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Villain Reveals the Secret

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"I'll begin with how I peeled back the layers of the boy'snote  mind. Oh, he bravely tried to fight it at first. You would have been proud to see him so strong. But all too soon, the serums and the shocks took their toll, and the dear lad began to share such secrets with me. Secrets that are mine alone to know...Bruce. It's true, Batsy. I know everything."
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Never tell a lie, they say, if the truth can cause more damage.

The Masquerade, a Big Secret, a Dark Secret and other things that you shouldn't know about are serious business. But what happens if your archnemesis, an evil organization or your evil relative reveals something about YOU? And what would happen if that secret had the potential to blow up all your relationships with friends and allies alike?

Well, you risk letting the bad guy win with style, and you may go from the frying pan into the fire if that secret may trigger a massive Face–Heel Turn and make the supposed villain look like a less flawed character than his or her opponent. In a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, this trope can also unravel much of a character's unknown Mysterious Past. However, the villain may have been lying all along to make the hero panic and stutter in front of The Cavalry, so be careful avoiding a red herring or blatant deceits. On rare occasions, this may undermine the villain if they reveal too much.

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Related to Keeping Secrets Sucks. It's a common way to start The Reveal and, in the worst case, trigger a Domino Revelation and a general What the Hell, Hero?. Compare Villains Never Lie and The Villain Knows Where You Live. Normally, it's this trope that kicks off a Third-Act Misunderstanding and a Liar Revealed moment. Expect the main character(s) to suffer from a massive Heroic Blue Screen of Death in both cases afterwards. This tends to overlap with Wham Line and/or Dropping the Bombshell. See also Just Between You and Me for cases where the villain goes into too much detail.

Spoilers ahead!


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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Loners ends with Phil Urich, having made a complete Face–Heel Turn, revealing that Mickey had made a deal with Fujikawa Industries to allow them to harvest MGH from the members of Excelsior at some point in the future.
  • In Avengers Undercover, Baron Zemo hijacks S.H.I.E.L.D.'s communications apparatus to reveal to the world the extent to which the organization is monitoring everyone.

    Films — Animation 
  • Scar from The Lion King exploits this trope to blame Simba of his father's death. Much to the latter's mother's horror and awe, the young lion publicly admits his crime. It turns out in the following Near-Villain Victory that Simba was innocent in the first place (well, the audience knew that since the first part of the movie).
  • Hades from Hercules reveals the hero that his chickie-poo Meg had been working with him all the time. And this happened AFTER Herc accepted to trade his own strength to save her and let everyone else be harmed by any potential threat. As you may imagine, he doesn't take it well.
  • Exploited by Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. During the final part of the climax, Quasimodo finally knows of his lost mother's fate, who died while trying to save him. Sadly, Frollo told him his entire life his mother was heartless and unable to feel "real love". As he tells the truth, Frollo finally attempts to kill his foster-son.
  • Downplayed in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: during their staying at London, the Zoosters find out the heroes weren't circus animals at all. How was that possible? Well, Captain Du Bois promptly left a few flyers showing the truth in their circus.
  • Played straight in Disney's Aladdin. Street rat Aladdin uses a wish granted by a genie to impersonate a prince so he can court Princess Jasmine. Aladdin and the genie argue about whether to tell Jasmine the truth. Later on, Jafar reveals Aladdin's true identity, but Jasmine isn't angry with Aladdin for lying.
  • After capturing and torturing Robin, Joker manages to acquire all of Batman's secrets in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, such as the location of the Batcave and Bruce's identity, leading to the page quote.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Armin Zola gleefully admits that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA, all to rub it in Captain America's face seventy years after they first met. This also serves to distract him and Black Widow from a HYDRA missile that is intended to take out everyone present.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, after striking a truce after a misunderstanding, Iron Man, Captain America, and Bucky work together to stop Helmut Zemo from releasing the other Winter Soldiers. But when they get to the room, Zemo reveals that he never intended to release the soldiers and killed them all. His real plan was to get them in the same room together so he can show them a footage of Bucky killing Stark's parents in 1991. Rogers is forced to reveal to Stark that he knew about his parents' death and kept it a secret, which results in Tony trying to kill Bucky and a near-lethal fight between Cap and Iron Man. The end result is the Avengers being disbanded, seemingly for good.
    • Defied in Spider-Man: Homecoming: After his defeat, another crook approaches the Big Bad Toomes in jail and asks if it's true that he knows Spider-Man's Secret Identity. Toomes lies and claims not to know, though whether he's being a Graceful Loser to his daughter's friend or has ulterior motives is left ambiguous.
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home: In the mid-credits stinger, doctored footage of Spider-Man’s showdown with Mysterio makes it way to The Daily Bugle and subsequently the MegaVision in Madison Square Garden. Most of it is fabricated, but the one true statement about Spider-Man is the most damning of all - his real name, Peter Parker.
    Spider-Man: What the fu — (credits begin)
  • Star Wars:
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Jim Gordon is one of the three people who know the truth about Harvey Dent's actions in the previous film, and the guilt of having to keep the secret has affected his work and marriage. Gordon keeps a letter revealing the truth on his person at all times in hope that someday he'll have the courage to reveal the truth. Unfortunately, Bane steals the letter when Gordon is captured and reads it publicly as he and his men turn Gotham into an anarchist state, the demoralizing effect of learning that their hero was a murdering psycho making the city's downfall all the harder.

    Literature 
  • In Super Powereds during a party at the end of freshman year, Michael Clark blows the secret that the Melbrook Five used to be Powereds (individuals with no control over their powers). Since Powereds are held in contempt by Supers, Clark hoped that revealing it would get the Five ostracized or outright expelled from Hero training, thus satisfying his vendetta against Vince.
  • Most of the Big Bads in Alex Rider are guilty of Just Between You and Me, but a few others are guilty of giving away other secrets. Yassen ends up revealing to Alex that his father was a member of Scorpia at the end of Eagle Strike, prompting his Face–Heel Turn in Scorpia. Later in Snakehead, it is Ash who is forced by Yu to reveal how he killed Alex's parents.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., John Garrett accidentally reveals that he is the Clairvoyant by Saying Too Much.
  • In Series Two of Arrow, this happens three times. Firstly, it is Merlyn who reveals to the audience that Thea is really his daughter as a result of an affair with Moira. Later, Slade Wilson tells Thea her parentage so as to drive a wedge between her and her family as part of his plan. Finally, he reveals to Laurel that Oliver is the Arrow, though this bites him in the arse.
  • In the classic Doctor Who serial "Silver Nemesis" minor villain Lady Peinfort tries this by claiming that she has learned all of the Doctor's secrets and will blurt them out to the Cybermen if he doesn't hand over control of the superweapon to her. Subverted in that the Cybermen tell her they don't care about the Doctor's secrets and that they want the superweapon for themselves.
  • In the second season of Community, Pierce takes on a more villainous persona due to his addiction to painkillers. In "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons", he's excluded from the game to cheer up "Fat" Neil because of this. He forces his way in anyway and causes much grief by tormenting everyone else. At one point, he reveals that Jeff was the one who came up with the nickname "Fat Neil".
  • In The Flash (2014), Dr Wells eventually confesses to Cisco that he is really Eobard Thawne, is from the far future and is the Reverse-Flash, shortly before crushing his heart. This gets undone by Barry travelling back in time, but Wells accidentally gives a bit too much away when helping Barry beat the Trickster later on.
  • Supernatural:
    • In season 6, the evil goddess Veritas, who forces everyone around her victims to speak to them with Brutal Honesty before killing them, reveals that Sam Winchester isn't really human since he's able to lie to her. Dean, who has been disturbed by Sam's psychopathic demeanour throughout the season, is shocked by this. As it turns out, it's because Sam has no soul due to a resurrection gone wrong.
    • In season 7, when a leviathan who has taken on Dean's form confronts Sam, it reveals to him because he knows it will hurt him that Dean killed Madison, a werewolf Sam believed would not kill humans again, even after he told Sam he agreed that she was good.

    Video Games 
  • Played With in Brütal Legend, where Demon Emperor Doviculus seemingly reveals the the heroes that one of them, Ophelia, is The Mole, resulting in her being cast out after they escape. It turns out, however, that he was actually referring to Eddie, who is not The Mole, but the son of the previous Empress and thus a half-demon himself.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, when the party takes down Saul Karath, he whispers something to Carth Onasi before dying. He reveals Revan's true identity as a former Dark Lord/Lady of the Sith. However, the player doesn't get to hear what he actually said until they run into Darth Malak, who outright tells you that they're Revan.
  • Dante's Inferno: as soon as Dante broke his promise, Lucifer captured Beatrice, for she had bet his man would have never slept with other women. Much to her horror, Lucifer tells her the truth before Dante reaches the second circle of Hell. To add pain to injury, Lucifer showed her every single second of that day. We later see the aftermath trough her eyes.
  • Subverted in BioShock Infinite, where Booker murders Father Comstock just as he is about to reveal to him and to Elizabeth that Liz is Booker's own daughter and that Booker had sold her to Comstock as a baby to pay off his gambling debts—a memory that had since become thoroughly garbled in Booker's mind by his own guilt and by the Luteces' dimension-traveling shenanigans. Elizabeth seems to guess the truth anyway, but Booker does not figure it out until much later.
  • During his Villainous Breakdown in Pokémon Black and White, Ghetsis reveals to N and the player that he's really in charge of Team Plasma and that the plan to release Pokemon is really to weaken Unova so it can be conquered.
  • Mega Man Zero 3: In the Final Battle, after the defeat of Omega, Weil reveals what Omega truly is: the "Original Zero". Something then awakens from Omega's remains, revealing a body similar to Zero but with a darker color, and this means Zero's body is actually a copy. Though after you defeat "Omega Zero", Cyber-elf X will arrive at the scene and explains that Zero's mind is still the original, and that "the heart is more important".
  • Mega Man Zx Advent: Before the Final Boss fight, the Big Bad Master Albert reveals to our protagonists that Grey is his backup body, Ashe is his legitimate descendant and their Biometal, Model A, contains a copy of his abilities as well as directives for its user to continue his plan - in other words, "Model Albert".
  • In Mass Effect, it is Sovereign who reveals to Shepard and the crew that the Reapers are seeking to return. However, he is Genre Savvy enough not to tell them what the plans are.
  • Golden Sun: The first game ends with the party boarding a ship hoping to find Lemuria for Babi, the ship's owner, who's run out of the Lemurians' immortality elixir. Partway through the sequel (which features a different party), Alex casually reveals that Babi has died in the meantime, pretty much For the Evulz.
  • Towards the end of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Darkness, Darkrai reveals that he was responsible for the 'accident' that kicked off the game's plot.
  • Halfway through Pokémon Black and White, N reveals that he is the rightful king of Team Plasma. The Wham Line in this case is underlined by how casually he's implied to reveal it.
  • In Pokémon X and Y, a member of Team Flare accidentally gives away the fact that they might not be as harmless as they seem. This is fairly early on, so players may forget this Wham Line at first.
    "Allow me to spell it out for you! It's so Team Flare - and only Team Flare - can survive!"
  • In the Lonesome Road DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, the Courier has a lot of their Mysterious Past filled in by Ulysses, who lets them know how responsible they are for the Divide's present condition.
  • Towards the end of Assassin's Creed I, the mortally wounded Robert de Sable confesses to Altair that the master of the Assassins, Al Mualim, is actually a member of the Templars who was manipulating his order so that he could wipe out the conspirators and claim an ancient treasure for himself. Altair does not take this well.
  • This happens a couple of times in Halo 2. Anti-Villain 343 Guilty Spark reveals to Commander Keyes and the Arbiter of the Ark's existence, as well as the fact that it can be used to light all Halo installations remotely. Similarly, when betraying the Arbiter, Tartarus openly admits that the Prophets ordered him to take the former out, giving away their planned betrayal of the Elites.
  • A variation happens in a sidequest for Mass Effect 2, when the villain Enyana accidentally lets Shepard and Miranda know that the latter's friend Niket is really helping them out, rather than helping Miranda's sister to escape.
  • In Borderlands 2, Handsome Jack openly admits that he's holding something secret towards the start of the game, but says that he has no plans to reveal it just yet. He waits until Wilhelm has been killed and his power core looted to replace Sanctuary's shields... at which point he reveals that Angel is actually working for him, causing the shields to go down and the city to be bombed by a Kill Sat.
  • In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, this is subverted towards the climax when Anti-Villain Colonel Zarpedon attempts to warn Jack about the dangers of the Vault on Elpis, in a last ditch effort to keep him away from the forbidden knowledge it holds. Unfortunately, in revealing that the Vault has already been opened, she causes Jack (who is suffering from Sanity Slippage) to rush his plans into overdrive and shoot her before she can finish speaking.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, it is the Tower of Sauron that reveals the truth about Talion and the Wraith, specifically the fact that Celebrimbor could have let Talion move on to the afterlife at any point he wanted. Instead, he opted to keep bringing the ranger back as part of his revenge plot against the Dark Lord. The reveal very nearly causes Talion to give up there and then.
  • Subverted in Dawn of War 2: Retribution. Kyras taunts Gabriel by telling him the Emperor's soul was eaten centuries ago (the God-Emperor is Only Mostly Dead, his spirit is still present in the Warp and there are a few cells still alive in his corpse). Gabriel responds with a Shut Up, Hannibal! and a really big hammer.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, at about level 75, the Ascian Emet-Selch finally confirms something that had been foreshadowed for years — that the Big Good Hydaelyn and Greater-Scope Villain Zodiark are nothing more than "the eldest and most powerful... of primals." Given that primals have been a huge problem at every turn of the story so far, this comes as quite a shock to the other characters.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • In the first Wham Episode of Noob, it turns out that the Justice guild was getting an unfair advantage in the game, but was Locked Out of the Loop about it. The first people from whom they hear that information are the top members of Roxxor, their rival guild.
  • Subverted in near the end of Acquisitions Incorporated season 8: The Big Bad seemingly reveals that the party's newest intern, Viari, had been The Mole for him the entire time, but it quickly becomes apparent that Viari had been just as much an Unwitting Pawn as the rest of the party and redeems himself almost immediately by killing the bad guy.

    Western Animation 
  • In Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, King Goobot shows Jimmy and his friends that they knew about Earth by showing them Jimmy's recorded message broadcast on an alien news program, surprising the kids and especially Jimmy himself, who never knew said message got picked up somewhere.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Lex Luthor, after treating The Question to a surprising Curb-Stomp Battle, smugly asks him whether he really thought his Presidential campaign was serious, showing that the whole thing was a $75 million plot to tick off Superman and use Cadmus to undermine him.
  • In the Book One finale of The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok confesses to Mako and Korra that he's actually Amon's brother, and that Amon is a secret Boomerang Bigot. Played with in that by this point Tarrlok had been stripped of his bending abilities and desperately wanted to redeem himself.
  • This happens many times in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated:
    • In the finale of the first season, Mayor Fred Jones Sr. admits that he isn't really Fred's dad, and that his real parents are Brad Chiles and Judy Reeves.
    • In Menace of the Manticore", when Mr. E's identity is revealed to be Ricky Owens of the original Mystery Inc, we get this line.
    Mr. E: "You see, Scooby is a far more trusting companion than Pericles was to me."
  • In The Simpsons:
    • At the very end of the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" two-parter, Burns awakens and regains the ability to speak, which allows him to eventually reveal- both to the cast and the audience (who had been in the dark for months) that Maggie Simpson shot him.
    • In "Brother from Another Series", after Bart and Lisa discover Bob wasn't responsible for the hollow concrete holding the dam together, Cecil emerges with a gun and admits that he has been doing his best to frame Bob all this time.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Shredder gloats to Splinter that he stole his daughter some time ago and has raised her as his own, purely to twist the knife.
  • In Beast Wars, Predacon leader Megatron reveals to Ravage the real reason he stole a Golden Disc from Cybertron: it wasn't to seize large deposits of energon (though that was a bonus), but rather because of a coded message left behind by the original Megatron, leader of the Decepticons and Ravage's former commander. While the recording is cut short, seeing a fragment of it persuades Ravage to switch sides and join him in his efforts to wipe out the Autobots.
  • In the first season of Winx Club, Bloom eventually learns from the Trix that she is the surviving heir to planet Domino and keeper of the Dragon Fire when they follow her to Earth to steal the Dragon Fire. Up till then, Faragonda and all other protagonists aware of this fact deliberately kept Bloom in the dark about this.

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