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Villain Corner

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When a certain (allegedly) non-villainous character starts getting explicitly dark character development, they are being painted into the Villain Corner.

This new development can be either subtle or blatant, gradual or abrupt. The character can be an old friend of the protagonist, a friendly acquaintance, a former Mentor, or any other type of automatically respected person; the character can even be the actual protagonist. It can involve the revelations of dark deeds from the character's past, or manifest in new actions or attitudes which go against the established grain. In any of these cases, the audience is not supposed to suspect anything evil about this person; indeed, there may not be anything evil about them, at least initially.

The key to this trope is ambiguity. Once a previously good character begins to undergo this treatment, the narrative typically will become increasingly mum about their actual motivations and alignment. This can serve as an unintentional (or intentional) Lampshade Hanging, as it is a sure sign that we're not dealing with the sympathetic character we started out with.

This tactic CAN be handled well, and can add nuance and intrigue to an established character, shaking up potential story arcs and fan expectations. But when executed poorly, a clever audience will have them picked out from the beginning like an oak tree in a beanfield, even if the other characters don't see it.

Compare Knight Templar and Well-Intentioned Extremist, which is where this trope often ends up. See also Anti-Villain.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Everyone in season 1 of Higurashi: When They Cry approaches the corner very subtly, and they realize it very abruptly.
  • Quite a lot of Code Geass is about Lelouch trying not to paint himself into the Villain Corner... and failing miserably. In the end, he just gives up and acts like an Evil Overlord so the world can be at peace when he's killed.
  • Naruto: Sasuke. Originally he was just a slightly dark blue oni woobie, but the actual villains gave him a gentle push toward the corner, and, well...
  • Berserk does this to Griffith in the anime. Where in the manga, it's a Foregone Conclusion that he sacrifices the rest of the Hawks and becomes the Godhand Femto, the anime initially depicts him as a quintessential Knight in Shining Armor and all around Nice Guy until he starts showing progressively darker shades of grey. Yet even then he's never really depicted as full on villainous... until the Eclipse happens.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, Zamasu, the Apprentice Supreme Kai of U10, is, for the most part, portrayed as a young, inexperienced Kai who truly wants to make the universe a better place, and sees mortals as not worth the god's protection since they keep repeating the same mistakes. It is not until he meets and fights Goku, and visits Babari that he begins to believe that mortals are inherently evil and dangerous, and should be destroyed for the good of the universe. He also comes to believe that the Kais just watching is a sin since they're allowing evil to flourish.

    Comic Books 
  • Charles Xavier in X-Men, particularly the story arcs "Deadly Genesis" and "Dangerous", both of which seem to paint Charles as being a Well-Intentioned Extremist like Magneto. Fans are divided as to how well this works.
  • While it's no secret that Cassidy from Preacher was never a saint, beginning with "Dixie Fried" he started to act more bastardly than was common up to the point, and then came "All Hell's A-Coming" where we find out just how bad he really is, and for how long.
  • The Ultimate version of Reed Richards, who had three interconnected miniseries dedicated to going off the deep end.

    Fan Works 

  • X-Men: The Last Stand:
    • Jean Grey due to With Great Power Comes Great Insanity taking effect after the Phoenix breaks free from its psychic restraints within her subconscious.
    • In the first two films, Professor X seemed to be a paragon of virtue, but here, a dark side is introduced when Wolverine discovers that Charles had tampered with Jean's mind without her knowledge or consent in order to contain the most dangerous part of her powers. This was very unpopular among non-comic book fans because it was wholly incongruous to Xavier's previous characterization, so X-Men: First Class recontextualized his unethical behaviour as a manifestation of his acute control issues, a Fatal Flaw which occurs whenever he lets fear (instead of trust) guide his decisions. In retrospect, his mistreatment of Jean is not so much because he's a little bit "evil"; it's a shortcoming of a well-meaning, but arrogant person who doesn't foresee that good intentions can still bring ruin.
  • This was done to Anakin Skywalker throughout the Star Wars prequels. Since these came out after the original trilogy, this ended up being a surprise to no one.
  • The progatonist from The Brain That Wouldn't Die (as seen on TV's Mystery Science Theater 3000) is also the main villain. We're not supposed to notice at first, but given his first few lines of dialogue it's rather like staring at the sun.
    • The put-upon lab assistant in this film is given a similar treatment; he seems almost sympathetic until, suddenly and quite inexplicably, he cops a nasty attitude halfway through the movie, just in time for his Karmic Death.

  • The Warhammer 40,000: Eisenhorn Trilogy uses this on purpose, to show how an Inquisitor can go from Puritan to Radical in the course of duty. It displays the slide as a series of decisions that gradually get more and more radical as time goes on (ie summoning a daemonhost to kill a Titan - but only after exhausting all other options, even the one that resulted in the Love Interest going into a permanent coma).
    • Eisenhorn isn't really an example of a Villain Protagonist, as all through the series his motive was to protect innocent people (particularly those around him) and this didn't change a bit. Eisenhorn didn't change his motives but his perspective on Imperial dogma did change. The irresponsible action that caused his death was letting Pontinus Glaw live as a prisoner and giving him an approximation of a body rather than just destroying him. Hardly an evil action.
      • he's alive, and working for the bad guys. Yup. Villain Corner.
  • In The Dresden Files books, Harry's mentor and teacher Ebenezar McCoy turns out to have a license to kill... and in fact to break any rule of magic he damn well wants to. However, he's not shown to abuse this power; the ambiguity comes solely from Harry's realization that the laws of magic aren't as black-and-white as McCoy taught him.
  • Delivered somewhat in Harry Potter (it turns out not quite as outright villainy, but as Omniscient Morality License and really bad youthful influences) via a surprising instance of Posthumous Character.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel, in Season Two
    • And again after they take over Wolfram & Hart. The second time though, he was doing it to intentionally mislead the bad guys into thinking he had been corrupted so he could infiltrate their inner circle
  • Based on the most recent episode, Henry from Eureka
    • Averted in that he didn't do anything truly villainous, and continued to stay the same friendly face he had been. Truthfully, all he did was take more of a Darker and Edgier turn.
  • Lex Luthor has undergone this treatment in Smallville. We already know where that one is headed.
    • As of S9, Chloe Sullivan seems like she's on that path as well.
  • Peter from Degrassi: The Next Generation is in and out of the Villain Corner like a grade-school dunce. In his first appearance, he's a blackmailer; afterward the show desperately tries to make him seem like a good guy (including mandatory Freudian Excuse). But then he has several more Kick the Dog moments, most notably when he helps a pedophile stalk somebody... and then an additional season of "no, he's really a decent guy." And after that, (judging by promos) it looked like he was going to be evil again. But as it turns out, you can Never Trust a Trailer, and after one episode of appearing to be evil it turns out he's still good.
  • In Season 2 of Star Trek: Voyager, Tom Paris starts acting increasingly insubordinate and selfish, eventually leaving the ship to join up with the bad guys. Given that he started off Trading Bars for Stripes, it seems as if he is falling back to his criminal past, to the point that fans called it the "Bad Paris" arc. In the end, it was all just a ruse for him to infiltrate the real villain's ship.
  • In Supernatural S4, one common complaint was that it was impossible to empathize with Sam for betraying Dean and siding with Ruby because not enough was done to reveal his motivation for it. Ultimately, Sam was briefly an example of this trope, and this point has been addressed in S5.
  • Gaeta in the finale season of Battlestar Galactica. His motivations (and emotional breakdown) are made clearer if one has seen the webisodes.
  • Vikings: Ragnar's oldest friend Floki, a devout follower of the Norse religion, starts to increasingly object to Ragnar's openhandedness with Christians and their customs. He becomes more distant and resentful toward Ragnar and increasingly receptive to what Ragnar's rival Jarl Borg has to say about him. Then Floki betrays Borg and reveals that it was a ploy to trick Borg into revealing his plans. However, the religious dispute between Floki and Ragnar is still real and causes further problems for them down the line.

    Video Games 
  • In Guild Wars 2, Braham is friend you make early on in the Living World as part of the new generation of heroes. After his mother is killed, his next appearance has him acting increasingly abrasive toward the player, arguing against plans that will save people because it will come at the cost of his personal revenge, and ultimately storming off, when you point out the horrible trade-off that has become his goal, so he can defiantly enact his plan instead that will cost hundreds if not thousands of lives.

  • In The Order of the Stick, the wizard Vaarsuvius began showing signs of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope after the defeat at Azure City left him (her?) suffering from Past Experience Nightmares over the failure of hir arcane power to save the day. It started with being a Jerkass to the rest of the party, progressed to casually murdering Smug Snake Daimyo Kubota and then threatening to kill Elan, and finally to a full-blown Deal with the Devil that eventually led to a near genocide of the Black Dragons that very nearly pushed hir over the Moral Event Horizon. Fortunately, V shows signs of desiring to redeem hirself at the end of the arc.
    • The universe has made sure to give V another slap for the last action by revealing that the family of black dragons and relatives s/he murdered were related to a large, powerful family of wizards that really got around, meaning V murdered people whose only sin was to sleep with a member of this family.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, while Dr. Schlock was always more concerned with saving his own hide than anything else, still seemed like a pretty sympathetic guy until he took over Hereti-Corp. After that, a storyline focusing on him was actually titled "A Year in the Life of a Villain."
  • In The Wotch, Miranda West has always been a Jerkass, but when she transforms Natasha Dahlet of DOLLY into a living, sentient dolly it's a pretty sinister act, even if it was delivered to a villain. Miranda's catapulting leap into the Villain Corner continued even further when she ruined the life of a young man by permanently swapping his gender and then did the same to two innocent friends of his, just to point out how serious she really is about upholding the Masquerade.