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Interim Villain

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Whenever a Big Bad is defeated, goes missing, or escapes, an Interim Villain is neatly placed between the fall and reemergence of the previous Big Bad.

The Interim Villain introduces a new side of the story via providing a credible antagonist to challenge the characters, without taking anything away from the story in the same way that an Arc Villain might. It might take a while before the fans warm up to an Interim Villain, particularly if you go with the (unrecommended) route of a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.

As another cog in the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, an Interim Villain may range from anywhere between a Breather Boss (by comparison) to a Hero Killer, depending on the portrayal. They can be connected to the previous Big Bad, or they can be completely independent - it's your choice.

In order to spot an Interim Villain, their predecessor must still be at large (including situations involving resurrection or incarceration), and the Interim Villain themselves must return after their own defeat. Their significance to the plot can vary, but it's fine as long as they actually impact the story or characters in some way.

This still counts even when an Interim Villain is placed between the fall of the Disc-One Final Boss and the emergence of his successor. If you pick this scenario, it can sometimes lead to The Big Bad Shuffle or Big Bad Ensemble.

Sub-Trope of Hijacked by Ganon. Compare Filler Villain (inconsequential antagonists meant to drag things along before the meat of the story returns), Villain of Another Story (whose misdeeds are irrelevant to the plot), Lone Wolf Boss (video game boss unconnected to the big bad), Giant Space Flea from Nowhere (video game boss only existing for the sake of game play) and Diabolus ex Nihilo (villain who shows up without foreshadowing and is quickly removed from the plot).

Contrast Arc Villain (standalone antagonists in general), Predecessor Villain (the antagonist of the backstory) and Disc-One Final Boss (who's ousted halfway through the plot).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach introduces these in both canon and in filler.
    • Jin Kariya quickly took over the scene in the anime following Aizen's escape into Hueco Mundo in the previous arc. After Kariya was killed by the end of the Bount arc, Aizen returned for the Arrancar arc. What sets Kariya apart from an Arc Villain is how he returns as a vision to Ichigo, indirectly assisting in getting Ichigo to defeat his Inner Hollow.
    • The Lost Soul Reaper Agent Arc has a villain that is sandwiched between the two major Big Bad villains, Aizen and Yhwach. He had neither the longevity or gravitas of the other two, but he was able to break Ichigo so completely that Ichigo ended up sobbing on his knees begging for his stolen power to be returned. The consequence is the restoration of Ichigo's Soul Reaper powers, allowing Ichigo to come out of his 'retirement' from being a Soul Reaper while also allowing the Gotei 13 to repay their debt to Ichigo for defeating Aizen, by helping him to defeat this interim villain. The villain later returns during the story's final battle to ensure Ichigo has the power required to defeat Yhwach. The Lost Soul Reaper Agent Arc sets up Tsukishima as the villain only to reveal that Ichigo's supposed ally, Ginjo, is the real villain and Tsukishima's boss. Ginjo is later trained by Kuukaku to prepare him for entering the final battle against Yhwach in support of Ichigo. Because the manga was Cut Short due to the creator's failing health, the follow-up light novel Can't Fear Your Own World expands Ginjo's back story, clarifying the full extent of his importance to the wider plot.
  • Death Note had the Yotsuba executives, one of whom was the third Kira, whose Death Note restored Light's memories as the original Kira and led to L's death.
  • Ronin Warriors had some shmo take over as #1 Bad Guy for the handful of episodes after Tulpa was defeated and before he came back.
  • In Fairy Tail, almost every Arc Villain has some connection to one of the series' two primary Myth Arcs, one involving Zeref and the Dark Guilds and the other involving Acnologia and the disappearance of the dragons (which are later revealed to be related). The exception to this is King Faust, the main antagonist of the Edolas arc. He is the tyrannical ruler of an Alternate Universe where the Fairy Tail guildmembers get stuck, and the guild's conflict with him is mostly unrelated to those with Zeref and Acnologia. Additionally, the Edolas arc occurs between the Oracion Seis and Tenrou Island arcs, both of which involve confrontations with the Dark Guilds, specifically Oracion Seis and Grimoire Heart, respectively.
  • Rave Master gives us Pumpkin Doryu, who is the primary antagonist between King's death and Lucia reviving Demon Card.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure LOVES this trope and even loves to play around with it as well as subvert it sometimes. Part 1, has a main villain in the form of Dio Brando, a human-turned-Vampire. In Part II, the main villains were the Pillar Men who were also Greater-Scope Villain for Part I, since these guys created the Stone Masks that Dio used to become a vampire in the first place. In Part III, Dio Brando returns, and is more powerful than ever. And this is actually continued. Part 4 has a Serial Killer as a main villain who is completely unrelated to Dio. Part 5 in many ways subverts it since Giorno is technically Dio's son but he is actually a good guy and a protagonist and actually has no idea of his father's conflict with the Joestars (who have almost no role in this story) or even his existance at all. Main villain is Diavolo, Mafia's boss, who can be argued was in some ways, a Greater-Scope Villain to Part 3 since he was the one who sold Stand Arrows to Dio's servant Enya Geil. But ultimately fully played in straight in Stone Ocean where we go back to focusing on the Joestars/ Cujohs and the main villain being Enricco Pucci, Dio's unseen servant prior to events of Stardust Crusaders who now wants to finish Dio's job, and receate the universe in Dio's image.
  • Digimon Universe: App Monsters gives us Sateramon, who only temporarily takes up his predecessor's, Mienumon's, position as The Heavy before being finally defeated after only a few episodes (he didn't even appear in some of them). After him came Unryūji Knight who is implied by the second OP to be the last major henchmen of Leviathan. Well, not for long.
  • The Titans in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam are the only non-Zeon related villain faction in the Universal Century timeline of the Gundam franchise (not counting the villains in late U.C. works like Mobile Suit Gundam F91 and Mobile Suit Victory Gundam.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: The Mobile Armor Hashmal is one of the few villains in the second season not connected to the Arianrhod Fleet in any way, and takes over the villain for episodes 30-33 while at the same time completely upheaveling the status quo.

  • Power Rangers Wing Force has Queen Uuhcura, who unusually for this trope, is also the Greater-Scope Villain of the story.
  • Ruby and Nora: After the story Field Trip, all of the villains have some connection to Salem and her overarching plan, either by being recruited by her or enabled by her. The only one who doesn't is the villain of Attacks. Harold White is just a self-centered man engineering fake Grimm attacks so he can be the leader of his village while undermining the current village leader, Penwood. This conflict is completely unrelated to the larger Salem plot.

    Film — Animated 
  • Subverted with Sid Phillips in Toy Story 3, where even though he is the villain of the first film and is completely absent in the second, in the third he only appears as a cameo where he is now a garbage man.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Done perfectly with the Joker in The Dark Knight Trilogy. In the first movie Ra's al Ghul is the Big Bad and the leader of the League of Shadows. In the second movie, the League of Shadows is forgotten and the Joker takes over. In the third movie, the Joker is gone while the League of Shadows returns. Even though Ra's is dead, his daughter and Bane are here to finish his job.
  • Friday the 13th: While Jason remains dead throughout Part V, the killings are instead carried out by a copycat killer named Roy Burns. In the novelization for Jason Lives, Tommy Jarvis theorizes that Jason's spirit may have been influencing Burns' actions from beyond the grave.
  • Indiana Jones: While the first and third films both have the Nazis as the antagonists, the second instead has Mola Ram and his cult. Fourth has Soviets but fifth has Nazi Remnant who want to go back in time and turn World War II in Nazi favor.
  • James Bond
    • The title character of Goldfinger, the only villain from the Connery and Lazenby films who had no connection with SPECTRE.
    • Also, in the new Daniel Craig movies, the Big Bad is technically Mr. White, though he disappears at the beginning of Quantum of Solace and is not even mentioned in Skyfall. In Quantum of Solace, we have Dominic Greene as the Big Bad while in Skyfall it is Raoul Silva's turn. Mr. White returned in the next film, Spectre. Ultimately, subverted in that the real Big Bad proved to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld and all the villains, including Mr. White, were Spectre muscle doing his dirty work. The final villain of the Craig era, No Time to Die's Lyutsifer Safin, doesn't work for Spectre but wipes them out instead, out of revenge.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Avengers has Loki and Chitauri as the main villains, with the ending revealing that Thanos was the true Man Behind the Man who set everything in motion as part of a plot to claim the Infinity Stones. Thanos returns (this time in person) as the main threat of Avengers: Infinity War, the third entry in the series. While the second movie contains a continuation of the Infinity Stones subplot to some degree, it is Ultron who is the main villain, rather than Thanos or another of his underlings.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) has Ronan the Accuser as the main villain, but like Loki he is backed by Thanos before the former decides to rebel against him. The Guardians appears in the aforementioned Avengers: Infinity War teaming up with the Avengers to face the Mad Titan himself. Prior to that the Guardians battle against Ego the Living Planet, Peter's father, and the main villain in their second movie, who not only lacks any affiliation with Thanos or his underlings, but also doesn't feature the Infinity Stones subplot in any degree, unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie had Hector Barbossa as the main antagonist, while Davy Jones becomes the prime villain for the second. In a subversion, Barbossa becomes the Sixth Ranger in the following film, Jones himself is Demoted to Dragon and Cutler Beckett (villain of the third movie) is the archetypal Big Bad for the original trilogy. As a further subversion in the fourth and fifth movies Barbossa leads a seperate faction that is antagonistic to the heroes but is not the Big Bad, and in both they get forced into Enemy Mine alliances.
  • Star Wars:
    • In the prequel trilogy, Darth Sidious is the Man Behind the Man for Nute Gunray and Rune Haako during Episode I. In Episode III, he establishes himself as the Galactic Emperor, wipes out the Jedi Order and reorganized The Republic into The Empire. In Episode II, he had a minor role (even as Chancellor Palpatine), whereas Count Dooku was given more screen time and treatment as a Big Bad, but in a subversion, Sidious was the one that pushed for the formation of Dooku's organization (the Confederacy), and intentionally placed Dooku as a scapegoat while he pulled the strings from the shadows. Furthermore, the threat of the Separatists prompted the development of the Clone Army, later known as the Imperial Stormtroopers.
    • The third film also had another interim villain in the form of General Grievous, who takes over as leader of the CIS from Dooku when the latter is killed. Grievous mostly exists to serve as an adversary until Palpatine is confronted at last.
    • For the first two films of the Sequel Trilogy, the entire First Order end up serving as the new villains in the wake of the downfall of Palpatine's Empire. In The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine is ultimately revealed to have survived his apparent demise at the end of the previous trilogy and ends up taking command of the First Order. It's a bit downplayed, however, in that it's revealed he was behind their actions the entire time, letting Snoke and Kylo Ren serve as his Puppet Kings.
  • In Exam, Brown acts far more antagonistic while White is in his coma.

  • The Artemis Fowl series takes this to some unusual extremes with the Big Bad of every even-numbered instalment being a returning Opal Koboi, and various unrelated villains each serving as the Big Bad for each odd-numbered book (except for the first book, where the Big Bad, essentially, is Artemis himself).
  • Harry Potter examples:
  • Done in Power of Three, the third arc of Warrior Cats. The Big Bad of the arc, Sol the traveler, leaves the lake about halfway through Long Shadows. The role of main villain is then shifted to Ashfur, in one of the biggest Wham Episodes of the series. This villain has a major effect on the heroes and even causes Hollyleaf's Face–Heel Turn, before being defeated and causing the characters who didn't know of Ashfur's villain status to bring Sol back to the lake and try him for Ashfur's murder. Interestingly enough, the villain of Power of Three ended up being an Interim Villain himself, meant to carry the story (and introduce massive changes) while Tigerstar and Brokenstar gathered their power to rise up in Omen of the Stars.
  • In Stephen King's Mercedes Triology; Brady Hartfield is the Big Bad of the first and third books. In the second one however, he only makes a few appearances while he's (seemingly) in a vegetative state after getting his skull bashed in in the climax of the first book, and in his absence the protagonists deal with a new villain: Morris Bellamy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The strongest Buffy the Vampire Slayer example is perhaps the Anointed One in Season 2, who takes over for and tries to resurrect the Master, the previous season's Big Bad, and is subsequently used to introduce Spike... who promptly kills him.
    • This happened fairly often: Mr. Trick was replaced by Faith and the Mayor, The Trio gave way to Dark Willow, Spike (Season 2) was eclipsed by Angelus, etc.
  • Chouseishin Gransazer: The Bosquito is fought in a mini-arc that comes after the heroes' last battle with Logia and before their confrontation with the Big Bad. The Bosquito itself doesn't leave that much of an impact, but its appearance does trigger a number of plot revelations and developments.
  • Doctor Who:
    • During Russell T. Davies' tenure as showrunner, the Daleks were the main villains in the first and fourth series, while sharing and ultimately stealing the spotlight from the Cybermen in the second series. In the third, The Master takes over the limelight.
    • In the Eleventh Doctor's era the main villains were the Silence, except for Series 7, where instead the Great Intelligence was the Big Bad for that season.
  • Gotham: Unlike the other Big Bads found on Season 3, Jerome Valeska is the only one to not use the Tetch virus for his crime and appears right in the middle of the season after the GCPD finally arrest Jervis Tetch and curing the city of his virus but right before the Court of Owls use said virus from their own nefarious plans.
  • The Dogma Kingdom in Kamen Rider Super-1 and Gorgom in Kamen Rider BLACK are the only evil organizations in Showa-era Kamen Rider not to have an explicit connection with the series Big Bad, the Great Leader, who either directly led or was pulling the strings behind most of the evil organizations the Kamen Riders faced.
    • While the final arc of Kamen Rider W sets up the nebulous Foundation X to be the overarching villains of the Neo-Heisei era, the next season Kamen Rider OOO doesn't feature them at all and instead deals with threats wholly unrelated to them (a group of ancient homunculus and a renegage Mad Scientist). Kamen Rider Fourze sees Foundation X make a proper return as the benefactors to the Zodiarts.
  • Power Rangers: In some seasons the first Big Bad's replacement turns out to be an Interim Villain, and the original comes back by the finale even though they were defeated earlier in the story.
  • The BBC version of Robin Hood had the original Sheriff of Nottingham apparently killed off part-way through the third series, and replaced (both as Sheriff and as the show's main villain) by a Canon Foreigner named Isabella. Isabella was seemingly beaten in the penultimate episode, just in time for the original Sheriff to turn up as the head of Prince John's army in the Grand Finale.
  • Storage Wars: Early in Season 3, Dave is kept off the show by other business interests. Filling his role as antagonist is Jeff Jarred, whose hook is that he believes that auctioneer Dan shows favoritism towards the more established buyers.
  • Supernatural:
    • Meg is this in Season 1, who is the daughter/henchwoman of the Big Bad Yellow-eyed demon. She is sent back to Hell in the Season Finale, which infuriates the Yellow-Eyed Demon.
    • Eve, the mother of all monsters, is set up to be the Big Bad of Season 6, only to be defeated rather quickly in an episode that reveals that Crowley and Castiel are the big bads of the season, as they are working together to defeat Raphael.
  • Super Sentai:
  • In Season 2 of Twin Peaks, BOB suffers a setback (his host being discovered) that forces him into hiding. As the protagonists attempt to track him down, Wyndom Earle shows up to do the same while also committing a string of murders. The final confrontation with Earle also reintroduces BOB, who takes Earle's soul, saving Annie, but also takes over Cooper's body. Then the show ended. Two-and-half-decades later, BOB is the main villain of The Return, more active than ever.
  • Daredevil (2015): Season 1 features Wilson Fisk as the main villain, with the Hand being first introduced as an associate gang of Fisk's. At the end of the season, Fisk is arrested and sent to prison. Season 2 focuses on the Punisher and the Hand, and the power vacuum that's opened up as a result of Fisk being arrested. Fisk even makes a brief two-episode arc where he takes a step towards rebuilding his criminal empire by using Frank to murder the head of a prison contraband gang who insulted him. He also begins investigating Matt after Matt threatens his relationship with Vanessa. Season 3 then returns to featuring Fisk as the main villain front and center, where we see that the events of his little Season 2 arc were him biding his time as he waited for his long-term manipulations of Ray Nadeem to run their course, so he could manipulate the FBI into letting him out of prison.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Valifornia Power Stable, at least from the perspective of champions Ivelisse Vélez and Mia Yim, were the interim antagonists of SHINE while Valkyrie got its act together following the loss of both its leaders and having to deal with the unexpected return of Jessicka Havok.

  • The Bohrok swarms of BIONICLE. Before their introduction, Makuta had just been defeated by the heroes and disappears. Shortly after their story arc was finally wrapped up with the defeat of the Bohrok-Kal, Makuta returns to the spotlight. Although it was later confirmed via Retcon that Makuta was responsible for awakening the Bohrok, he did so to distract the Toa and thus buy himself some time to recover from his previous loss, thus directly invoking this trope.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Season 1 of DOTA: Dragon's Blood has Big Bad Ensemble between Selemene and Terrorblade and The Invoker, but the fallout from season finale more or less forces them to fade to background, aside an occassional advancement of their plans, until opening episodes of season three, when things finally come to fruition as The Invoker directly or indirectly gets both Selemene and Terrorblade killed, taking over as the Big Bad. In meantime, the main villain of season two ends up being Chancellor Kasshura a.k.a. the Void Dragon, who is revealed as the Greater-Scope Villain of Mirana's backstory.
  • Daemon served as the Big Bad for the final season of ReBoot until she was defeated, and Megabyte returned from being banished to the Web at the end of the previous season.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), Slade was the Big Bad for the first two seasons, until his death at the end of the second. Brother Blood takes over as the Big Bad for the third season, but he works like an Arc Villain and a Filler Villain (not a single mentioning or appearance other than his four episodes), so how is he included here? The H.I.V.E organization was already in existence in prior seasons, Slade himself returned in full on the fourth season, and Blood's defeat led to the H.I.V.E. Five striking out on their own as an independent team.
  • In Winx Club, the Trix are the main villains in the first season, and they're still major villains in seasons 2 and 3. They're absent in season 4, and the Wizards of the Black Circle take over their role as the primary enemies of the Winx. After they're beaten, the Trix make a return in season 5.