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Hijacked by Ganon

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What? Were you expecting someone else?
Maybe that Zant guy?

Prologue: Hey! Did you know that in the last game there was this nutty computer that tried to kill everyone?
Yahtzee: No, I did not know that. Why did you bring it up?
Prologue: Errrrmmm, no reason. Here's a totally unrelated plot. Also try not to look at the box art.
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A Sub-Trope of The Man Behind the Man, where an old villain is behind a new one.

This is common for iconic villains (such as many of the ones from Nintendo games) with Joker Immunity — no matter how many times the hero beats them, they keep coming back in the next game. Frequently, they even retry the same evil plot.

Another variant on this trope is when the new villain has no connection to the old one, but the old one manages to dethrone the new one and take over as the main villain.

This can be a subversion of Outside-Context Problem, in that the Outside-Context Problem (the original) is actually subordinate to a villain who is not outside context. Similarly, it could be that the original Outside-Context Villain is not actually the Big Bad, but instead the replacement. See also Greater-Scope Villain, where the greater evil is an Out of Focus entity that has only an indirect effect on the plot.

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While still a valid trope in other media, in video games, it's on its way to becoming increasingly difficult to take seriously. Due to just how ubiquitous the twist is, it's often seen as an overused and trite way of attempting a shocking plot twist (with the trope-naming Zelda series and other game series like Mega Man and its follow-ups such as Mega Man X, which likewise used the trope ad-nauseam, being by far the most infamous abusers of this) that it's no longer considered even mildly surprising to use in contemporary games. Modern games tend to avoid the trope save in series where it's practically expected (such as the aforementioned Mega Man series) and tend to either play the villains straight, subvert the twist or play the cliche for laughs.

Also a Sub-Trope of Obvious Villain, Secret Villain. Might be the result of the new villains managing to Resurrect the Villain or the old villain being a Returning Big Bad. The inversion of Make Way for the New Villains. Contrast Not Me This Time. See also Diabolus ex Nihilo and The Man in Front of the Man.

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Nothing to do with Hijacked by Jesus.

Keep in mind that this trope is about plot twists, so EXPECT UNMARKED SPOILERS.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Double subverted in Asterix and Cleopatra. The plot is kicked off by a bet between Cleopatra and series Big Bad, Julius Caesar, but for the majority of the story, the antagonists are new characters Artifis and his lackey Krukhut. However, after their schemes are foiled, Caesar sends his army to stop the Gauls from helping Cleopatra winning the bet, leading to the finale of the story being a big battle with Romans. In fact, the last appearance of Artifis and Krukhut is to interrupt the main characters (as they declare, by the names of various gods, that they will fight off Caesar) to ask, "By the way, can we go home?"
  • The Avengers:
    • Robotic villain Ultron has this as his trademark plot. In every single issue he EVER shows up in, he never appears to be the main antagonist the Avengers will be up against, rather evidence will point it to being someone else, before Ultron dramatically reveals himself. Even in his very first appearance as a villain, he wore a disguise and diverted suspicion to Jarvis of all people (successfully at that) before it was revealed it was he.
    • Avengers: The Children's Crusade retroactively paints Doctor Doom as the one behind the Scarlet Witch going insane, leading to Avengers Disassembled and House of M.
  • Batman:
    • Batman: No Man's Land: The entire policy of excommunicating Gotham originally appeared to be a ploy by new face Nicholas Scratch to take control of the city, but by the end of the crossover, it turned out Lex Luthor co-opted Scratch's plan. He was then himself hijacked in the last month of the story by the Joker.
    • In Batman Eternal, fairly minor villain Cluemaster is revealed as the Big Bad of the story who united Batman's Rogues Gallery to take down Batman once and for all. However, just as the final battle is about to begin, Lincoln March (who had been serving as Cluemaster's financial backer) sneaks up behind Cluemaster, slits his throat, and hijacks the plot. Lincoln March not only wanted to be the one who killed Batman, but also felt that Cluemaster was missing the point of his own scheme (Cluemaster wanted to be known as a big name villain for his Magnum Opus Evil Plan, which kind of defeated the purpose of concealing his role so thoroughly) and so decided to invoke this trope.
    • In the first arc of James Tynion IV's Batman run, "His Dark Designs", the main villain is a new foe, the Designer. Having defeated his own archnemesis before Batman even got started, he came up with a plan to take over Gotham City by using other big-name villains to do his dirty work: Penguin would have every politician in Gotham executed and become Mayor himself, Riddler would take over the city's infrastructure, Catwoman would steal Bruce Wayne's fortune, Joker would kill Batman and Robin, and in the new Gotham, all of them would work for him. Unfortunately for him, the Joker had his own plan in mind, and killed him off-screen before puppeteering his corpse with nanites. As Riddler and Penguin went through with their parts of the scheme, Joker used Catwoman's to become a billionaire, take Bruce Wayne's assets, and kick off the next arc, "The Joker War". This also bled into the final storyline of Nightwing (Rebirth), in which the Court of Owls give Dick/Ric Grayson Fake Memories so he'll become a new Talon, but then the Joker suddenly turns up and uses the same method to turn Dick into his sidekick, Dicky-Boy. This continues over in the first major storyline after the DC Future State hiatus. In the aftermath of The Joker War and A-Day, Simon Saint begins pushing his super-armored protectorate, the Magistrate, to make Gotham a safe place free from costumed crime and vigilantes. He does this by working with other groups and one special villain, the Scarecrow. In a case of For Want of a Nail, where in Future State, Scarecrow willingly got himself arrested and was "reformed", as seen in the Harley Quinn portion of Future State, Scarecrow realizes that Gotham is in such a level of fear that there's no way he can just surrender and hijacks the plan, setting up "Fear State".
  • Blake and Mortimer: Subverted. Olrik turns up working with almost every villain the titular duo face, but he's more often The Dragon than The Man Behind the Man.
  • A flaw in the later seasons of the ElfQuest series is that the main villainess Winnowill turns out to be the one behind the machinations for every single plot. Shards? Yeah, that was her, shapeshifted. Wavedancers? Yup, her again. Forevergreen? Oh look, it was her insane minion. Hidden Years? Guess who made all those mutant monsters? It gets old. In the distant future, residual taint from her evil magics at Blue Mountain is the focus of a major subplot.
  • Fantastic Four: This happened in the 'Master of Doom' story arc. The Marquis of Death, who had appeared to have killed Dr. Doom and usurped his power early on in the story, was eventually deposed by his own protége, who happened to be...Dr. Doom, who had somehow survived the Marquis' earlier attempt to kill him.
  • The Flash
    • The very first time the Flash's Rogues have decided to team up, it's revealed that they were being manipulated by Gorilla Grodd.
    • Eobard Thawne a.k.a. Professor Zoom is a repeat offender, all in the sick game of messing with the Flash Family.
      • The Return of Barry Allen: Barry Allen seemingly goes rogue, but then Wally West finally discovers the truth and unmasks him as Eobard Thawne. This is actually Thawne before he even "met" Barry Allen, and the storyline is his Start of Darkness.
      • While Rogue War, as its title implies, focuses on the conflict between two factions of the Rogues, Hunter Zolomon (Zoom II) easily deals with all the Rogues in the end, and has even recruited Thawne for their own little Villain Teamup to break Wally.
      • During Finish Line, Thawne gloats that he used his new More than Mind Control powers to subtly influence the various Flashes into committing questionable decisions throughout the The Flash (Rebirth) era. He also revealed he was responsible for the incident that killed Zolomon's father-in-law (which became his That One Case) and one of the catalysts to Hunter's Start of Darkness.
    • Also from Rebirth are the Renegades, futuristic Hero Antagonist versions of the Rogues who clashed with Barry Allen. Unbeknownst to even the Renegades, their director, a man previously known only as a "Judge", is later revealed to be a time-displaced Hunter Zolomon/Zoom II.
    • The first The Flash (Infinite Frontier) annual reveals that Wally was not responsible for the electrical storm that killed all the heroes at Sanctuary in Heroes in Crisis. The real culprit is Savitar trying to free himself from the Speed Force.
  • Green Lantern: In Green Lantern: Rebirth, the newly introduced Parallax Entity was directed by Sinestro.
  • In Grendel, Pope Innocent XLII, the Arc Villain of the 26th century, turns out to be Tujiro, the vampire serial killer from the 21st century arc.
  • The bizarre, surreal, and hilarious — as with everything else in the book — reveal of the Comte de Rochefort as the Man Behind the Man in Jason's The Last Musketeer.
  • Century: 1969, the penultimate volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, ends with the revelation that the Big Bad Oliver Haddo survived his confrontation with the League by escaping to the astral plane and possessing the body of a young Thomas M. Riddle, aka Voldemort (the most well-known literary villain of the 21st century). Sure enough, Century: 2009, the final installment, has the League facing off against Haddo inhabiting Voldemort's body.
  • In Mickey Mouse Comic Universe, the Phantom Blot sometimes does this, since he's a Diabolical Mastermind with a penchant for working from behind the scenes as either a Hidden Villain or a Man Behind the Man. In one story, Mickey offered his services as a detective to a movie producer who seemed to be bothered by aliens. It turned out the whole thing was really a conspiracy by his various employees against him for being such a Jerkass, but the Phantom Blot was the one running the show. (He wanted to stop the making of a movie based on true events in which he had lost to Mickey.) In another, old story, the Blot was in prison, but the antagonist was an Evil Genius who Mickey suspected right away, and correctly, to be one of the Blot's subordinates. In a third story, the old villain Black Pete was acting really strangely while going out robbing things even though he was supposedly demonstrably in prison. It turned out the Blot had hypnotised both Pete and the prison warden as a Red Herring as part of a bigger plan.
  • During the "Dead End Kids" arc, the Runaways end up in New York City in 1907. While there, they are told that the criminal underworld is supposedly run by Maneater (a sort of predecessor to the Kingpin) and the Sinners. Chase and Xavin later discover that the Sinners are actually answering to Dale and Stacey Yorkes, the parents of Chase's dead girlfriend, and enemies to the Runaways. They are understandably displeased when they find out that Gert's dead in the present day...The series also had an attempted Ultron hijack at the beginning of the second volume, but his attempt to frame Doctor Doom fails and he gets blown up by Darkhawk.
  • In the Sin City tale Hell And Back, Wallenquist was revealed as the Colonel's boss, with the Colonel's main assassin answering directly to him.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Norman Osborn's revival at the end of The Clone Saga definitely counts. We in the real world know he was brought in because the story had long since gotten out of hand, and the best way to resolve it neatly was to have one mastermind behind everything. Osborn, a notorious Chessmaster, was judged the only Spidey villain with the oomph to pull it off (even if they had to bring him back from the dead).
    • Spider-Man: Reign at first seems to feature two Original Generation villains alongside the Sinner Six, though it is revealed partway into the story that the mastermind of the plot is Venom.
  • Star Wars Legends:
  • Superman:
    • The Death of Superman did this with its final storyline Reign of the Supermen, the story starts out normally with the first two issues of each title attempting to endear us to the four Supermen. Then comes the halfway point of the third month when the Cyborg Superman decides to ventilate the Eradicator and allow Coast City to be destroyed by Mongul. Then, it turns out the Cyborg Superman is an evil and powered-up version of Hank Henshaw, a minor character from a couple of earlier pre-death issues, who was an expy of Reed Richards!
    • Throughout Strangers at the Heart's Core, Supergirl gets harassed by a bunch of random villains (Phantom Zoner Shyla Kor-Onn, Klax-Ar, Gravitron Man...) who are apparently operating independently. The final chapter reveals that all of them were being manipulated by Supergirl's first nemesis, Lesla-Lar.
      Lesla-Lar: I still sought your destruction by mentally influencing others...until I became trapped in a Superboy Robot!
      Supergirl: So it was you in all those battles...YOU!
    • It happens in The Earthwar Saga storyline in Superboy and the Legion Of Superheroes. The Legion fights the Resource Raiders, only to learn they're secretly the advance guard for an invasion by the alien Khunds. Who are being manipulated by the evil Dark Circle. Whose leader had been replaced by the even more evil sorcerer, Mordru.
    • In the storyline Our Worlds at War, Superman bonds with Strange Visitor in a last-ditch attempt to destroy Imperiex. The two succeed, at the cost of Strange Visitor's life; however, at that moment, Brainiac 13 steps in and takes Imperiex's power, having faked his own death and the destruction of Warworld to reach this moment.
  • Rastapopoulos makes a few surprise return appearances as the Big Bad in a few Tintin albums (although not as many as fans seem to think).
  • In Ultimate Marvel, Dr. Doom has pulled this twice to date: in the Ultimate Power miniseries and in The Ultimates vol. 3 ''. Which is weird, because he doesn't have nearly as much cred as his 616 counterpart, and except for those two instances, no one besides the Fantastic Four has dealt with him...but there you have it. The former kind of worked, the latter...not so much.
  • Wonder Woman: Amazons Attack!. A brainwashed Queen Hippolyta has led the Amazons of Themyscira to wage war on the United States! BUT WAIT! It turns out that Queen Hippolyta's attack was actually all a Secret Test of Character by the goddess Athena! BUT WAIT! It turns out it was all a convoluted plot masterminded by Granny Goodness of the New Gods while disguised as Athena and keeping the other Greek gods imprisoned! BUT WAIT! The entire miniseries was actually a tie-in to Countdown to Final Crisis, where Granny Goodness is training hundreds of women to be female furies in connection to the Death of the New Gods! BUT WAIT! The Death Of The New Gods/Jimmy Olsen's superpowers plotline from Countdown was actually all part of Darkseid's evil plan involving the Anti-Life equation, and Granny Goodness was just working for him! WHAT.

    Fan Works 
  • In Part 2 of Clash of the Elements, the Dark Star appears to be doing this, but it is subverted a couple chapters later when Chaos Alex regains control of his body from him.
  • Dimensional Links:
    • The fic's initial premise, with Demise (having very, very slowly managed to extract himself from the seal within the Master Sword) finally getting fed-up with the incompetence of the incarnations of his hatred and hijacking all of them. As the Links find out, this also gives him all of their powers, on top of the fact that he's a Physical God (they spend most of the 'fight' running for their lives and screaming, and they require a literal Deus ex Machina from the Goddesses to survive). Doing this also happens to rip open some rather large holes in reality, which expand to consume everything they touch, destroying reality - which suits Demise just fine. The fact that the Goddesses hijack them as a Portal Network for the collected Links, not so much.
    • 'Lorule Ganon' of Link Between Worlds pulling this on Yuga after the latter's attempted Grand Theft Me is something that Demise approves of. Of course, out of all that his hatred incarnations have come up with, it's the only thing that he approves of. When the Links encounter him, he gets a good line when 'Sketch', the local Link, asks if it's Yuga in charge.
    "I'm afraid Yuga isn't in right now, can I take a message?"
  • This trope is referenced in the Crossover Fate/Stay Hijacked by Ganon.
  • Twice in My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, in fact. Towards the end of "Season 1", Nightmare Moon is built up as the final antagonist, when suddenly Titan reappears. He then returns in "The Movie", hijacking the role of main villain from Distraught.
  • Even in fan-films, Ganon is true to form. The Sage of Darkness has an original villain: Etregun, who is a descendant of Ganon. Guess what happens?
  • Double subverted in Perfection Is Overrated. Near the end of the fic, the Usurper, in a last bid at defeating the Himes and ruling the world, possesses the Obsidian Lord, who had initially seemed to be the final antagonist the Himes would face. When the Usurper's remaining minions are defeated and the Obsidian Lord is forced out of Reito's body, the Obsidian Lord breaks free of the Usurper's control, killing him, before having one last confrontation with the Himes.
  • Played with in Sonic Zombie. Silver's debut in Diaries 3 has him get hijacked by a new monster antagonist near the end. Then in Vengeance, he comes out of nowhere and interrupts Sonic and Knuckles's fight to steal both of their then-powers and become a One-Winged Angel. His monster form there is the main antagonist. Then in Shopping Mall, he turns out to be the true identity of Metal Sonic, but towards the end a transformed Bowser ends up taking the title of the final villain the heroes have to face. The series being made bad on purpose, this is all played for laughs.
  • Princess Jody, the Big Bad of Super Milestone Wars, becomes the True Final Boss in Super Milestone Wars 2.
  • Total Drama fan season Total Drama Luxury Tour briefly sets up Alejandro, who was the Big Bad of the season immediately before it, as the main antagonist for the first few chapters. Then he's voted off pretty early thanks to Noah, and for the majority of the story following that, Duncan is geared towards being the villain. And then Alejandro simply bribes his way back on the game, takes a serious level in jerkass, and takes over as the main villain, especially after Duncan himself is eliminated near the end.
  • The Equestrian Wind Mage actually inverts this in regards to the Trope Namer — while Ganon is the main apparent threat in Season 2, it's only because Majora's followers engineer his awakening in Equestria instead of Hyrule so that A) he'll be out of their way, B) he'll serve as a distraction to Equestria's heroes, and C) they will deal with him and eliminate the competition for them. Also, it's repeatedly mentioned that Ganon is ultimately just a puppet of Demise's reincarnated hatred. During the Final Battle, Demise is resurrected out of Ganon, acting as the True Final Boss.
  • War and Peace in Mind: With Royal Pain locked up, the hero community turn to the Academy of Evil she already had in place as their main crisis target, along with its secretive Headmaster. When the heroes finally meet him, it turns out Royal Pain had made an Artificial Intelligence in her own likeness to run the school.
  • The Adventure Time fanfic The Citadel of Truth sets Astrum up as the Big Bad of the fic with The Lich being defeated and turned into one of the Shards Of Evil early in the plot. But once Astrum makes his Heel–Face Turn, all of a sudden The Lich turned out be alive and quite well as he proceeds to hijack the plot and becomes the Final Boss of the fan fiction.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, most of Fourth Year has Barty Crouch Jr. as the antagonist, leading the Death Eaters by himself, but then the climactic battle happens without him when Voldemort's own Evil Plan comes to fruition and he summons all of the Death Eaters to him through the Dark Mark.
  • Ashes of the Past starts when Cyrus successfully manages to create his new universe sometime during the Unova series and destroys the universe in the process, forcing Arceus to send Ash Ketchum back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Ash eventually manages to stop Team Galactic in the new timeline, only for the original Team Galactic from the old timeline to appear through the portal their new timeline counterparts created and continue their plans.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction frequently ties new villains (chronologically or by release) to older ones from prior seasons or back to the Generation 1 incarnation of the franchise.
    • The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum has Tirek and his dark magic devices from Generation 1 be responsible for the mental corrupting of Queen Celestia.
    • The Bridge canonized versions of Generations 1 through 3 as Equestria's past, with the Grogar from Generation 1 the God Of Destruction responsible for directly mentoring most of the Friendship is Magic villains; with said villain's combined attack 1,000 years prior bring an elaborate scheme to restore their master.
  • This is very common in Friday Night Funkin' mods. Ever since Word of God and Week 6 revealed that Daddy Dearest is much more than just a Overprotective Dad, and has actually screwed over people in the past (even responsible for some of the weeks in the full game), it's become very common to be revealed in mods that the opponent has been in some way screwed over by Daddy Dearest, and it often involves him trying to get revenge. Just some include Whitty, Garcello, Tabi and A.G.O.T.I.. Jack from The Impostor Boyfriend Saga is a rather unique example, as he was hired by Daddy Dearest to kill Boyfriend (much like Pico) rather than having his life screwed over by him.
  • In Kill Them All Scion is set up as the main antagonist of the story, as in the original story. However Taylor's visits to Silent Hill end up allowing Samael to breach a path into Earth Bet where he attempts to corrupt and then consume Scion, using his death to start spreading across the multiverse.
  • J-WITCH Series: Just like in canon, Shendu's resurrection by Daolon Wong at the climax of Season 1 sees him easily supplant the wizard and every other villain in the story as the worst one around — he overpowers and kills Cedric, tosses Wong and Miranda out windows and far away from the castle, and blasts Phobos through his own throne.
  • Annventure Nihilism: Subverted and Defied. Tyrannia, the Big Bad of the first two canon games, attempts to steal the Big Bad position from Yoobii by getting Rudy to kill him, but Yoobii realizes what's going on and deletes her for good.
  • Victorious fanfic series The Wolf in me: Downplayed; Livia, the first fic's antagonist, is killed off at the end. Mr. X, the villain for the rest of the series, initially appears to be a completely unrelated villain. It turns out that she is Livia's adopted daughter who is Avenging the Villain.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, gangster Salvatore Valestra believes Batman has been murdering his past associates and fears he'll be next. To take out Batman, he turns to another former partner: the Joker, who murders Valestra himself and uses him as bait for Batman.
  • In her backstory, Emily from Corpse Bride was murdered by a Bluebeard who pretended he wanted to marry her but just wanted to steal her family's money. Lord Bittern, who in the present day wants to marry Victoria, is revealed to be the same guy up to his old tricks.
  • While it wasn't surprising, as Sephiroth was heavily featured in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children promotional materials, he didn't show up until the last 15 minutes of the movie to hijack it from the Remnants (bonus points for quite literally hijacking Kadaj's body in the process).
  • In Tintin and the Lake of Sharks (1972) based on an original story, Tintin and friends faces a criminal organization specializing in making art forgeries lead by the mysterious "Shark King". It turns out "Shark King" is Roberto Rastapopoulos, Tintin's most recurring villain.
  • Wreck-It Ralph repeatedly mentions a guy called Turbo who tried to relocate to another game and permanently broke both games. Sugar Rush's ruler King Candy later turns out to be Turbo who succeeded at his second attempt.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, HYDRA has actually been resurrected amongst SHIELD's ranks ever since the agency's own formation, the mastermind this time being the Red Skull's right-hand man in Captain America: The First Avenger, Arnim Zola. This also puts into light certain events in the Iron Man films, such as the deaths of Tony's parents and Senator Stern wanting to get his hands on Tony's tech. The former is actually a Make It Look Like an Accident engineered by HYDRA (since Howard Stark was one of SHIELD's founders), while Stern is in fact one of many HYDRA agents.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a sort of meta-example. The book is mostly a Random Events Plot, but here various vignettes are tied together by a mysterious green mist that brings out the characters' worst traits. Furthermore, Word of God says that the mist was created by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Big Bad of the next book, though its movie adaptation never got made.
  • In F9, it appears that Otto is the Big Bad, having hired Jakob to steal Project Aries for him. Then in the climax, it turns out that he released Cipher from her box, and she takes over Otto's spot as the main villain.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, despite being set in the same world as Harry Potter, features Gellert Grindelwald as the Greater-Scope Villain for the franchise. The first film, however, depicts him as being a Villain of Another Story, with his actions being present but only in Europe. Surprise — the villain isn't a follower, but Grindelwald himself. The sequel downright places him as the main antagonist.
  • In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Gozer, having been defeated in the first film, is the mastermind behind the Summerville crisis. There is a Red Herring with Ivan Shandor being the potential new Big Bad, but Gozer splits him apart (literally) to be the main villain alone.
  • In Godzilla vs. Kong, Godzilla is presented as the Big Bad, having done a Face–Heel Turn and is attacking random cities unprovoked. This necessitates Kong being sent after him as a means of stopping his rampage. However, the reason for said rampage ends up not being as random as it may seem. That reason being that Apex Industries is constructing their own kaiju, Mecha-Godzilla, and they're using the remains of King Ghidorah both for the robot itself and its neural interface; Godzilla's attacks on the company were his way of trying to prevent his Arch-Enemy from being reborn. Naturally, Ghidorah takes full control of his new mechanical body and re-assumes his role as the Big Bad, requiring an Enemy Mine from Kong and Godzilla to take him out once and for all.
  • The James Bond movie Spectre features the return of SPECTRE, the Nebulous Evil Organization from the early Bond films and later novels. The movie reveals that SPECTRE was the true power behind, or was at least strongly connected to, QUANTUM, the organization whose agents served as the villains of the first two Craig-era movies, Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace, as well as Raoul Silva from Skyfall. However, this trope only applies out-of-universe. The soft Continuity Reboot that occurred in Casino Royale means that this is the first time James Bond fights SPECTRE in this continuity.
  • In Murder at the Baskervilles, the filmmakers inserted Professor Moriarty into the events of the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of Silver Blaze" in order to beef up the running time. However, for Holmes fans, it seems ludicrous that Moriarty would be taking a personal hand in so trivial a crime as fixing a horse race.
  • Resident Evil: Retribution has the Red Queen, who was previously deactivated at the end of the first movie and was revived presumably between Resident Evil: Extinction and Resident Evil: Afterlife.
  • Star Wars:
    • Solo deals with Han Solo, Chewbacca, Lando, and several other smuggler allies having to do a heist job for Dryden Vos, the public leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. The inner workings of Crimson Dawn are left vague for most of the story (largely because they're too much of The Dreaded for anyone with half a brain to dig into that), but a climactic scene reveals that the syndicate's true leader and the superior to Dryden Vos is none other than Darth Maul, the Sith Lord introduced in The Phantom Menace. His survival having been previously explained in The Clone Wars series.
    • The Rise of Skywalker has Palpatine (who's Back from the Dead) as Big Bad, with him revealing he's been behind Snoke and what happened to Ben Solo (now Kylo Ren) all along.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): Thought brand-new villain Eric Sacks was the Big Bad? Nope! He's just a figurehead for the Turtles' most famous Arch-Enemy, the Shredder.
  • X-Men Film Series: Magneto pulls it twice in the films.
    • In X2: X-Men United, he works with the X-Men without much protest or animosity to save mutant-kind, but once he foils Stryker's plan, he reminds us that he is the Big Bad of the series and turns Stryker's Cerebro on normal humans.
    • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, he hijacks the Sentinels to try and kill both Bolivar Trask and Richard Nixon until Mystique stops him.
  • Zoolander 2 hints that Atoz, the new female fashion designer, is going to be the main villain. Later on, Mugatu becomes freed from prison and is revealed to be the one assassinating the world's most beautiful people in order to kill all fashion designers and models, with Atoz actually being Katinka from the last movie in disguise.

    Literature 
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, the apparent villain-of-the-day (or yesterday) Damon Kronski turns out to be the pawn of Opal Koboi.
  • In Ryk E. Spoor's trilogy The Balanced Sword, the ultimate mastermind behind all the Big Bad's actions is revealed to be the Wolf King, Virigar, the Big Bad of the Jason Wood stories.
  • In the first three books of The Black Company, Dominator is a well-known Greater-Scope Villain to Lady's Big Bad, so when he tries to hijack the plot in every book, it's this trope in-universe. Subverted later in the series with new Big Bad Longshadow. It's heavily hinted he's someone the protagonists have faced before, supported by one of his minions turning out to be a previous antagonist and his own habit of going around in a mask and cloak that completely conceals his appearance. When they finally capture him, however, he turns out to be a complete stranger whose history is entirely unconnected to the previous books.
  • Books of Bayern: In the fourth book, Selia shows up again after having supposedly been executed at the end of the first book...and as if that wasn't enough, the same character claims to have been indirectly responsible for the events of books 2 and 3 as well.
  • In The Crystal Prison, the second book in the Deptford Mice trilogy, Nicodemus, the spirit controlling Madam Akkikuyu, turns out to be Jupiter, the evil god from the previous book.
  • Substitute Ganon with Takhisis and you have the entire War of Souls trilogy in the Dragonlance series.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • The first novel, The Silver Eyes, ends with William Afton being killed, and the sequel shows new, deadly animatronics who seemingly have no relation to him. And then it turns out he created them.
    • The Fazbear Frights series originally acts like Afton was long dead by the time the events roll around, with "The Man in Room 1280" even showing how he died. And then it turns out he was a secret, third spirit that was hiding inside the Stitchwraith, the newest animatronic antagonist. He quickly creates a new, stronger animatronic and readies himself to kill Detective Larson. Although in his defence, it was already established a few stories ago that the Stitchwraith is actually the Big Good, rather than the Big Bad, and his return was foreshadowed a bit. This however actually ends up being subverted in Epilogue 7, where William gets Killed Off for Real in one of the most badass moments in the entire franchise, to which it is then revealed William is simply a Big Bad Wannabe who could only become Afton’s Amalgamation with the help of an other evil, which is set up to be the true Big Bad of the novels.
  • Played with a few times in Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, someone called "the Heir of Slytherin" murdered someone fifty years ago, and now the same thing is playing out again. It's eventually revealed that the Heir, Tom Riddle, was a young Voldemort, and a Soul Fragment has come back to do it again. What's interesting is that we eventually confirm that the "real" Voldemort didn't know anything about this, and was actually pissed off, since the Heir's defeat cost him one Soul Jar.
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the only book where Voldemort isn't involved at all, but it does center around one of his servants, Peter Pettigrew.
    • Other than Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the only book where Voldemort doesn't appear, though he is running things in the background. The actual main antagonist is, of all people, Draco Malfoy.
  • Honor Harrington: The genetic-slavers (and Designer Babies) of Mesa and Manpower Inc. have basically been puppeteering the Star Empire of Manticore and the Republic of Haven since near enough the beginning of the series. Their plans are almost Palpatine-esque in their intricacy.
  • James Bond: The original novel of You Only Live Twice. So James Bond needs to get his mojo back after Blofeld got away and murdered his wife out of spite last time. Well, through a complicated series of events, Japan tosses him a relatively easy one: Some loon named Doctor Shatterhand is running a poisonous garden and encouraging suicide. Investigating that should jump-start him out of his funk...dum-da-da-da! It's Blofeld again! And he's crazy!
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday is an interesting example in that "Ganon" is a non-personified antagonist. The opening chapters are about Kitty trying to keep Ben's new lycanthropy infection from driving him to suicide. After the initial crisis is resolved, the resultant Rescue Romance is a B-plot through the remainder of the book. Meanwhile, the A-plot eventually leads Kitty and Ben to The Man Behind the Man. It turns out that neither party can beat the other, so the good guys have to Know When to Fold 'Em. The stress of failure causes Ben to wolf out, and the climax of the novel is Kitty chasing Werewolf-Ben through the woods, trying to find him and calm him down.
  • At least from the perspective of the majority of the world, this is what Satan does to The Antichrist in the Left Behind series.
  • In-universe example — the main threat for most of the Malazan Book of the Fallen is the Crippled God, but in the last few books, his power is usurped by the Forkrul Assail, a Knight Templar race of Abusive Precursors, who intend to use it to scour the world of humanity, which they see as irrepairably corrupt. While the Forkrul Assail hadn't previously appeared as villains in the books themselves, they were a threat from the world's prehistory, so many of the characters, particularly the immortals, see it as this trope.
  • In the The Scarlet Pimpernel series novel Eldorado, for the first sixteen chapters it looks as if the only antagonist will be Citizen Héron, the head of the Committee of General Security. Then, just as Armand is suffering from a Heroic BSoD, the series villain Chauvelin politely taps him on the elbow and asks if he can be of service.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events plays with this:
    • About half the books introduce a new character that turns out to be Count Olaf in disguise; however, the Baudelaires see through it early on and spend the rest of the book trying to convince the bumbling adults in charge.
    • Also used for Olaf's many minions, at least one of whom always accompanies him in his schemes. Weirdly, the children never really are able to recognize them until the very end, despite the fact that the children are usually told that Olaf's minions just showed up in the area recently and they quickly notice suspicious characteristics about them. For example, the Foreman with the bad wig turns out to be the Bald Man With The Big Nose, the doctor with the "unusually solid hands" turns out to be the Hook-Handed Man, and Officer Lucinda with her "lipsticked smile" turns out to be Esme Squalor. It's not until the end of the book that the identities are revealed, which leads to the siblings inevitably trusting the newly-captured Olaf into the hands of the kind, innocent doctor or police officer that they just met.
    • In the last book, there is Ishamel, a man the siblings never heard about from anyone in the vast V.F.D. organization (where everyone seems to know everyone) and who was able to seemingly defeat both the Baudelaires and Olaf — and Kit Snicket. In the end, it also looked like he is the only one of the original people on the island to make it alive to the continent.
  • Duncton Quest: In the sequel to Duncton Wood, the moles of the Stone are faced with the threat of the Word, a cult of crusading murderous moles led by Henbane. However, it is revealed later that Rune, a main enemy from the first book, is actually it's leader and plans to eliminate all Stone believers, and that Henbane is actually his daughter leading his conquest. His legacy also survives onto his grandson Lucerne in the third book Duncton Found. And while Rune dies in Quest, his wickedness lives on through the actions of his followers of the Word and in his grandson's madness.
  • Tsar Gorokh's Detective Agency: Most cases eventually lead back to the Evil Overlord Koschei the Deathless. So much so that the detectives are genuinely surprised when that sometimes turns out to not be the case, like in The Plot of the Black Mass (villain is a demon) and Bride Elimination (villain is an Austrian diplomat). Apparently averted in Tsar Koschei's Black Sword, where Koshei is seemingly killed by the new Big Bad Zmey Gorynych, but then it turns out that Koschei was only Faking the Dead and was behind Zmey all along.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign: While each volume has its own set of antagonists, the White Queen will always be revealed to be behind it all. Justified: she's the strongest being in the setting, so any scheme worth the name will involve her in some capacity. Meanwhile, the Queen is completely obsessed with Kyousuke, so she goes along with any plan that will let her encounter him.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In The Vor Game, the various plots and counterplots wind up being overshadowed by a Cetagandan plot to re-invade Barrayar.
  • Warrior Cats: Sol is probably the only villain in the entire series that isn't somehow connected to Tigerstar. And it's still unclear if he actually was or not.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Throughout The Bible, everyone who commits an act of sin can be said to be tempted by Satan, directly or otherwise. However, the Book of James doesn't buy blaming Satan (or God, for that matter) as a Freudian Excuse:
    When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
  • In Norse Mythology, this gets combined with Hijacked by Jesus; after the Christianization of Norse Mythology, many stories had Loki written to be a more typical villain rather than the Fallen Guile Hero he previously was, leading to one notable example with Baldir's death. Everything in creation (even the flora) have to shed tears to bring the God Baldr back to life, but there is one Frost Giantess who refuses, and as a result, he can't. The Frost Giantess turns out to be Loki, who killed Baldr in the first place, in disguise, both points of which didn't come in until later versions.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In WCW, there was the infamous Sting vs. the Black Scorpion angle. In August 1990, after wrapping up another chapter in his on-again/off-again feud with Ric Flair, Sting started being harassed by a mysterious masked man who spoke with a heavily altered voice. The standard "masked wrestler" plotline quickly got out of control, incorporating bizarre promos, "messengers" that attacked Sting at house shows, and ringside stage illusions. After four months of this nonsense, the Black Scorpion was finally revealed to be...Ric Flair. Behind the scenes, this was an Author's Saving Throw — WCW constantly alluded to the Black Scorpion actually being the Ultimate Warrior in an attempt to get Warrior to jump ship from WWFnote  When it didn't work, they shoehorned Flair in instead.
  • In early 1993 WWE, manager Harvey Wippleman was not happy about how The Undertaker had defeated Wippleman's man Kamala in the Casket Match at Survivor Series 92, leading to Kamala's face turn and siding with Reverend Slick. On the January 16, 1993 (taped December 14, 1992) episode of WWF Superstars, Wippleman announced that the WWF would never be the same after he dropped "the big bomb." At the Royal Rumble, January 24, 1993, Wippleman revealed what "the big bomb" was: the 7'7" (billed as 8'0"), 400 lbs.+ Giant González (real name Jorge González, formerly WCW babyface El Gigante), who interfered in the match and eliminated the Undertaker! May he rest in peace.
  • Another WWE mystery: "Who ran over "Stone Cold" Steve Austin?" Well, the man driving the car was revealed to be Rikishi, whose lame Motive Rant killed any potential heat. Rikishi was so ill-fit for the Heel role that after one month the much better established Triple H was revealed to be The Man Behind the Man. In reality, the mastermind couldn't have been anyone BUT Triple H. Triple H assaults Austin backstage, runs off, lures Austin out into the parking lot, where Rikishi just randomly happens to be in a car in the parking lot ready to run him over. Despite Triple H's insistence right before Rikishi's reveal that he was planning to lead to Austin to a beatdown, the variables are just too unlikely for it to be anybody but Triple H.
  • In 1999, WWE featured a long and convoluted storyline about The Undertaker and his Ministry of Darkness attempting to seize control of WWE from Vince McMahon under the orders of a mysterious figure known only as "The Higher Power". This "Higher Power" turned out to be...Vince McMahon. The Ministry Of Darkness then merged with The Corporation to become the Corporate Ministry, and about five months of storyline were thrown out the window. To be fair, this wasn't the original plan - Mick Foley was originally planned as the higher power, but he turned down the angle because he felt he was too physically broken down to do the angle justice. Going with Vince was Plan B.
  • Molly Holly tried to hijack Victoria by giving her further training and direction, but it didn't work, as she really couldn't control Victoria at all. She later did gain the servitude of Gail Kim by threatening to beat Gail up until she got it.
  • In TNA, "Father" James Mitchell took the Gathering (CM Punk and Julio Dinero) away from Raven, who had originally brainwashed them.
  • In 2003 WWE, Sean O'Haire was starting a Corrupter/Devil's Advocate gimmick, where he would tell people to do unusual or outrageous things, topping it off with his Catchphrase, "I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know." On the February 6th SmackDown! he convinced Brian Kendrick to streak after A-Train Squashed Shannon Moore. On the March 13th show, he convinced Dawn Marie, a Heel herself, to "flash" the crowdnote  Then "Rowdy" Roddy Piper returned to WWE during the Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon match at WrestleMania XIX on March 30th as a heel, attacking both guys. O'Haire got turned into Piper's lackey as part of the whole ridiculous feud with Hogan/Stephanie McMahon/Zach Gowen vs. Vince/Piper/Sable/O'Haire/A-Train/The Big Show and maybe some other people. Even after Piper was fired in June, O'Haire never really got any kind of chance to revisit the gimmick and left in 2004.
  • Legendary manager "Playboy" Gary Hart sent Homicide and Low Ki to attack Terry Funk at MLW Reload on January 10, 2004. Homicide and Funk had issues going back at least one year but this was Hart's retribution for Funk losing the "I Quit" Match to Ric Flair at NWA Clash of the Champions IX on November 15, 1989.
  • Christian did this to WWECW upon his 2009 return. In fact, one could argue that he and Shelton Benjamin were the only reason anyone would watch the show by that point.
  • The Nexus was a group of scorned rookies out for revenge against the mainframe of the WWE...only for them to eventually become lackeys of the already well-established CM Punk, one of the original NXT mentors, after he disposed of their initial leader, Wade Barrett. Barrett would form the Corre in an attempt at revenge.
  • By 2012, the Canadian Ninjas had been campaigning on and off against Cheerleader Melissa for two years. After their attack on SHIMMER Volume 45, it was revealed they were after a bounty put on Melissa by Sweet Saraya, an opponent she hadn't faced in five years.
  • In Ohio Valley Wrestling, it was originally assumed Kevin Thorn had turned Shelly Martinez into the wrestling vampire Ariel but in the lead up to NWA Vendetta Pro's 2013 Immortal Fear event, it was revealed she was instead turned by and still loyal to the much longer established Billy Blade.
  • When Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling was revived in 2015, one of the first things the returning FMW Seikigun had to deal with was NOSAWA's new Monster-gun faction, which would quickly be converted into the W*ING Monster-gun by long established FMW figure W*ING Kanemura.
  • The Undisputed Era's interference in the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic forced O'Reilly and Cole to defend their tag team championships against the tournament's finalists (Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong, and the Authors of Pain) at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans in a match also meant to determine the Classic's winner. Despite Cole forced into double duty after going through a brutal Ladder match to win the NXT North American Championship, they won when Strong betrayed Dunne. This not only allowed the group to win a tournament which they did not participate in, but allowed Strong to technically become a champion by using the Freebird Rule, all by intentionally throwing a match.

    Radio 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who story "Seasons of Fear" it turns out that Sebastian Grayle's masters are the Nimon.
  • Parodied in an Easter Egg on the old Adventures in Odyssey website where, among other tomfoolery, arch-villain Dr. Blackgaard turns out to be the mastermind behind the Novacom Saga...with a possible reference to the fact that there were plans for Mayor Margaret Fey to be the ultimate villain. Somehow.
  • The Quintessential Phase of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy gave Vann Harl the first name "Zarniwoop" and made him a Vogon (one of the aliens that destroyed Earth in the beginning). In the books Vann Harl and Zarniwoop were two unrelated villains with no specified race.

    Tabletop Games 
  • After the release of Infernals in the second edition of Exalted, the Ebon Dragon seemed to have his hand in everything. He created the Unconquered Sun (Okay, that had been there since early first edition). He made contact with the Neverborn for the purposes of creating the Infernal AND Abyssal Exalted. He abducted the Scarlet Empress. He contacted the Viator of Nullspace and set him on his current quest to remake the Great Maker. Certain lines in Return of the Scarlet Empress — the storyline in which one has at least four other Yozis to worry about, along with their own forces and those with the Realm, and he still manages to arise as the clear dominant villain of the entire game — even strongly suggest he was behind the Great Curse.
  • Legend of the Five Rings Gold Edition story arc introduced Daigotsu, the mysterious new lord of the Shadowlands. Daigotsu was able to dispatch the venerable powerhouse characters Toturi and Kyoso no Oni with ease and brought with him never-before-seen monsters such as the Tsuno and Onisu. He even managed to level Rokugan's capital city of Otosan Uchi...at which point he released Fu Leng, the setting's de facto Big Bad from the realm of the dead and who then took on the role of the arc's Final Boss. Interestingly, Daigotsu played an indirect role in Fu Leng's defeat thanks to Hantei Naseru running a successful Batman Gambit on the latter regarding the former's loyalty.
  • Magic: The Gathering had some sets in which Nicol Bolas ended up being behind the plane's big plot. This involvement is no secret for the audience, who can see it plainly, but for people on those worlds he is often an Outside-Context Villain. Some examples:
    • Kaladesh's main conflict revolves around free access to technology and rebellion against the government...but the revelation of a device for inter-planar transport reveals Nicol Bolas' agents have been waiting for exactly this the entire time to steal this technology.
    • Ixalan's factions are obsessed with finding the Immortal Sun, an artifact of incredible power that also keeps plane-hopping planeswalkers imprisoned. The most powerful thing on this plane is actually an ancient trap for Nicol Bolas that never triggered - and now he's stealing it to re-use it for his plans.
  • Warhammer 40,000, especially with later storylines Chaos becomes the main threat not only for humanity and Eldar, but other races as well.
    • The Chaos Gods and their minions tend to show up in the 3rd act of many campaigns and stories to add an additional level of danger. Humans in the setting refer to Chaos as the Primordial Annihilator or the Archenemy.
    • In the Sanctus Reach campaign supplements, the first books cover a war between the Imperium and Orks. The second book, however, ends with the Imperium fighting Daemons that accidentally got summoned by the Orks somehow.
    • With the Great Rift opening, Chaos has flooded most of the galaxy. Including engaging in encounters that didn't involve them at all. Such as Armageddon another Ork vs Imperium world being sieged by Khorne Daemons and the Blood Angels being saved from war with Tyranids because Daemons decided to intervene.
    • This extends to the 40k video games as well, many of which start with a Xenos threat, only for it to have been orchestrated by Chaos Space Marines and Daemons in order to weaken the Imperium for their own invasion.

    Toys 
  • Makuta from BIONICLE got into the habit of this. After the Bohrok arc, it was revealed that he released them in the first place to buy time to recover from his prior defeat. In Metru Nui, he was the mysterious mastermind behind everything. And then when a group of thugs called the Piraka went after a treasure called the Mask of Life, we eventually found that Makuta manipulated them into doing so. Most of the other arcs, though, stated up front that Makuta was at least in charge of the other villains even if he didn't appear personally (with two exceptions - he was unaffiliated with the Barraki, and even quietly supported the heroes against them for his own reasons; and in the first arc on Bara Magna he just plain wasn't involved).

    Webcomics 
  • In Adventurers!, Khrima was the first villain, only to later be hijacked by Eternion. This is parodied, like everything else in Adventurers!, when Khrima and Eternion have an election campaign on who gets to be the Final Boss. Eternion got his boss fight, but Khrima afterward comes from out of nowhere with a Very Definitely Final Dungeon and the Final Boss fight.
  • The "Army Of One" storyline in Dr McNinja, where the antagonist(s) seem to be a bunch of sky pirates who have kidnapped a clone of Doc, but the whole thing is really a plot by Frans "I was pretty sure you were dead" Rayner, the main villain of the D.A.R.E. plotline from years ago.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, the "wraiths" attacking the other dimension in the "Aylee" arc are actually members of Aylee's species, who, not counting Aylee's evil clone, hadn't appeared since Aylee was introduced 10 years previously.
    • Not to mention several dangerous situations set up by demons who appear to be fragments of K'Z'K', the demonic Big Bad from several early arcs.
    • And then there's HeretiCorp, which at least usually has its logo on everything, except during its man-behind-the-man-who-was-actually-behind-the-first-man-anyway plots. Really, it's getting less "Is this _____ or a new enemy?" and more "Is this ____ or ____?"

    Web Original 
  • In Arby 'n' the Chief, Chaos Theosis, the main antagonists of Season 6, were actually working for Trent Donnovich, who was the main antagonist of Season 5.]
  • In Chaos Fighters II-Chemical Siege, after the true villain is revealed as Etphan Signis, when Enrei and Gareia finished him, it was revealed that Thanic Snader, the Big Bad of Cyberion Strike, did everything, including mind-controlling Etphan so that he can leave Etphan doing the dirty work.
  • In Ducktalez 7, The Beagle Boys were run by Julia Roberts, who was reconstructed by Eric Roberts after the sun nearly killed Julia in 3.
  • At the conclusion of Moonstuck, the "Nightmare Woona" who has caused most of the trouble is revealed to actually be Discord.
  • In There Will Be Brawl, we do end up getting a non-Zelda example for the Trope Namer, Ganondorf. Then we're given another example in-universe when he is hijacked by Kirby, who had been a problem to the kingdoms in the past.
  • Parodied in So This Is Basically Legend Of Zelda, which describes Ganondorf as having the evil power of plagiarism and shows him dangling the deed to the Twilight Realm above Zant's head.

 
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