Purrfect Crime", who joined Fat Cat's cousin Maltese de Sade and became a surprisingly effective enforcer.
  • Semi-example: In Transformers: Beast Wars, the upright, chivalrous Silverbolt was initially on the evil Predacon side. He was a newborn "blank" mechanoid, who had a personality but no memories. He had no clue Megatron was really the bad guy, but he figured it out soon enough.
  • An episode of the Donkey Kong Country cartoon had Donkey Kong getting amnesia. Both Kaptain Skurvy and then King K. Rool convince him he's on their side.
  • Sissi temporarily convinces an amnesiac Ulrich in Code Lyoko episode "Amnesia" that he is her boyfriend and his teammates are his arch enemies. This fails partly because, even without his memories, Ulrich can't stand her....
  • An episode of Aladdin: The Series had Princess Jasmine getting amnesia, and Harmless Villain Abis Mal convinces her that she's in fact his evil daughter, a desert bandit. She upgrades to a eyebrow-raising black costume (complete with whip) and helps Abis take over the country, but then betrays him and decides to promote herself to main villain after realizing he's an imbecile (until Aladdin is able to help her remember her true past).
  • Happens in the Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode "Make a Wish", based on the comic above with Doc Ock erasing Spider-Man's memory and pretending that they're partners and that Spidey lost his memory in an accident. This is helped thanks to some video of J. Jonah Jameson bad-mouthing him as usual. In this version, Spidey is reminded of who he really is by a young girl who's his biggest fan. Here, the device is an actual "neural neutralizer" and Ock uses it on Spider-Man on purpose, rather than it being an interaction between a nuclear nullifier and his radioactive blood.
  • In an episode of Captain N: The Game Master, Simon Belmont got amnesia and spent much of the episode trying to remember who he was, eventually deciding that he was Donkey Kong Jr..
  • One episode of Superfriends has Superman getting knocked out by a comet and landing on the Arthurian Legend IN SPACE planet. When some local revolutionaries try to beat him up and fail miserably, they ask him to become their leader to Take Over the World. Superman quickly decides that this priority is way more interesting than figuring out who he is, and topples the government to pave way for the revolution's primary objective- raising taxes. Naturally, it falls to the other Superfriends to stop him.
  • In the Grand Finale of Superman: The Animated Series, "Legacy", Superman has his memory wiped after being abducted by Darkseid, and he is led to believe he is Darkseid's adopted son.
  • One episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "The Mask of Matches Malone!", has Batman getting amnesia while in his "Matches Malone" gangster persona and believing he is an actual crime boss.
  • One of the Captain Caveman and Son shorts on The Flintstone Kids had Captain Caveman get amnesia and assume that he was a villain because he was dressed as one (A domino mask). Interestingly, the entire criminal element of the city helps his son get him back to normal - Captain Caveman is such an effective thief that the city soon runs out of places that the other criminals can rob.
  • Krypto the Superdog: One episode had Krypto lose his memory due to red kryptonite. The Junkyard Dogs, a gang of Harmless Villain stray dogs, try to take advantage of Krypto by convincing him he's part of their gang. However, Krypto's heroic sense of justice still remains and a rescue of the dog leader's girlfriend (who wished for Krypto to regain his memory) brings him back to his senses.
  • In the season 1 finale of Transformers: Prime, Optimus Prime sacrifices the Matrix of Leadership to stop Unicron, along with all of his memories as Optimus Prime. Megatron immediately takes advantage of this opportunity to welcome his old friend Orion Pax into the ranks of the Decepticons.
  • An accidental case in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode, "Los Dos Mojos": Mojo Jojo knocks out Bubbles from behind. Before going completely out, Bubbles opens her eyes one last time to see her assailant gloating over her, causing her to believe she IS Mojo Jojo once she wakes up.
  • Ultimately subverted in Gargoyles when a well-meaning alien, convinced that her Gargoyle companions are agents of an enemy species he has been fighting, erases Elisa's memory and tells her that the Gargoyles are her enemies. Elisa is of course uncertain whom to trust, but ultimately refuses to cooperate with the alien considering that the Gargoyles evidently have not done anything to deserve being treated like that ("that" being that he was going to execute them in a rather messy fashion). At that, the alien stands down and restores her memory since any beings who can inspire that kind of personal loyalty under such circumstances are likely not his enemies either, and the memory wipe would have removed any brainwashing the Gargoyles had done to Elisa if they really had been working for the Space-Spawn.
  • In the Rated "A" for Awesome episode "Noam No More," Noam loses his memory after an attempt to improve it goes awry. Chet finds him, and convinces him that he is "B.T.," his personal enforcer, using him to enact a wave of terror on the school.
  • In Lolirock Praxina and Mephisto used a spell to erase Iris' memories and convinced her that she worked with them and that Talia and Auriana were her enemies.
  • Ninjago: "Corruption" reveals that the Ice Emperor is really the memory-wiped ice ninja Zane, who was manipulated by the exiled formling Vex into thinking he was a disgraced ruler so that Vex could take control of the Never-Realm.