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Overarching Villain

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"You bested me in many worlds, child, but I always return."
The Lich to Finn, Adventure Time, "Whispers"

As Arc Villain is to Story Arc, Overarching Villain is to Myth Arc. This is a villain who sticks around for the entire series or at least the majority of it, overlapping any story arcs. Because of that, they usually have a big role in the Myth Arc. The villain doesn't have to stick around for the whole series, but they must be around for a significant portion of it.


Sometimes, an Overarching Villain will be behind an Arc Villain or Monster of the Week if that villain is working for/being manipulated by them. This can result in the story being Hijacked by Ganon if the Overarching Villain has been introduced previously.

Not to be confused with Big Bad. The Big Bad is the villain who directly causes the bad things that the heroes are in conflict with. This is merely a villain who has a role for the entire series or at least a significant portion. While the Overarching Villain is often the Big Bad of an entire Myth Arc, they could simply be a frequently recurring villain.

May overlap with Arch-Enemy, the hero's most personal and recurring enemy. Compare/contrast Arc Villain, a villain who is around for a single story arc. Contrast Monster of the Week, a villain who is around for one episode. If the Overarching Villain is only indirectly involved, but is a greater threat than the current Big Bad, then they are a Greater-Scope Villain (again, not all Myth Villains are GSV).



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Freeza. In the original story, he was not this, being just another Arc Villain. The franchise's revival in the 2010s has turned him into this via Dragon Ball Super and associated movies. He is now the Big Bad of two story arcs (the Namek arc in Z and the Golden Freeza arc in Super) and two movies (Dragon Ball Super: Broly and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’), his direct expies with the same appearance/personality/voice actor (Frost and Chilled) are side villains in another arc (the Champa arc in Super) and an OVA (Episode of Bardock) respectively, and he's a Villain Protagonist in yet another arc (the Universe Survival arc in Super). Anime filler also had him recurring quite a bit in the original adaptation (though only as a joke).
    • Vegeta is this for the post-Piccolo portion of the story up until the end of the original manga (or the Z anime).
      • He's the direct Arc Villain of the Saiyan arc. Raditz, Nappa, and the Saibamen are his minions and the entire plot is kicked off by his gang trying to recruit Goku for their next planetary conquest. He's the first villain to be genocidal on an interstellar scale, and the first one who possesses the ability and the willingness to outright blow up the Earth.
      • In the Namek arc, he serves as a side villain in the Mêlée à Trois of the early portions. The heroes are as scared of him as they are of Frieza's goons and constantly have to play a cat and mouse game with him; he also is just as villainous as Frieza's group as shown when he slaughters a Namekian village. Even when he does agree to team up with them against Frieza towards the end, it's purely out of self-interest and they still try to actively screw each other over (e.g. Vegeta abandons Goku to the Ginyus after being healed and hopes they'll weaken each other so he can take out the survivor while he's looking for the dragon balls). You never really doubt that he'll kill them all the moment Frieza is out of the picture.
      • In the Cell arc, he's a Villain Protagonist, emphasis on the villain. He shows Pragmatic Villainy in not messing with the heroes anymore when Frieza is gone and he has a free bed and training room, but at the same time, he is still 100% evil as he notes himself. When the goals of the heroes diverge from his, he flat-out threatens to murder them (as seen when Bulma proposes stopping the release of the androids), as shown when he almost blows up Krillin at Gero's lab or when he states he'll kill anyone who tries to stop the androids from being created. He ultimately becomes responsible for the final conflict when he outright attacks Trunks and 18 in order to help Cell absorb her and ascend to his perfect form.
      • In the Buu arc, he has seemingly mellowed out, building off the end of the Cell Games. This is quickly reversed when Babidi offers Vegeta great power in return for abandoning his morals. He agrees without hesitation and then blows up an entire stadium full of people just to force Goku into fighting him. They then engage in a battle to the death, despite Vegeta fully knowing that doing so will release Majin Buu. Directly because of Vegeta's actions, Buu gets released and the titular arc ensues. He doesn't cement his Heel–Face Turn until the end of the arc, whereupon he loses the role of the Overarching Villain going into Super.
  • Death Note: The Shinigami are by far the most recurring villains in the entire franchise. While they have a bizarre morality, they are a race of extra-dimensional beings who survive by killing humans to extend their own lives. They are gods of death who are the reason why the Kiras are rampant in the Death Note universe, the last of them being C-Kira from the Death Note One-Shot Special; why the notebooks titled Death Note exists, and why Light Yagami is, well... Kira. Their influence is so powerful that even Beyond Birthday, the Big Bad of the prequel novel Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Case, owns the eyes of these creatures.
  • InuYasha has Naraku, a half-demon who is responsible for the protagonist's plight, making him the most personal foe. While he's committed to his evil plan to gather the shards of the Sacred Jewel and corrupt it, his For the Evulz tendencies make him responsible for almost every bad thing Inuyasha, Kagome, and their companions face.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has the Incubators, with the most well-known one being the cute, but manipulative Kyubey (though they’re technically all the same). They are the cause of the Magical Girl's strife, making them responsible for the appearance of Witches. Even if they aren't the direct cause of the conflict in the story, an Incubator will still make an appearance and be involved in some way.
  • One Piece:
    • Blackbeard spent several arcs (most of the time offscreen) planning to become strong to be a Pirate King, which involves recruiting several powerful people to his pirate crew and, with Dark-Dark Fruit's power, gains Whitebeard's Tremor-Tremor Fruit's power and then taking over Whitebeard's position as one of the Four Emperors (4 strongest pirate crew in the world). And after the Time Skip it's hinted that he has gained more fruit powers, and he has expanded his pirate crew into lots of fleets.
    • Donquixote Doflamingo as well. Aside from being introduced as one of the 7 Warlords of the Sea, he was The Man Behind the Man for the Arc Villain of the Jaya Arc, the owner of the slave house which caused all the issues in the Sabaody Arc, a direct enemy in the Marineford Arc helping a different Big Bad, and The Man Behind the Man for the Punk Hazard Arc. He's the Big Bad of the Dressrosa Arc.
    • The Marines as a group are the most consistent threat the Straw Hats face in their adventures, usually as Mooks and Mini Bosses. They act as direct enforcers of the World Government, the story's Greater Scope Villains.
  • This is the role of Dark Bakura from Yu-Gi-Oh!. Though, in the manga at least, he doesn't appear until the third story arc (this was before Duelist Kingdom, when the story arcs were short), he sticks around for the rest of the series, working out his mysterious plan. Because of this, Dark Bakura is considered to be the Big Bad of the series.
  • Tobi aka Obito Uchiha from Naruto. He was the Big Bad throughout nine arcs, note  but his actions spread to other arcs as well. Almost every antagonist in the series were either the result of his actions (Zabuza and Haku) or his pawns (all members of Akatsuki) or were with him in ensemble (Orochimaru and Danzo) or duumvirate (Kabuto and Madara). He lost his Big Bad status only in the final arc, but even then, he is still around for most of the arc.
  • Assassination Classroom has Shiro, aka Kotaro Yanagisawa, who is pretty much the Big Bad of the Myth Arc, being responsible for Koro-sensei's transformation into what he is, the reason he will explode in a year, the explosion that destroyed most of the moon, and the death of Aguri Yukimura.
  • Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. He's the Big Bad of Part 1 and 3, and while he's killed off at the end of Part 3, his actions while alive still indirectly influences the following parts in various ways. Especially in Part 6, where the Big Bad is one of his followers who wanted to realize his goals. May not apply anymore, as the series experienced a Continuity Reboot from Part 7 onwards. His counterpart is a borderline Anti-Hero, albeit with a case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, but at the end of the day more The Rival and an arguable tritagonist than anything, though an alternate universe counterpart introduced after his death as the Final Boss is a much more straightforward Expy of Part 3's DIO, and even he's a case of Dragon Their Feet. He doesn't have much impact on Part 8, set over a century later, either.
  • Team Rocket from Pokémon always chase after Ash to get his Pikachu. They have been around since the second episode, and they are still pursuing Ash. Even when more competent villains upstage them, they still stick around.
  • Vicious from Cowboy Bebop. Vicious is heavily involved in Spike's past, which itself is a big part of the otherwise episodic show's Myth Arc. Whenever Vicious shows up, the episode is always bound to be very deep and personal for the hero and he stays around from his introduction in episode five to the very end, where he and Spike seem to kill one-another.
  • Bleach: Sosuke Aizen, the Big Bad of the first half of the series. While he didn't debut until the Soul Society arc, it is gradually revealed throughout the following arcs that he has masterminded all the events prior to that, deliberately manipulating everyone to achieve his own ends — the final arc goes as far to show that Ichigo wouldn't have been conceived if not for Aizen. Though he was defeated at the series' halfway-point, he remains a driving force to the end, and plays a pivotal role in the Final Battle.
  • Tokyo Ghoul has three:
    • The One-Eyed Owl is the leader of the ghoul supremacist Aogiri Tree- as such, many of the ghoul villains are working for him, and the CCG villains are working against him. Even after being defeated at the end of the third part, her influence remains.
    • The mysterious Kichimura Wasshu is responsible for the incident that turned protagonist Kaneki into a ghoul, works for/manipulates pretty much every faction in the series, and winds up being the Final Boss.
    • Chairman Tsuneyoshi Wasshu is the Greater-Scope Villain who is responsible for everything in the series, as he works with Ancient Conspiracy V to keep the status quo of humans vs ghouls, which puts him in direct conflict with the Owl/Eto, and Kichimura/Furuta is his Bastard Bastard son who sook revenge for what he did to him and Rize.
  • Date A Live has Sir Issac Ray Peram Westcott. While he doesn't appear until Volume 5, Westcott is basically the catalyst of the entire series. He send Mana Takamiya to the AST in Volume 3, send the White Licorice to Japan in Volume 4, and it is confirmed in Volume 17 that he summoned the First Spirit and caused dozens of Spirits to appear on Earth, making him responsible for the creation of AST, Ratatoskr, and the Spacequakes.

    Comic Books 
  • Grant Morrison 's run on X-Men had Sublime, a body-hopping sentient bacteria colony responsible for spreading anti-mutant prejudice in humanity since the dawn of civilization.
  • Hellboy:
    • The Ogdru Jahad, a group of Eldritch Abominations Hellboy was initially placed on Earth to summon, and spends the series stopping cultists of theirs from finishing the job.
    • Grigori Rasputin is the most prominent of the Ogdru Jahad's acolytes, and Hellboy's most personal foe, as the one who summoned him to Earth in the first place. While he's killed in The Conqueror Worm, his acolytes remain a thorn in the BPRD's side.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • The Emperor Sheev Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious. In the prequel trilogy, he initiates Anti-Hero Anakin Skywalker's Start of Darkness as part of his plot to sieze power, often allowing other bad guys such as Darth Maul, Count Dooku, or General Grievous to do the antagonizing. In the original trilogy, he is the mostly unseen Big Bad leading The Empire, and by extension in the sequel trilogy, is the indirect inspiration for the First Order's scheming, forever leaving his mark on the galaxy. He's even revealed in The Rise of Skywalker to have somehow been resurrected and is The Man Behind the Man to the First Order, cementing his position as Overarching Villain for all three generations of the Skywalker Saga.
    • Even Darth Vader himself ends up an example of this trope after the rise of the Galactic Empire. He is Dragon-in-Chief to Grand Moff Tarkin's Big Bad in A New Hope, ther Big Bad in The Empire Strikes Back, and is simply The Dragon (with shades of Anti-Villain) to Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. The prequel trilogy doesn't technically have him, but rather continues to give us hints at the villain he will eventually become. Vader as we know him doesn't show up until the last few scenes of Episode Three. However, as the face of the empire and an infamous part of the Skywalker family, his legacy of darkness inevitably lead to influencing his grandson to try and be like him.
    • Kylo Ren is this for the Resistance Era of the Skywalker Saga, especially after he gives himself a Klingon Promotion over his master and assumes his position as Supreme Leader of the First Order as of The Last Jedi. Of course, then he gets hijacked by Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker.
  • In the X-Men Film Series, Magneto appears in almost every film and is a major enemy, but is only the Big Bad in X-Men and to a lesser extent X-Men: The Last Stand (he shares bad guy duties with Phoenix). The other films that feature the character all have different main villains, with Magneto often helping the X-Men while plotting a way to manipulate the situation to his advantage. That's when he isn't simply acting as an Anti-Hero.
  • Transformers Film Series: Megatron is a major villain in each film, but is only the Big Bad in the first film and in a Big Bad Duumvirate with Sentinel Prime in Dark of the Moon. Even when the Autobots are confronting another enemy, Megatron is always plotting to turn the situation to his advantage. To hammer the point home, his death in Dark of the Moon is only temporary and he returns as Galvatron.
  • Blofeld was the Greater-Scope Villain for most of the first batch of Bond films (with the exception of Goldfinger), but an enduring legal battle that started between Ian Fleming and Kevin McClorynote  extended to the production team behind the Bond films, Eon Productions (Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, then Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson), and prevented them from using both Blofeld and SPECTRE after Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, forcing them to rely on Blofeld Expies and various other one-shot villains for more than 40 years.
    • The legal troubles ended once and for all in 2013, when Eon bought the rights to McClory's estate, which directly led to the official return of Spectrenote  and Blofeld in the aptly named Spectre in 2015, with a new backstory, as they are now part of the Daniel Craig continuity.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thanos, with his plan to gather the Infinity Stones overarching all of the movies in Phases 1-3. He serves as the Greater-Scope Villain in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, then as the Big Bad in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
    • HYDRA also acts as this on a global scale, whenever Thanos or another villain isn't the Big Bad. They are most recurring villains faced by the good guys throughout the movies and shows.
    • Loki has this role in the Thor sub-franchise of films. In Thor, he is the main villain after the Decoy Antagonist Laufey takes a backseat. In Thor: The Dark World, Malekith and the Dark Elves are the villains and Loki is mostly helping Thor until the very end when he is revealed to have faked his death in order to seize the throne of Asgard. His story also extended into The Avengers. His actions in The Dark World also cause the plot of Thor: Ragnarok to happen, since they led to Odin's death, releasing Hela, who conquers Asgard in under an hour.
  • Pazuzu is this for the Exorcist franchise, serving as the Big Bad of the first two films and both prequels, as well as having an active role in the TV series. He is also implied to be the Greater-Scope Villain of The Exorcist III, although Director and author of the original books William Peter Blatty has hinted that the events of the movie may actually be the work of Satan himself. The only installment he definitely does not play a direct role in is The Ninth Configuration, although that film is only tangentially connected to the rest of the series anyway.
  • Michael Myers is this for the Halloween films, being both the face of the franchise and the main threat of almost every installment, with the exception of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, where the role of Big Bad is instead fulfilled by Conal Cochran. One could also make the case that the Man in Black serves as the true villain of the Jamie Lloyd arc, although Michael at least still serves an active role in those installments.
  • The Hellraiser movies have Pinhead. In the first film, he was more of a supporting villain, while Frank and Julia Cotton serve as the main threats. He wasn't even given an actual name in the film, instead being credited as simply "Lead Cenobite". However, his memorable design and Doug Bradley's awesomely creepy performance led to him reappearance in the film's sequel. Even then, however, the role of Big Bad belonged to Channard, with Leviathan acting as the Greater-Scope Villain and even Frank and Julia getting in on the action. Pinhead was once more relegated to a comparatively minor role, although he was still given a decent character arc that ended with him performing a Heroic Sacrifice to save Kirsty. Nevertheless, the character continued to grow in popularity, and starting with the third film, became the default villain of the series. This is actually considered by fans to be where the series jumped the shark, as it meant undoing his Character Development from the second film and resulted in him becoming a significantly less interesting villain.
  • The Saw films have Jigsaw. An interesting example in that he was killed off at the end of the third movie. From Saw IV through Saw 3D, the role of Big Bad was actually fulfilled by Detective Hoffman, while Jigsaw reveals Logan Nelson to be Jigsaw's latest successor. Even in those films, however, Jigsaw continues to appear in flashbacks, and it is made clear that the events of each film are all according to his increasingly elaborate plans.
  • The Strangers series revolves around the Strangers themselves, terrorizing various people for no apparent reason.

  • Artemis Fowl has Opal Koboi from the second book onwards to the very last book. The fourth book, The Opal Deception, is named after her.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has Count Olaf. No matter where the Baudelaires go, Olaf will be there to try and take them so as to get their fortune. Even when he loses everything, from his henchman to his benefactors, Olaf still plagues the Bauldelaires until his death.
  • Duncton Wood: Rune, possibly. He returns in its sequel Duncton Quest through his leadership as Master of the cruel cult of the Word, led by his daughter Henbane in his conquest to destroy all believers in the Stone, which serves as the main conflict in the two sequel books. After his death in Quest, his legacy continues through his grandson Lucerne in the final book Duncton Found, and provided with flashbacks and quotes through the words of his followers about wanting to become divine through his family line, he seems to be the closest to the ultimate villain in the Duncton Chronicles.
  • Harry Potter: Voldemort. He appears in person in only five of the seven books (pulling a Hijacked by Ganon in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) but he's behind the events of the other two (specifically, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) as well.
  • Tigerstar in Warrior Cats. He dies toward the end of the first arc, but shows up in the Warriors equivalent of hell and remains a major villain until his spirit is killed and he is gone forever at the end of the fourth arc, which was originally intended to be the last arc following the main storyline. He also has a role in several of the side works, including Bluestar's Prophecy, the Tigerstar and Sasha, and The Rise of Scourge mangas, and a POV novella titled Tigerclaw's Fury.
  • The New Jedi Order series has Nom Anor. Introduced in the first book working alongside Starter Villain Prefect Da'Gara, he survives Da'Gara's downfall and becomes the single most recurring antagonist throughout the series, continuing to plague the heroes at numerous points, and even becoming a pseudo-Starscream later on. He even ends up outliving both the Big Bad and The Man Behind the Man, albeit just barely.
  • Luke Castellan and Kronos in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The latter only has a big role in the last two books, but the Big Bads of the first three are his servants.
  • President Snow in The Hunger Games. He's not really a direct antagonist in the first, but he's still at the head of the tyrannical government that created the Games to begin with. He's the outright Big Bad in the second, and a Disc-One Final Boss to Alma Coin in the third.
  • Octavia au Lune and The Jackal in Red Rising. Much like President Snow, Octavia is a Greater-Scope Villain in her series' first book, Big Bad in the second, and Disc-One Final Boss in the third. The Jackal, by contrast, is the Big Bad of Red Rising, an ally to the heroes in Golden Son, and Dragon Ascendant in Morning Star.
  • The Alex Rider books have the Nebulous Evil Organisation Scorpia (which is an acronym for Sabotage, Corruption, Intelligence and Assassination). They were introduced in the fifth book of the original nine-story run (having been briefly mentioned in the ending of the fourth), but were revealed to have played a major part in the series' backstory (which is carried over to the Prequel Russian Roulette), as well as also turning out to be The Man Behind the Man in the first book. They recur in the seventh book, Snakehead, and the originally intended final volume, Scorpia Rising. The organisation disbands following its third and final defeat at Alex's hands, and this was meant to be one of the big indications that the series was now over. A few years later, author Anthony Horowitz decided to revive the series, and the first new book involves Alex tracking down the final members of the organisation's executive board who are still at large.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 has Charles Logan in the second half of the series. He isn't introduced until Season 4 and only serves as the main antagonist for two seasons, the fifth and eighth, but several of his actions still result in fallout in later seasons even if he is personally absent. Notably, Tony's entire revenge crusade during the seventh season stems from the fallout of the Sentox conspiracy that he was a part of, and Jack's entire tiff with Cheng Zhi in Season 6 and Live Another Day comes from an incident late in the fourth season, one that would never have occured had Logan not screwed up Jack's attempt to finally capture that season's main villain a few episodes prior.
  • American Horror Story:
    • Satan himself is one for the entire series excluding Coven, Freak Show and Roanoke. He is the Big Bad of Asylum and the Greater-Scope Villain of Murder House, Hotel and Apocalypse. He has corrupted and seduced the owners and denizens of the Murder House and Hotel Cortez for decades, making them give into their sins and commit heinous acts (Which could also include corrupting Tate considering he was born and died in that house). He possesses Tate in order to impregnate Vivian with The Anti-Christ who grows up to be the Big Bad of Apocalypse Michael who starts the apocalypse in Satan's name. However given that Michael is killed and the timeline is reset, it's uknown whether or not the Devil is even still a player in the story anymore.
  • Arrowverse
    • Arrow:
      • Malcolm Merlyn. He's the one villain who's always around. He started off as the Big Bad of Season 1 where he antagonized Oliver Queen as The Hood and earned the title of being his Arch-Enemy. He makes a return in Season 2 where he lurks around after discovering Thea is his daughter and gets hunted by Ra's al-Ghul. He returns to the position of Big Bad in Season 3 where he brings Team Arrow into his conflict with Ra's al-Ghul by making a mind controlled Thea kill Sara Lance. He then becomes Ra's al-Ghul himself where he is a sometimes ally of Team Arrow before he gets dethroned causing him to run to the safety of new Big Bad Damien Darhk before abandoning him when Darkh goes nuts. Then in Legends of Tomorrow season 2 (occurring alongside Arrow season 5), he goes on to join the Legion of Doom where the Legends have to deal with him. After the Legion is defeated and he's sent back, he gets involved with the final quarter of season 5 during the war against Prometheus. Even with his apparent death in Season 5's finale, his influence still lingers, with Season 6's reveal that he recruited loyalists from the defunct League to form a new group, the Thanatos Guild.
      • The League of Assassins. With the exception of Slade Wilson, every single major villain on the show has had some link with the League. Season 1 Big Bad Malcolm fled to Nanda Parbat after the death of his wife, joining the League and rising through the ranks to become The Enforcer (known as "horseman") to Ra's al Ghul before departing to commence his plans for the Undertaking. Season 4's Damien Darhk was a former friend and rival to Ra's al Ghul and started his own organization in H.I.V.E., and Ra's himself was the main villain for Season 3. Even after Ra's was killed at the end of Season 3 and the League itself was permanently disbanded in Season 4, their impact is still felt. Talia al Ghul, Oliver's former mentor, has created her own pseudo-League, and aligned herself and taught fellow Season 5 villain Prometheus to get revenge on Oliver for the deaths of their respective fathers. And then there's the above-mentioned Thanatos Guild.
    • The Flash (2014): Eobard Thawne, Barry's first Arch-Enemy and the Big Bad of Season 1, whose impact on Barry's life has influenced his actions both directly and indirectly. Eobard grew up idolizing the Flash, eventually driving him to recreate the events that gave Barry his powers, only to be driven insane by the revelation that he was meant to become his idol's Arch-Enemy. He thus began his career as a supervillain by attacking Barry late into his career as a superhero. Then, fifteen years before the start of the series, Eobard traveled back in time and changed the timeline by killing Nora Allen, ensuring that her son Barry never became the Flash (he was originally there to kill Barry himself, but Future Barry, who was chasing after him, managed to get his younger self out of the line of fire). However, doing so ensured that a younger Eobard was never inspired to imitate the circumstances that gave the Flash his Super Speed in order to get his own, causing the current one to lose his own powers and leaving him stranded in the past (it's also implied the Speed Force did this deliberately to punish him for murdering Nora). In order to get back home, Eobard would have to ensure Barry would become his childhood hero and future Arch-Enemy. As their timelines are reverses of each other, and forever intertwined thanks to Eobard's actions, Barry Allen and Eobard Thawne can never be truly free of each other, a fact that only causes them to hate each other more.
  • Babylon 5 has The Shadows, the main villains of three of the show's five seasons (from halfway through season 1 to halfway through season 4) and driving the plot forward. Even after directly disappearing, their allies and servants (the Clarke administration and the Drakh) serve as villains for the remainder of the show.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Walter White. As the undisputed Villain Protagonist of the entire series, he has been a recurring threat since the beginning of the series, causing a lot of problems both direct and indirect by his own actions.
    • Gustavo "Gus" Fring as well. He is one of the few antagonists of the show who stayed alive for more than one season. He is also Walt's greatest enemy.
  • Covert Affairs: Lena is this in season three, Henry Wilcox in season four.
  • In Deadly Games, the hero, Gus, designs a video game that comes to life. Each episode was basically playing one level and defeating one boss, but there was also a boss-like Big Bad named Jackal (played by Christopher Lloyd) who also was in every episode, and was supposed to be the ultimate boss.
  • The overarching villain of Dexter is the titular Dexter Morgan, though most seasons have him opposing an Arc Villain who is more evil than he is.
  • The closest that Doctor Who has to a Myth Arc is that the Doctor is a Time Lord and he time travels and fights enemies. That said, the Master would count as an Overarching Villain because he is also a Time Lord, and pretty much the Doctor's Evil Counterpart throughout the series. The Daleks and the Cybermen would also count as they are two of the Doctor's Arch Enemies, and are recurring threats throughout the series.
  • Game of Thrones has slowly revealed resident backstabber Petyr Baelish as the driving force behind most of the series' non-supernatural events, including the War of the Five Kings. He has thus served as an antagonist for the entirety of the show's run (so far). Until Sansa has him executed at the end of Season Seven, by which point Cersei Lannister and the Night King have taken over the role of antagonist.
  • Gotham:
    • The first season introduces several villains, including a seemingly dweeby Oswald Cobblepot (later to become iconic Batman villain "The Penguin"). Because of his looks and awkward, creepy behavior, most of the dons and gangsters (as well as policemen) in the show dismiss him as a nobody, a third-rate character not worth their notice, but it is revealed in the episode "Penguin's Umbrella" that he has really been the Diabolical Mastermind behind most of the goings-on of the season. And at the end of the season, he engineers a Mob War, creating an Evil Power Vacuum that he's then able to step in and fill as the new leader of Gotham's underworld. From then on, his power waxes and wanes depending on the threat level of the parade roster of new Big Bads, but while they come and go, he stays on.
    • There's also the matter of the conspiracy controlling Wayne Enterprises. Aside from killing Bruce's parents (creating the instability that enabled Penguin's actions above), they're also involved in a number of other criminal activities throughout the series, including the chemical experiments in Wellzyn and backing Hugo Strange's experiments in Arkham in Season 2. The end of that season reveals that they are the Court of Owls, who take center stage as villains through Season 3, until the end of the season reveals they were ultimately just puppets of Ra's Al-Ghul. He then becomes the Big Bad for Season 4, and while he dies in the finale, his influence is still felt the next season because of having completed his Evil Plan anyway.
  • Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time. He created the Dark Curse that sent all the fairy tale characters to Earth to begin with, is responsible for helping to create most of the other Big Bads in the show, and unlike other mainstay foes Evil Queen Regina and Captain Hook, he has never made a stable Heel–Face Turn and continues to do terrible things that jeopardizes everyone's safety.
  • Stargate SG-1 has Ba'al, a Goa'uld System Lord introduced among several one-offs in season 5's "Summit". Though he never became a primary antagonist until the Stargate Continuum movie, he is a recurring villain through the remainder of the series five seasons later, and even helps take down Anubis and the Replicators in "Reckoning".
  • Gul Dukat and Kai Winn from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine hold the distinction of being the only antagonists in the series to have consistent recurring appearances through the entire length of the show. Dukat in particular was introduced in the pilot and finally defeated for good in the finale. He was also the only antagonist to manage to kill one of the main characters, and the only character affiliated with both the Dominion and the Pah-wraiths, the two major villanous factions in the series.
  • Supernatural:
    • Crowley. While only introduced in Season 5, near the end of the original Myth Arc, he has since become the longest-running villain on the show, alternating between being a member of the Big-Bad Ensemble and being in an Enemy Mine with the Winchesters, depending on the seasonal Story Arc.
    • The original Myth Arc had Lucifer. He initially only appeared in Season 5, but was nevertheless The Man Behind the Man to all the previous major villains. And even after his defeat, he continued to hold this role: The events of season 6 were caused by the angel Raphael wanting to free Lucifer once again (and Michael) and thus restart the Apocalypse. In season 7, an imprint of him tormented Sam (and later Castiel) for several episodes. In season 8, his crypts come into play, as it's revealed he had hidden powerful artifacts in them, and the existence of these artifacts (the angel tablet in particular) fuels the plot for the rest of the season. In addition, Abaddon is introduced, who is a Knight of Hell created by Lucifer himself, and trained by Cain, who himself had made a deal with Lucifer (and later became a demon) to save his brother. In season 9, we find out that Gadreel was tricked by Lucifer, allowing him into the Garden of Eden, causing Gadreel to be so filled with guilt that he's easily manipulated by one of season 9's main antagonists, Metatron. (The other antagonist being the previously mentioned Abaddon.) In season 10, it's revealed that Lucifer originally possessed the Mark of Cain, which caused him to become spiteful towards humanity, before giving the Mark to Cain as part of their deal. The Mark itself is the main driving force of the season. In season 11, he finally fully returns, manipulating Sam and Castiel into freeing him, leading to him possessing Castiel for half the season, in order to team up against the Darkness. And in season 12, he returns to his antagonist role, causing havoc for the fun of it and siring a Nephilhim. This continues into season 13, where he takes advantage of the pending threat of the Alternate Universe version of Michael invading the main reality to try and trick everyone into trusting and obeying him and in the finale goes full Omnicidal Maniac, planning to wipe out the universe, before Dean manages to finally kill him. Even then, his influence is still felt in season 14 as Lucifer's former vessel Nick spends the entire season trying to bring the dead Lucifer back from the eternal void outside reality, only to be stopped at the last second by Jack.
  • The Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files is the closest the series has to a main villain. Though The Dragon to the Syndicate in the early seasons, he moves up through the ranks of The Conspiracy, and continues being the major villain even after the original conspiracy is obliterated by the aliens in season 6.
  • Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk is the main villain for seasons 1 and 3, with a two episode arc in season 2 while he's in prison. Yet even when he's not around, his presence can be felt outside of Daredevil.
    • Luke Cage (2016): Harlem's crime circles include some figures who also are part of Fisk's syndicate. Fisk's crooked lawyer Benjamin Donovan also has Mariah Dillard for a client. And Turk Barrett has ties to the Harlem criminals in addition to his previous work with Fisk.
    • The Defenders (2017): The Hand's headquarters of Midland Circle, as well as their deep hole to obtain dragon bones, were built thanks to the Hand using their alliance with Fisk in Daredevil season 1 to buy up and then demolish Elena Cardenas' tenement building.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has HYDRA. Season 1's main antagonist force, Project Centipede, is revealed in the last quarter of the season (which coincides with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where they're also the villains) to be a HYDRA faction. Season 2's Big-Bad Ensemble is composed of people who are either members of HYDRA or were Driven to Villainy by HYDRA's actions. In Season 3 they're the main villains again, with a major part of the season's Story Arc being the reveal that they're descended from a cult in service to an ancient Inhuman, who takes up the Big Bad mantle in the back half of the season. By Season 4, HYDRA itself is seemingly crushed for good, but many of their foot soldiers and resources are incorporated by the Watchdogs (whom HYDRA had established in Season 3); also, the last third of the season is set in the Framework, a virtual reality where HYDRA has successfully taken over the world. And one of the main antagonists in Season 5, General Hale, is revealed to be the leader of what appears to be HYDRA's last remnant.
  • BOB is effectively this for Twin Peaks. Serving as a enigmatic and only occasionally seen entity in the first season, he is revealed in Season 2 to be responsible for the death of Laura Palmer, making him responsible for most of the events on the show. He is temporarily sidelined later in the season in favor of Jean Renault and Windom Earle, but he eventually returns by the end of the show's original run. He then goes on to act as the Big Bad of the show's prequel/sequel film, and both he and the Doppleganger serve as the Big Bad Duumvirate of The Return, although the two of them are implied to be small fries compared to the franchise's Greater-Scope Villain Judy.
  • iZombie has Blaine DeBeers. The Big Bad of Season 1, circumstances in Season 2 force him and the heroes into an Enemy Mine situation that evolves into a semi-Friendly Enemy state that lasts for the next several seasons. Come Season 5, however, he slides back into more outright antagonistic behavior, solidifying himself as Liv and company's enemy for the final stretch of the series.

    Multiple Media 
  • BIONICLE has Makuta Teridax, whose role in forcing the Great Spirit Mata Nui into a deep sleep drives the main arc of waking the Great Spirit up/saving him from dying. Even when he's not confronting the heroes directly he acts as the Greater-Scope Villain as his minions, Unwitting Pawns, or co-conspirators in the Brotherhood of Makuta do his dirty work. The only two times he wasn't the Man Behind the Man to the Arc Villains were in 2007, where they were actually old enemies he thought to be long dead and was working with the heroes to stop them, and in 2011, as he had already won and Mata Nui was on a different planet solving the problems of the locals in an attempt to find a method of fighting back against him.
  • Star Wars Legends had the Dark Side- which is more of an abstract cosmic force that can't be dealt with directly- and The Sith, the Arch-Enemy of the Jedi and the Big Bad of almost every major conflict over a 5,000 year period of galactic history, building evil empires and instigating wars directly and indirectly. There have been various iterations of the Sith Order and they fight themselves as much as the Jedi, but they operate as part of the same overarching tradition and are considered such a threat that simply being a Sith is considered grounds for arrest and possible summary execution if resistance is met.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has the Shredder, leader of the Foot Clan. Ironically starting off as the Starter Villain and villain of the week, the Shredder has become the most traditional antagonist of the franchise, and is usually expected to be the Big Bad whenever he appears.


    Video Games 

    Web Original 

  • While Homestuck has several villains acting individually, the ultimate villains of the entire story are The Felt, with its three leaders as the cause for almost everything bad that happens in the story. Among the three of them, Lord English is by far the most dangerous and is the last to be fully defeated.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Master Xehanort

Master Xehanort and his many incarnations have been the overarching antagonist of the series, from the first game all the way to Kingdom Hearts III.

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Example of:

Main / OverarchingVillain

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Main / OverarchingVillain