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"It's kind of funny, but I was just thinking that the only time Jessie and James were on the winning side is when they sided with us..."

When a long-running series has a Harmless Villain who can't go two steps without screwing up their Evil Plan, this villain may occasionally have a change of heart. They might be zapped by some strange device, be tired of other bad guys regarding him as a joke, or simply be tired of losing. In any case, he might turn good, or otherwise join the heroes. Upon doing this, a revelation will be made: when fighting for the side of good, suddenly the idiot who couldn't even get a clear-cut plan together is taking care of business left and right!

In short, the villain is much more effective as a hero than a villain. In which case, one of three things can happen:

  1. If Status Quo Is God, then some occurrence will cause the villain to turn evil again, but not before both the hero and the villain gain some new insight into each other.
  2. Rarely, the villain will stay good, and throw off his Villain Ball shackles (or keep them, depending on how much comedy factors into things), possibly becoming a Sixth Ranger.note 
  3. The villain will die, be Put on a Bus, or otherwise leave the story. This could be because the executives/writers, etc. don't want to use the character anymore, don't believe that the fanbase will accept them as a hero, or because they believed Redemption Equals Death will serve the narrative better.

In any case, such storylines always add flair to the characters on the show, because now you know that, even though they continue to say they're evil time and time again, you know that there's a good guy in there somewhere (cue "awwwww..."), much to his/her chagrin, though they probably secretly enjoyed it. Can crossover with Who's Laughing Now? and The Dog Bites Back if the villain in question is an over-abused henchman who fights against his former master.

Villains that were already powerful and effective in their villainy will generally get a Redemption Demotion instead to keep the Super Weight scale balanced.

Curiously this rarely overlaps with Token Evil Teammate; if the character commits something evil after their Heel–Face Turn, it is usually taken as a sign that maybe heroing wasn't meant for them after all.

Note that this page will often spoil a Heel–Face Turn.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series: The Team Rocket trio is one of the quintessential inept villain teams, but they've often tried to help out the hero on occasions, in which case their skills go way up. This often showcases that being on the side of good is probably the best thing for them but for some reason, they insist on causing trouble anyway.
    • If you look at their pre-anime timeline flashback episodes, Jessie and James are pretty serious. Even when they became goofier/more open toward each other and friendlier toward each other, they were good criminals. Though, soon after they met Ash... they became the "lovable losers" that they are today.
    • In fact, during the episode where James visits his summer home (courtesy of his still filthy rich parents), he fights on the side of good for the Pokemon in the nearby Greenhouse, which Jessie and Meowth were trying to steal. Even the heroes are taken aback by how powerful his Cacnea's Sandstorm seems all of a sudden - and this is also true for the old episode where he became the "Flaming Moltres", whipping Butch, Cassidy, AND Ash until his horoscope got rained on. If James were a good guy through and through, he'd make for one of the most powerful Trainers in the anime.
    • Meowth is usually portrayed as a pitiful battler, rarely even getting in a hit against Ash's Pokémon before getting knocked down. Yet, when he fights on their side, or even just for noble causes such as protecting a loved one, he is undefeatable. He decimated a large amount of Team Plasma's forces all by himself with just Fury Swipes. This was to rescue Pikachu rather than capture him.
      • It's one of the better and more subtle Aesops of the series that all the members of the trio are far more successful when they do things the honest way. When reduced to selling things or reporting at League Tournaments and the like, they are extremely successful business people. When he competes fairly, James often rivals and even beats the twerps at various Pokémon events. Meowth is revealed to be an accomplished noodle chef, pilot, and negotiator at times. And in Sinnoh, Jessie actually makes it to the semi-finals of the Ribbon Cup once she stops cheating and relying on gimmicks. They aren't failures who happen to be evil, they fail because they do things the bad way.
    • Double subverted starting in Best Wishes. They are very competent, goal-minded, and NEVER ONCE "blasted off" since then... Though, as of Pokémon the Series: XY, they've returned to their bumbling, only-competent-when-doing-good selves.
  • Grandis, Hanson, and Sanson from the Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water started out as a highly inept Terrible Trio who always lost to Nadia. Yet after making a permanent Heel–Face Turn, their powers and skills proved to be extremely essential. Hanson was able to shine as a Gadgeteer Genius, even smarter than the Kid Hero protagonist in that area, Sanson's super strength saved the gang dozens of times, and Grandis showed herself as a capable leader
  • Viral in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a quintessential example. Prior to his Heel–Face Turn he was a permanent victim of Villain Decay, each vow of new determination to avenge his slain allies or regain his honor only making the next beatdown even more painfully abrupt. But once he joins Simon to save the Earth he demonstrates his masterful skill as a brilliant copilot whose sole handicap is his relative lack of Spiral energy. (And even that may be debatable, but either way, it's not that much of a handicap since Simon has more than enough for the both of them.)
  • Jeremiah in Code Geass became more competent after his Heel–Face Turn. Of course, being upgraded to a bulletproof cyborg helped...Also helping is the fact that "Zero" and "Orange" stop being a Berserk Button for him, and the revelation that Lelouch and Nunnally are alive gave him a chance to shed his Failure Knight status. Before his conversion, he was a broken man. Afterwards he had everything to fight for ... and was unexpectedly popular.
  • Justified in Negima! Magister Negi Magi with Evangeline. She starts out powerful enough to cause Negi and Asuna trouble. Turns out she wasn't fighting too hard. In all her later appearances she's just generally more powerful than she was before, beating down every hero the series has and one arc pulling a Big Damn Heroes and destroying a Demon God (nearly) single-handedly. The reason is that the Thousand Master tricked her and weakened her with a spell, only when the spell is temporarily taken away does she have her full power, which made her one of the most feared mages.
  • Dewey, a Mook Lieutenant in Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, starts as a legitimate threat but definitely saw diminishing returns on his capability up until his Heel–Face Turn. After joining the heroes he is consistently powerful and useful, and tends to use his abilities in more creative ways than he did as a villain.
  • Ronin Warriors: Shuten Doji/Anubis becomes even more powerful after breaking free from Talpa's mind control and even going on to take over the mantle of the Ancient One when the previous one died. As The Ancient One's successor he is far more effective in both direct combat as well as overall war maneuvering than he was as a dark warlord..
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
  • Yusuke comments on this fact in YuYu Hakusho, talking about how Hiei is doing a lot better fighting for him than when he used to fight against him.
    • The key difference is that the victory-or-death scenarios he faces with Yusuke force him to do desperate things to reinvent himself. He gains massive power by mastering the Dragon of the Darkness Flame, which most demons would never even attempt because it's just as likely to kill them as their opponents. Plus, when he fought Yusuke, Hiei was still weakened by the operation to implant his Jagan. By the end of the series, he's fully recovered.
    • Several of Team Urameshi's old opponents from the Dark Tournament (Chu, Rinku, Jin, Toya, Suzuki, Shishiwakamaru) ally with Kurama and undergo Training from Hell, becoming almost as powerful as Kurama himself.
  • Ken Ichijouji from Digimon Adventure 02. As the Digimon Emperor, he was a petulant Smug Snake who frequently had his plans defeated by the Digidestined and was curb-stomped by Takeru. After his Heel–Face Turn, he was able to digivolve Wormon into Stingmon and was able to DNA digivolve Stingmon with Dasiuke's ExVeemon, with the two being the only ones on the team to achieve mega form. Ken also got to seal away Daemon.
  • Beelzebumon from Digimon Tamers. A pseudo-Deal with the Devil let him go from a non-threat to a Knight of Cerebus in a single jump, only to be taken down hard once he crossed the line by killing Leomon. Making amends with the human partners he ran away from boosted him to a Super Mode beyond his original Mega form, with a Hand Cannon and a spiffy set of wings to boot.
  • In Gundam Build Divers after Ayame joins Force Build Divers following her time as The Mole, she modified her RX-Zeromaru with new parts and new weapons. And just like the Mobile Suit her Gunpla is based on, it starts using brand new abilities as well.
  • Gaara from Naruto. When we see him as a villain, his fighting style revolved around him standing in one place while relying on his sand to defend him and attack his opponents. Come part II, Gaara is now the Kage of his village and his fighting style has become more versatile. He is more mobile in combat and he's strong enough to defeat his father and hold his own against Madara Uchiha.
  • Fairly literal example in SSSS.GRIDMAN: The Power Copying Anti got exactly one victory over Gridman before Villain Decay hit. Come episode 10, he's been cast aside by his creator. Then, when the Kaiju Nanashi decimates Gridman, Anti steps in, evolves into Gridknight, and easily defeats Nanashi.

    Comic Books 
  • Both Suicide Squad and Secret Six did this for some formerly third-rate villains such as Catman, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang. While not exactly redemption, they tended to be on the side closer to the angels than those they fought against.

  • Nightmare Moon went down relatively easily. In Magical Pony Lyrical Twilight Luna casually wipes out armies and is considered to be scarier than her Superpowered Evil Side by the ponies that beat Nightmare Moon. The sheer power at Luna's disposal is enough to freak out her allies.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Trixie is a lot stronger and more effective as the team's Sixth Ranger than as an antagonist. She even turns out to be another Element of Magic, and during the Wedding Arc, she's able to fight a Brainwashed and Crazy Twilight to a standstill.
    • In the Dark World, Twilight Tragedy was no slouch, but she lacked a lot of Twilight Sparkle's creativity, which is restored by her Heel–Face Turn. It's also possible that she's literally stronger now that she's using the purified Element of Chaos, rather than its corrupted form.
    • Silver Spoon also gets this after pulling a Heel–Face Turn and becoming the Crusaders' Sixth Ranger, becoming a lot more cunning and effective than she was as a bully. Justified because she actually starts thinking for herself rather than letting Diamond do all the work. Her determination is so great that it allows her to fend off an attempt by the now Nightmare Diamond Tiara to break her spirit and convince her she only exists to be a villain.
  • Played with in Child of the Storm. While Loki is considerably more powerful post Heel–Face Turn, it's noted that this is more due to a strange case of Gods Need Prayer Badly. While they don't require it to exist or even require outright worship, the more people know about them, the more of their power they can exert on the mortal plane. However, he does also note that he's far more capable and dangerous as a result of regaining his sanity.
  • Tai Lung in the Kung Fu Panda Fanfic A Different Lesson. He still loses in battle often enough to justify needing Po and the Five as his allies, and he has issues with controlling his temper and (not coincidentally) his Fire chi, but in all other respects he remains as powerful, incredible, and badass a fighter as he was when a villain. The fact he isn't maddened or enraged all the time (and has gotten over his Freudian Excuse) also allows him to actually make use of those thousand scrolls he learned, and use them cleverly and effectively. The Fire chi and the Golden Spear also count as power-ups for him.
  • Doofenshmirtz Hero Incorporated!: Much to his annoyance, Doofenshmirtz finds more success as a teacher to heroic schoolchildren than he does as a villain.
  • Justified in Son of the Sannin with the Otogakure genin trio, Zaku, Kin and Dosu. While they were under Mizuki, he wasn't interested in teaching them anything. After they're taken prisoner by Konoha and placed under Anko's tutelage, she makes sure to train them properly (if to sadistically harsh levels), to the point they're able to defeat their former teacher when he's brought back as an Edo Tensei zombie (also helped by the fact that he wasn't any stronger than when he was alive).
  • The fanmade novelization Breath of the Wild integrates several characters from Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, including Astor, who retains his signature weapon, named the Malice Orb. Astor uses the Malice Orb to create malice constructs and cast essentially all of his battle spells. When the Malice Orb is freed from the influence of Malice, it becomes the Sheikah Orb, which was its original state to begin with. It chooses Paya as its master, and grants her extensive powers beyond those that Astor used, including summoning monsters from across time, portal creation, and even the power to repair damage by reversing the flow of time on it.
  • Justified in Stormwolf Adventures. The fatal weakness of Rey is that she doesn't trust her friends, which allows her to be manipulated and the protagonists to catch up to her. Once she learns to trust her friends, she becomes far more effective.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Most versions of Godzilla are far more powerful and dangerous when fighting for humanity and the Earth than the ones who fight against us. Special mention should go to the second Showa-era Godzilla — in his first few movies, he was beaten back by either the military or another benevolent monster like Mothra. After his Heel–Face Turn, he was able to take down two monsters at once, some of whom were more powerful than himself, gained allies as dangerous as he was, and gained a few new superpowers.
  • Star Wars:
    • Inverted with Anakin Skywalker who, after becoming Darth Vader, believes that his Face–Heel Turn and physical disabilities allow him to focus more on honing his skills and channelling his emotions into actions as well as enhancing its connection to the Force. It is worth noting that even Darth Sidious, who is rarely fazed by anything, is sometimes genuinely impressed by his prowess.
    • Ben Solo becomes a much better fighter once he gives up his identity as Kylo Ren and returns to the Light Side of the Force, soloing his former comrades, the Knights of Ren, in less than 20 seconds. It makes sense considering he is no longer shackled by his feelings of fear and inadequacy.
    • Finn was just another Stormtrooper before his defection. Then he wounds a trained Force User, kills his former captain who had trained him, and learns the Force and as a general helps take down the Final Order, not being wounded at all despite being in the front lines against improved versions of what he once was.
  • Dozens of characters in Star Wars Legends have the backstory of "served in some branch of the Imperial military," most famously Han Solo and Biggs Darklighter. Despite being literal graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, these characters are almost always treated as incredibly skilled in their field. Some, like Dengar, even hold onto their old armor, which is now actually protective. This is usually agreed to be because the Empire's training is actually good, and the problems are more with morale, equipment, and strategy.
  • M'baku in Black Panther (2018) begins as an adversary of T'challa who challenges him for the throne. After losing their duel and being spared he later aids T'challa in stopping Killmonger. This leads to him becoming the first Jabari chieftain to sit on the ruling council in Wakanda's history.

  • A Certain Magical Index has Shiage Hamazura. As a villain, he's barely able to keep his gang under control and fails a mission to kill Misuzu (a normal person with no fighting skills to speak of). After making a Heel–Face Turn and becoming one of the series' heroes, he manages to defeat a Level 5 esper, on three separate occasions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Kneeling and accepting Daenerys caused Qhono to go from a lowly bloodrider to one of the main generals in Daenerys's army.
  • Played straight in Heroes with Noah Bennet, aka HRG. After his Heel–Face Turn he STILL keeps a serious amount of competency and shrewdness. Taking down an angry lunatic in midair, taking out and torturing an electric hurling assassin, killing his mentor in cold blood, and utterly owning the annoying manager of the copy store where he worked. The only noted exception being with the activities of his teenage daughter but in his defense, is there ANY TV dad who is competent in that regard?
  • Sheriff Roscoe from The Dukes of Hazzard would occasionally show more cleverness than usual when he was striving for a noble goal, such as tricking Enos into a prison cell in order to stop him from doing something that would get him fired. It's even mentioned several times in the series that he used to be the best sheriff in the state before he started working for Boss Hogg and became the bumbler that he is.
  • When Star Trek's Klingons are on the side of the Federation they are (during the Star Trek: The Next Generation era)? kick-ass combatants who might be a bit brutal but not someone to trifle with, with high military competence and strategic and tactical skills. Klingons facing the Federation? Idiotic twits who have the tactical sophistication of a bull in a china shop. Chancellor Gowron is a perfect example, losing all of his former cunning and becoming a total ego-case whenever he goes against the Federation.
  • Sergeant Schultz in Hogan's Heroes tended to be more competent when he was working with the Heroes than with the other Germans (whom he was employed by). Dismotivation was implied to be a factor; his witnessing of the Heroes' plots in progress resulted in him saying "I see NUZZING!" because he knew how much trouble the Heroes could cause him.
  • Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger has a surprising example with AbareKiller. While a Sixth Ranger in Super Sentai who starts off a villain is typically subject to a Redemption Demotion, AbareKiller had gone through a period of Villain Decay thanks to his suit starting to breakdown. Once he joined the heroes, he Took a Level in Badass.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Happens a lot in Professional Wrestling. Standard booking is that the faces have to win matches cleanly and only lose due to cheating in order to keep the fans' support and sympathy while heels almost never win cleanly so the fans want to see them get beaten. Mix the two with a Heel–Face Turn and you have this.
  • Christian Cage is probably the ultimate example of this trope. After turning his back on the fans he simply got more and more pathetic, and boring to the point in 2003 it seemed like he couldn't win a match clean if his life depended on it, even against 150-pound Spike Dudley. After returning to ECW many new fans were shocked to see he could actually escape from an armbar and with the crowds behind him tag teams have to cheat to beat Christian in two on one matches.
  • As a face, Edge (Christian's Kayfabe brother, or at least he used to be before the WWE stopped acknowledging that old storyline) did some pretty impressive stuff, including facing Kane with a broken arm and winning. As a heel, his gimmick is that he's a sneaky cowardly bastard who wins most of his matches by being "the ultimate opportunist".
  • Alex Riley may be the best example of this trope. As The Miz's apprentice, he was of little competence except when he needed to take a beating in lieu of his teacher. Once Miz lost the title, he began to berate his protege until he lost one rematch too many and he fired Riley in the ring. Riley would turn on his former leader and immediately gain newfound in-ring competence as he would defeat Miz several times and find himself in almost immediate title contention despite being portrayed as a mere rookie months earlier on NXT.
  • Sheamus is another fine example. He had been suffering from severe Badass Decay for months and was Demoted to Extra. Then Mark Henry goes on the warpath, destroying everything in his path to the point everyone was afraid to face him. Sheamus steps up to the plate to challenge him fearless, performing a Heel–Face Turn in the process. Cue Sheamus being the first one to defeat the Great Khali in recent months by forcing his way out of the Khali Vicegrip with sheer brute strength!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ambuscade from Sentinels of the Multiverse went up and down in competence and effectiveness lore-wise, but gameplay-wise he's a bit of a joke and is considered a great starter villain for new players. But as the hero Stuntman he is much more powerful, able to pull off insane out-of-turn combos with massive damage output in the right hands.
    • The same goes for Baron Blade, who was literally designed to be a starter villain, and in each of his subsequent appearances in the card game, he uses less and less tech. But as the temporary hero Luminary, he pulls out all the stops with a ton of robots, devices, and a frikken space laser! He even finally gets to drop the moon (at least, a piece of it) onto the earth.

    Video Games 
  • After you beat the corrupted and possessed Malevolynx in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2, he will fight you again in his true form, Leonyx, to see if you're strong enough to face the source of the island's corruption. He's much stronger than before and keeps his improved stats (except for HP) if you manage to Scout him.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Johnny Sasaki was a Punch-Clock Villain, ineffective and nearly too dumb to live. By MGS4, he has switched sides because of the Power of Love but is still ineffective... until the mid-game, where he begins to take several levels of Badass. By the end of the saga, the Butt-Monkey Punch-Clock Villain has become a super sexy Big Damn Hero Badass Normal who gets the girl and the happy ending.
  • Super Mario Bros.: This happens with Bowser in a few games. Usually, this is because the player can control him so he doesn't get tricked into stuff like jumping to let enemies pass, smashing through the floor into a Bottomless Pit, charging at an enemy known for jumping ability that would let him grab his tail and throw him into a bomb, etc.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. When Vivian joins your party, she is actually stronger than she was in the fight against her and the other Shadow Sirens much earlier in the game. In fact, if you fully upgrade her stats, she will be equal in strength to her ex-fellow siren Beldam during the rematch at the end of the game.
    • She doesn't play it completely straight, though. When she turns, she has to relearn her Fiery Jinx spell by leveling up - though when she does relearn it, it's still several times stronger.
    • Possibly justified in that she was unhappy working with her sisters, and thus never fought at full strength along with her sisters because she didn't have any emotion behind it. When she joins Mario, she feels relieved and is able to work better now that she has a reason.
  • In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation 2, Punch-Clock Villain Arado Balanga had stats worse than your average mook when he fights you, but instantly becomes much more capable after he joins you. This is especially notable because, back when he was part of the enemy's forces, he kept getting forced into the usual mook fare, the Lion, which is a light-framed aerial mecha outfitted for long-range combat. At your side, he gets assigned to more melee-oriented machines like the R-Blade and, eventually, his own signature mech Wildwurger, which really brings out his Lightning Bruiser capabilities due to, above anything, thicker armor plates that his previous mecha couldn't have.
  • In Half-Life, where the Vortigaunts are enemies, they're low-to-mid-range opponents who aren't too much to worry about. By Half-Life 2, where they're on your side, they're more powerful combatants and have also gained almost mystical healing and mechanical abilities. This may have something to do with the slave collars they were wearing as enemies, however. Combat-wise, the average Vortigaunt in Half-Life 2 is about on par with one from Half-Life 1 on hard mode... but even then, the Half-Life 2 ones have more health and healing abilities.
    • By Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Vortigaunts are shown to be powerful enough to oppose the god-like power of the G-Man himself and by Episode 2 they're resurrecting the dead and (it's implied) battling the insanely powerful Combine Advisors, so their Heel–Face Turn has potentially upgraded them from cannon fodder to something that, collectively, potentially approaches King of All Cosmos.
      • By way of explanation, the Vorts' more godlike powers are fueled by an extract which they procure from antlions. Presumably, their former masters took no interest in their animal husbandry.
    • The vorts met in the Victory Mine who help you fight the Antlions are often cited as one of the best demonstrations of this trope. These three badasses slaughter an entire army of Antlions (who trained soldiers have trouble containing) with ease, while Vorts in the first game were fodder to organized groups of marines. However, it is often forgotten that these three were just particularly powerful vorts, which isn't something unique to Half-Life 2. In the PS2 only Decay expansion, when they were still bad guys, a bonus mission has a pair of Vorts being sent to retrieve a stolen Xen crystal. The two slaughter an entire platoon of marines on the way.
    • Black Mesa somewhat turns down the severity of this by drastically decreasing the time it takes for a Vortigaunts to charge a blast, and doubling their health. This makes them seem more like the ones encountered in Half-Life 2; basically, they made the hard mode Vorts from the original game the standard here.
  • LunarLux: The Murk Slayer as a boss has four attack patterns, but as a playable character, he has those four attacks along with many other skills. He also benefits from all the Upgrade Chips the player has equipped and can use any support skill that isn't specifically tied to Bella's weapon or Lunex Force. Finally, he becomes more willing to use his Phase Form to give him three turns of double damage.
  • Not exactly "evil" so much as doing his job, in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All when Detective Gumshoe is fired and helps Phoenix briefly, he shows shades of significant competence.
    • Gumshoe's competence skyrockets any time he's asked to do something that isn't detective work. He can get a bridge built on a mountain in the dead of winter overnight, build complex, perfectly functioning gadgets out of junk, fight off a gang of mob goons barehanded and always bring that vital evidence to the courtroom in time. But notice basic logical discrepancies? Not a chance.
  • In the remake of the original Wild ARMs, Zed, the Harmless Villain so lame he couldn't even make it into the Quirky Mini Boss Squad, is a recruitable secret bonus character who's actually a pretty good fighter once he's on your side. Lampshaded by dialogue indicating he finally has something worth fighting for (the little blind girl he ended up adopting) rather than simply just fighting to prove himself.
  • In Star Wars: Battlefront, whatever faction you are using, the player is a lot smarter than the AI. So you could be fighting against utterly ineffective clone troopers one battle, then the next be using a hyper-competent one.
    • Though inverted at the same time, since the AI is a little smarter for your enemies than your allies...
  • In Fire Emblem pretty much any enemy joins you exactly as they were... meaning you can level them and make them far more powerful than they were before, tearing through legions of their companions.
  • Odie in Soul Nomad & the World Eaters. When he's a Heel, he's no more than a dimwitted, incompetent bandit mage Gold Fish Poop Gang. When he switches sides, he still has the same stats he had as a boss, making him a very strong mage, and is no longer subject to the idiotic Ai and squad formations. Oddly he's still treated as a loser by everyone for most of the game but has a flash of competency near the end. In the Demon Campaign, events force him to stop screwing around and work for good, where he actually shows himself as a very competent mage, even impressing his younger brother Dio, a legendary mage.
  • In Pokémon Black and White, although not villains, the Gym Leaders are at least boss battles, and when they come to help you at the end as you go up to beat N, this is in full effect. The Gym Leaders are capable of beating up six of the Seven Sages while you go to deal with N/Ghetsis, despite the fact that most of them shouldn't be able to beat the wild Pokémon hanging around outside.
  • Averted in Live A Live. Any time you have to fight a playable character, they have the exact same HP, stats, equipment, and attacks they have when they're playable.
  • Olaf in the original Advance Wars was the Starter Villain - a blithering idiot of a General Failure who was practically babysat by Grit, on top of being pathetically weak with a lame power. In Advance Wars 2, where he's a good guy, he comes off as far more competent and intelligent, and racks up a number of victories over the run of the campaign, with the few mistakes he does make being credited more to his rash personality. He even got a buff, with his blizzard powers going from a mild nuisance to downright debilitating.
    • Kanbei was always very good in game terms, but in the first game, he was an Upper-Class Twit and a General Failure even worse than Olaf. In the second game, he becomes a lot cleverer and wiser; though he's still headstrong and honor-bound, and often asks his Teen Genius daughter for advice, he no longer builds factories on isolated islands.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, if you attach a Wealth Gem to the New Ring after you reclaim it, Orc captains will automatically gain 1-5 levels after you dominate and recruit them.
  • Fate/stay night has Rider serve as an antagonist in the first two routes. In the Fate route, she is a Starter Villain, and in the Unlimited Blade Works route, she dies off-screen. The Heaven's Feel route has Rider become an ally where she proves far more effective and even manages to survive the end of the route. This is justified in-universe by Rider being held by having a weak Master in the first two routes when she has a much stronger master in the Heaven's Feel route she showed how strong she really was.
  • Kirby Super Star: The Helpers are all playable variants of basic enemies, most of which go down in one or two hits and only have a few attacks. As allies, they have as much HP as Kirby himself, a full list of powerful moves, and can Double Jump infinitely.

  • Subverted in Abe Kroenen, in which Rasputin turns out to be just as horribly inept at being a good guy as he is at being a bad one.
  • Happens in Kid Radd. The villains go from being humorously incompetent to downright deadly once they switch sides.
  • Shadowgirls got a borderline case — Chrissy behaving like a spoiled brat didn't win verbal confrontations and in physical ones faced only the opponents either weak enough or strong enough to make it one-sided. Once she did decide to bring misery upon those who deserved it, she gets to butcher a Bad Guy too powerful to expect this and uses her Mad Bitchy Skillz for a truly jaw dropping show.

    Western Animation 
  • Kim Possible:
    • In the episode when Dr. Draken becomes good, and Ron becomes evil. The goofy sidekick is actually quite intimidating as an evil villain, while the Harmless Villain seems a pretty decent good guy.
    • Drakken was also pretty damn competent at running a company when he acquired the cupcake business. Shame about the low-carb craze.
    • Also in the series finale (of the Post-Script Season- that is, the real finale), Drakken, famous for his terrible plans to rule the world, comes up with a successful one to stop someone else from doing the same.
    • That wasn't the first time Drakken got a sudden competence boost when opposing other villains. In fact, Drakken is actually more competent at being good than he is at evil. The only time he ever subverted this trope was in Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama. Shego, on the other hand, seems to be held back by Drakken. It's been proven in "A Sitch In Time" that if Shego had ever bothered to break out on her own (and provided that Kim wasn't standing in her way), she would have conquered the world ages ago. However, Shego doesn't possess the drive nor creativity to actually come up with evil plans (with A Sitch In Time being the result of a Stable Time Loop.) She conquered the world because she got the plan and time travel artifact from her future self. She prefers to lounge around and relax while indulging in fights with Kim. Fascinatingly enough, this makes her similar to Ron Stoppable, her fellow sidekick.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • There's an example of the permanent switch in Tohru, who was already pretty effective before he switched, and then learned magic and upped his success rate.
    • It also had Finn, Ratso and Chow turn good in one episode, and do pretty well at being good guys... until their greed gets the better of them. In the end, they accidentally make a Heroic Sacrifice which, in a parody of Redemption Equals Death, leaves them stranded on a cliff halfway down a mountain.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Zuko is arguably more effective when doing good deeds or acting on the behalf of the heroes (initially to serve his own ends), usually under the guise of the Blue Spirit. When he makes a full Heel–Face Turn, he briefly loses all of his powers, but afterwards he becomes even more powerful by learning the TRUE version of Fire Bending and regaining a better sense of purpose.
    • Although Iroh was always very competent, his siege of Ba Sing Se on the Fire Nation's behalf was a failure that derailed his career, taking six hundred days to penetrate the outer wall shortly before retreating. About a decade later, Iroh leads the Order of the White Lotus to retake Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation, and succeeds in hours. He even begins by blowing the wall down himself (though he had Sozin's Comet to thank for that).
  • Subverted in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) when Mojo Jojo shows power he never had before when he teams with the Girls to beat down an alien bent on the destruction of Townsville. This isn't because he found good inside himself, but because the girls said they found something more evil than him.
  • Zim, from Invader Zim. His job is to conquer humanity, but around a third of the time, his own incompetence screws him over (the other two-thirds being GIR's incompetence and Dib stopping Zim.) However, he's quite good at defending humanity.
  • Sunset Shimmer from the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls films and specials is widely considered by the fanbase to be one of the weaker villains of MLP G4 but shows herself to be a very competent heroine following her Heel-Face Turn, being the main reason why the far more dangerous villains in the subsequent two movies are defeated.
  • When Carl the Cockroach wizard allies with Yin and Yang, he is incredibly competent, namely against the Night Master. This is namely because Carl's weakness is psychological; insults throw him off his game. Presumably, the villains aren't good enough at insults to exploit this (or perhaps their insults aren't as good.) He also helps them thwart Eradicus' plan of turning everyone evil through evil coffee, all while being in disguise and thus relying less on his powers.
  • Occurs at various points in X-Men: Evolution with the Brotherhood, who tend to be less than intimidating when they're playing antagonists. But whenever they need to team up, they all get a nice promotion- even Toad, the series' resident smart-assed coward, was able to help out against Magneto and an evolved Sabretooth. Their best moment as a team may be the series finale, where they arrive late to cover Kitty Pryde's team after they've been wiped by an upgraded Magneto (mind-controlled by Apocalypse), and manage to hold their own against him without losing a single member (with the other teams fighting Apocalypse's horsemen all suffering some defeats).
  • Beast Wars only briefly shows Dinobot with the Predacons before he switches sides, but what happens in that time is a little embarrassing: He mouths off to Megatron, gets told off, and is blasted over the horizon by Scorponok (who would never pack that kind of punch again). It's probably for the best that he finds himself with the Maximals sooner rather than later, then, as he has a much better track record on his new team, culminating in a Heroic Sacrifice fighting all the Predacons by himself.
  • Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, while definitely no slouch as a villain, proved to have magical power on par with The Sorceress when he teams up with her and He Man to take down Evil Seed. They even offer him a spot with the good guys in spite of all he's done in favor of just how much they could accomplish by pooling their powers for good, but unfortunately to Skeletor evil just feels way too good.
  • Jinx from Teen Titans was your standard Quirky Miniboss Squad villainess, usually serving as Raven's opponent. After her Heel–Face Turn due to lack of respect from her villainous peers and the kindness of Kid Flash, she effortlessly beats not only her old team but her former idol Madame Rouge, a villainess who was previously nigh-unstoppable by even the more powerful Titans.
  • The Monarch in The Venture Brothers tends to sinewave between Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain and Not-So-Harmless Villain when fighting Dr. Venture, possessing reasonable skill and considerable resources but not able to leverage either due to his Villain Ball and the efforts of Brock Samson and Sergeant Hatred, and mostly being carried by his two Hypercompetent Sidekicks. Whenever he's fighting other villains, though, whether through Enemy Mine, Evil Versus Evil, or his heroic identity as the Blue Morpho, he becomes frightfully effective, thanks to his will and mercilessness being employed against an opponent not protected by Contractual Genre Blindness.
  • Cedric the Sorcerer/Sensational/Great from Sofia the First was about as pathetic as one would expect a villain in a preschool show to be, often failing to account for glaring mistakes in his evil schemes. He's also an embarrassment as the royal sorcerer of Enchancia, due to his enormous Performance Anxiety. Once he turns to the side of good starting from Season 4 however, he's able to focus his skill on proving himself a worthy ally to the royal family, and his contribution is invaluable in the Series Finale when he helps to free Sofia from the Amulet of Avalor.
    • Miss Nettle was the disgruntled and fame-hungry apprentice to the Three Good Fairies but had no success in defeating them or Sofia. But once Sofia directs her to use her gift with enchanted gardening to actually help others, she sees for herself how much joy her plants bring to people, and turns over a new leaf. By "Ivy's True Colors," she's even trusted to find a cure for a sleeping curse randomly affecting the animals.
  • DuckTales (2017): Flintheart Glomgold is tedious to deal with, but his ego and Complexity Addiction mean he's never hard to defeat. At one point, he literally loses his entire fortune to a child (Louie). But when it comes time to challenge the Moonlanders, those same factors work in his favor because the entire invasion is set up to stymie Scrooge's efforts. Glomgold is such a different type of opponent, his scheme serves as Confusion Fu, and he's a large factor in the ultimate victory.
  • Phineas and Ferb has Heinz Doofenshmirtz, a hilariously inept Mad Scientist whose plans barely pose a threat and would typically be an annoyance at best even if his Arch-Enemy didn't stop him. When he actually tries to do good, while still an idiot, he is far more successful helping.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: The Delightful Children only pose a remote threat to Sector V or other KND members with henchmen or a mech of some kind. If they have to face anyone hand to hand, it's a Curb-Stomp Battle against them. In the Made-for-TV Movie, Operation: Z.E.R.O., when they are restored to their true selves as Sector Z, they manage to defeat a zombified Sector V with very little effort.


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Alternative Title(s): Evil Is Dumb


"Why The Blue Skin?"

In the very final scene of "Kim Possible", after Dementor pokes fun at the irony of Drakken saving the world after a failed career of trying to conquer it, he ask how his skin ended up blue. All we find out is that it happened on a Tuesday.

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Main / TheStinger

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