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Resurrect the Villain

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We just need fire and a roar for our surprise
Then we'll make Scar rise
We will make Scar rise
Let's bring back a legend
A legend
To help our fight
Let's bring back a legend
A legend
Of darkness tonight!
Ushari and the hyenas, The Lion Guard, "The Rise of Scar"

When the previous Big Bad has been killed — not exiled, not imprisoned, not trapped in another dimension, not sealed in a supposedly inescapable can, but physically, truly, 100% killed — new or remaining villains who aren't satisfied with merely Avenging the Villain or carrying on the villain's evil legacy may decide to just bring the villain himself Back from the Dead.

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New villains who don't have a history with the old villain typically either want one of two things. There are the up-and-comers who want a coach — they know they don't quite cut it, and they need someone with experience at this "evil" business to show them the ropes, someone who's better at Evil Planning to help them get started. Then there are the Smug Snakes who are more confident. They don't want a coach — they want a servant. Sure, that has-been was nothing compared to them, but he still had some impressive powers and skills that could be useful. This latter type of villain will bring the old Big Bad back under the assumption he can be controlled or otherwise made to follow along with their plans and their agenda, lending them the intel, powers, or skills they need but understanding he's no longer in charge or calling the shots. The majority of the time, this is the wrong assumption.

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If the attempt is successful, regardless of the resurrectors' intent or their connection with the villain, the villain's typical reaction is that of someone being suddenly woken up from a deep sleep magnified 1,000 times — that is, not pretty. You will almost (almost) never find a villain who is grateful someone went to all that trouble to bring them back. This is probably because, more likely than not, he Came Back Wrong, and his new form is not a pleasant one. Resurrectors beware — if they don't try to kill you outright, you'll end up working for a Bad Boss and learning to Be Careful What You Wish For before gasping, "My God, What Have I Done?!" Even in the best cases, expect the villain to be rudely dismissive of whoever brought them back.

Fortunately for the heroes, destroying an entity that's been magically resurrected from the dead tends to be easier than killing him in the first place (not to mention it doesn't carry the same moral baggage). Sometimes this will be justified with Resurrection Sickness, when the very act of returning to life leaves the villain temporarily weakened. Nonetheless, the length of time the villain remains resurrected can range from a few seconds to an entire story arc.

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In order to fit the trope, the following conditions must be met:

  1. The resurrected villain must have been active and significant during the timeline of the story, series, or franchise whom the audience actually got to meet and watch die (otherwise, the story is simply using supernatural means to introduce a brand new villain).
  2. The villain must have been physically killed.
  3. An individual or individuals must actively, intentionally do (or try to do) something to bring the villain Back from the Dead, which is 100% possible in the context of the story. (This is not some generic ghostly manifestation that happens by accident, naturally, and/or requires no action by anybody in order to happen.) The attempt does not necessarily have to be successful.
  4. The villain must be brought back to the land of the living, not encountered via Time Travel or a visit to the afterlife.

Compare and contrast Breaking Out the Boss, a presumably much simpler mission to release an imprisoned villain from their prison. Sub-Trope of Seeks Another's Resurrection. If the previous villain is pulling strings to get himself resurrected, this overlaps with Hijacked by Ganon. Can also overlap with Climactic Battle Resurrection. If things have gotten bad enough that it's the heroes considering bringing their Arch-Enemy back from the dead to join up with them, you've probably hit the Godzilla Threshold.

Very popular plot for Fan Fics.

Naturally, this is a Death Trope. Expect unmarked spoilers ahead. You have been warned.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Both Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ and Dragon Ball Super had Frieza being resurrected by means of the Dragon Balls on behalf of his minions.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: The crux of the film pits Cloud in race against time to prevent Kadja's gang from resurrecting his archnemesis: Sephiroth. Kadaj ultimately succeeds, leaving Cloud no choice but to face Sephiroth once again in single combat for the fate of the planet.
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear: The villain of season 1, Finé, is an ancient priestess who can take over the bodies of her descendants. The villains of season 2 are a group of three such descendants whom Finé had gathered as "spare bodies", and whose leader Maria is in the early stages of takeover. In fact Maria has no potential to become Finé, and is simply trying to distract the Opportunistic Bastard Mad Scientist in their employ from noticing that the other two descendants are starting to show some of Finé's powers. In the end, Finé is never resurrected - after seeing her two potential vessels try to Mercy Kill each other before she can take over, she manifests in spirit form to tell them that she no longer has any interest in opposing the heroes, then sacrifices herself to heal their wounds.
  • Done by the heroes in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: First-season Big Bad Lordgenome gives an ominous warning with his last breath, so Rossiu and Leeron resurrect his head as the core of a supercomputer in order to gain his knowledge of the upcoming threat. The rest of the protagonists are pretty freaked out when they learn about this. Rossiu insists the Lordgenome Head is just a computer, but it gradually regains its original personality. In the finale, Lordgenome regains his full body and fights alongside the heroes, before giving it up in a Heroic Sacrifice.

    Comic Books 
  • Blake and Mortimer: The Strange Encounter's big reveal is that not only are the Little Green Men humanity's descendants from a post-WW 3 Earth, they've mastered Time Travel instead of nukes and are determined to prevent their Bad Future by uniting humanity under a single leader. Unfortunately, that leader is Basam Damdu, the Big Bad of the very first book (and essentially a successful, East Asian Hitler), who is brought back by snatching him just before the nuclear explosion that killed him.
  • Nearly all deaths in Judge Dredd stick, but Mean Machine Angel was brought back to life after his original death and ended up a popular villain. (The rest of the family were as well, but they turned out far less popular and were quickly retconned back to their graves.)

    Fanfiction 

    Film — Live Action 
  • The incident from the book (see below) is expanded in the film version of Prince Caspian. Here, the villains actually get to perform the ritual, and the White Witch is able to appear and speak but not enter the land of the living until she gets a drop of human blood. Edmund stabs her before that can happen, stopping the plan in its tracks.
  • Charles "Chucky" Lee Ray from the Child's Play series. No matter how many times he gets killed at the end of the movie, by the next installment he comes back to life, whether by someone putting him back together or reciting the same voodoo spell which gave him his doll body in the first place.

    Literature 
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: When things don't seem to be going well in Prince Caspian (the second book published), Caspian's supposed ally Nikabrik the dwarf and two friends of his (a hag and a werewolf) theorize they would be able to defeat their oppressor Miraz if they had someone really powerful on their side, and who do the stories about ancient Narnia say was very powerful? The White Witch, the Big Bad of the first book! Their only known method for contacting Aslan seems to have failed, but they know exactly the ritual needed to resurrect a witch. They're getting ready to "prepare the blue fire" and perform the ritual necessary when Peter, Edmund, and allies, who have been eavesdropping outside the door, burst into the room to stop them with an urgency that shows this is a very real threat that must be nipped in the bud NOW!
  • Tortall Universe: In Song of the Lioness, Alanna kills Duke Roger in a duel at the end of the second book. In the third book, her twin brother, an extremely arrogant mage who thinks he's the most powerful sorcerer living, borrows her power at All Hallows for means unknown. In the fourth book, she discovers upon returning to Tortall that Thom had in fact resurrected Roger after being goaded by his former lover Lady Delia. Roger's Come Back Wrong, however, after having gone mad because, according to him, he was Only Mostly Dead during that time, and now instead of ruling Tortall, he wants to destroy it.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Quirky Miniboss Squad joined up with the dark side specifically to gain immortality, and the Dark One keeps his end of the deal by putting their souls into new bodies after they die, as long as they aren't too big a failure or rendered Deader Than Dead. The protagonists only figure this out in the very end stages of the story, and start to focus on either capturing the baddies or using a Dangerous Forbidden Technique to kill them permanently.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the cliffhanger ending of the first season of Angel, Wolfram & Hart resurrect Darla, Angel's vampire lover and sire who was killed off way back in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The results of this are the main plot of the second season, although it turns out Wolfram & Hart had much more complicated and cruel plans than simply "bring his old enemy back and set them on him."
  • "When She Was Bad", the first episode of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, revolves around an attempt by a vampire Villain of the Week to resurrect the Master, the first season's Big Bad.
  • In the series finale of Carnivàle, Brother Justin is killed by Ben Hawkins. The carnies leave New Canaan thinking Justin is dead... except that Sofie (who, as the Omega, has both Light and Dark Avataric powers) later finds Justin and resurrects him.
  • Doctor Who: In "The End of Time", the Master, who had seemingly died permanently in "Last of the Time Lords", is resurrected by the Disciples of Saxon. However, the ritual is sabotaged by his former wife, Lucy, and as a result, he comes back wrong with a rapidly-diminishing life force and a ferocious appetite.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O: Another Decade has the power to summon Dark Riders slain by the heroes of previous seasons (described as "creating alternate possibilities" which he then pulls them from). The most prominent of these is Kamen Rider Eternal, who (as an already zombie-like being) is rather miffed about being resurrected again, and actually happy when the Zi-O cast allow him to rest in peace.
  • A complicated example occurs in Legends of Tomorrow, in which Damian Darhk is resurrected by the Cult of Mallus to carry out Mallus' will, and he doesn't seem to mind being The Dragon until his daughter gets more involved with Mallus' plans. Damian had been part of the Big Bad Duumvirate in the previous season, but due to the time travel nature of the show, he doesn't meet his demise until the fourth season of Arrow (which he was also the Big Bad of). Also, unlike his previous appearance on the show, where he was a Badass Normal, he ends up getting back all of his dark magic from Arrow, which obviously makes him a much more lethal threat than the last time the Legends faced him.

    Theatre 
  • This jump starts the plot of A Very Potter Sequel. Lucius Malfoy wishes to revive Voldemort by going back in time and killing Harry before Harry can kill Voldemort.

    Video Games 
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has Dracula being revived ahead of schedule by a dark priest.
  • In Croc 2's opening, Baron Dante is resurrected by his Dantini followers during the intro cutscene, and immediately gets back to his old ways with a bigger grudge on Croc than before.
  • There are a couple of times in the The Legend of Zelda series when dark forces try to resurrect Ganon.
  • Mega Man X: Sigma, the Big Bad, can usually bring himself back from the dead. However, in X6, Gate (the main villain of this installment) decides to bring Sigma back with his efforts as a "last resort secret weapon". Sigma lampshades it, saying that he doesn't need Gate's help in resurrecting himself; bonus points in that Gate seemingly made Sigma Came Back Wrong (Sigma's more insane and his body still looks broken/unfinished).
  • Warcraft III: Kel'thuzad is encountered and quickly killed off by Arthas during the human campaign. The first half of the Undead campaign involves the now-undead Arthas bringing him back to (un)life as a lich so he can open the portal that will allow the Burning Legion to invade.
  • Drawn to Life: In Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter (Wii) Circi attempts to bring back Wilfre but fails, and is attacked by the monster she accidentally creates.

    Western Animation 
  • Darkwing Duck: The Big Bad of the series' hour-long premiere, mob boss Taurus Bulba, is killed in the climactic explosion while trying to pull a Taking You with Me on the titular hero. Much later during the series proper, villainous organization F.O.W.L. brings him back by repairing his body with robot parts. They expect he'll be a grateful killing machine — instead, he's pissed off at the new mechanical body he's trapped in (they never asked his opinion on this arrangement, you know!) and goes on a rampage, destroying their lab. He then strikes out on his own to carry out his own agenda — getting revenge on Darkwing. The episode ends on a Villain: Exit, Stage Left and We Will Meet Again note that never paid off except in the comics.
  • The whole final season of Justice League is about Lex Luthor attempting to bring back Brainiac. In "Alive" he appears to succeed... except it's Darkseid who comes back instead (sacrificing a magician was needed and the magician in question was feeling vengeful), who decides to show them the only mercy he knows.
  • The Lion Guard: Shortly after the beginning of the second season, the new villains decide the villain of the movie, Scar, is the best person to ask for advice on how to take over the Pride Lands. They perform a ritual that allows him to manifest as a fiery spirit inside a volcano or anywhere they burn flames in the shape of a certain symbol. While Scar's ability to act on his own is next to zero, his minions are able to make life sufficiently miserable for the heroes just by acting under his guidance, despite him being a textbook Bad Boss. Hyena leader Janja, at least, gradually becomes disillusioned enough about working under Scar to Heel–Face Turn in the third season premiere. The heroes don't even learn he's returned until halfway through the season and have to spend the rest of the season fighting his army before they have reason to believe that it's even possible to destroy him.
  • Ninjago: The Season 8 villains the Sons Of Garmadon plan to revive Lord Garmadon from the Departed Realm using the three Oni Masks. They succeed, with Garmadon being resurrected without any of his redeeming traits and more powerful than ever.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: While hanging around as a ghost for Season 2's Story Arc after being killed in the Season 1 finale, Shendu returns and is properly resurrected in the Season 3 finale after he convinces that season's Big Bad, Daolon Wong, that he'll give him the Dragon Talisman power in exchange. Instead, the reborn Shendu takes the power for himself and usurp Wong's place as main villain.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!: In the Season 3 finale, Skeleton King is killed when his head is severed from the Dark One Worm, which he had merged with in the previous season's finale; afterwards, it's retrieved by Mandarin. Late in Season 4, after he and Valeena have resolved their power struggle, they set out on a quest to use the head and other remnants of the Skeleton King's power to resurrect him, finally succeeding in the season finale. And then the series got cancelled without resolving the resulting cliffhanger.


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