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The Arc Villain serves as the Big Bad for one Story Arc, having an Evil Plan, The Dragon, and Mooks with which to threaten Our Heroes. After that, though, he's killed off, sent into a Humiliation Conga, or makes a Heel Face Turn, and Our Heroes go on to unrelated adventures and the next arc.

There's no Man Behind the Man for the Arc Villain and no greater threat inspiring him, and he's certainly not something so minor as a Monster of the Week. But he isn't really the single Big Bad of the series, either, since his defeat doesn't mark the end of the plot - or even the end of the hero's character arc. He isn't a member of a Big Bad Ensemble, because he's definitively removed from play after the arc (though if two or more of these are present in one arc, then of course they form their own Big Bad Ensemble). Not to be confused with the Disc One Final Boss, who is a Red Herring for the Big Bad.

Isn't the same as the situation where a character is intended as the ultimate Big Bad, but a Post Script Season (or sequel) starts an entire new story. In fact, Arc Villains are often used as middle rungs on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil.

A Filler Villain or Starter Villain will almost always get relegated to being an Arc Villain. Compare Big Bad Wannabe; contrast Disc One Final Boss and Interim Villain.

Examples of Arc Villain include:

Anime and Manga


  • In most contemporary Superhero comics, which are written with collected editions in mind, this has effectively replaced the older villain-of-the-month trope.


  • Newsflesh:
    • In Feed it was Gov. David Tate
    • In Deadline it was Dr. Joseph Wynne.
  • Nicodemus in The Dresden Files. He's one of the few villains unconnected with the Black Council.
  • In the original James Bond novels, Blofeld is actually less ubiquitous than in the early movies. Instead, he and SPECTRE are introduced in Thunderball, which seems to set them up as Bond's new collective long-term archenemy, but It's Personal after On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice marks a definite end for the "trilogy". (After which, there's only one book left anyway.)

Live Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer always had these (and may be the Trope Codifier, at least for live-action western TV shows.)
    • The Master in Season 1.
    • Angelus in Season 2.
    • The Mayor in Season 3.
    • Adam in Season 4.
    • Glory in Season 5.
    • The Trio and Willow and LIFE itself in Season 6.
    • The First Evil in Season 7.
  • Almost every season of Dexter has involved some kind of Arc Villain; the Ice Truck Killer in the first season and the Trinity Killer in the fourth season are the two that fit this trope the best.
  • Supernatural. Azazel for seasons 1 and 2, Lilith for seasons 3 and 4, Lucifer for season 5 and either Crowley, Raphael or Eve for season 6, which was pretty unclear.
    • Season 6 was a Big Bad Ensemble, and only Eve hadn't appeared in revious stories. Seasons 1-5 don't count as this trope, as it was gradually revealed that Lucifer was the Big Bad all along and the others were working for him.
    • The end of season 6 revealed that Crowley, Raphael and Eve were Disc One Final Bosses to Castiel.
  • Nimueh from the first series of Merlin.

Video Games

  • In Dragon Age Origins, Keeper Zathrian is the Arc Villain of the Nature of the Beast quest and Uldred is the Arc Villain of the Broken Circle quest, though the other major quests track back to either Loghain or the Archdemon.
  • Azala in Chrono Trigger.
  • While Mass Effect doesn't exactly have "Arcs" per say, it's worth noting that many of its side villains are standalone, found in single missions or 'campaigns' of missions, where a group of sidequests make up a single story. In the sequel, most of them are antagonists to a certain squadmate on a personal level, and so act as the main villain of that character's loyalty mission. Notable examples include Major Kyle, Helena Blake, and Lord Darius in the first game and Gatatog Uvenk, Weyrloc Guld, Tarak, Enyala, and Donovan Hock in the second game.
  • Used fairly commonly in World of Warcraft. Van Cleef is behind the low-level Defias arc, Naralex's Nightmare and the Crone of the Kraul are responsible for The Barrens' arcs, and following their father's (retconned out of continuity) death, the Big Bad Duumvirate of Onyxia and Nefarian are behind quite a lot of the rest of the plot.


Western Animation

  • Commander/Admiral Zhao from Avatar: The Last Airbender was part of a Big Bad Ensemble with Zuko in the first season, but he was barely even mentioned following that. In the next season, the most we have is that he was the first that entered the library made by Wan Shi Tong, which led to... problems when the Five-Man Band showed up in it on the second season, but even then, Zhao himself spoke of the details in the previous season; it was a passing mention without a name by Wan Shi Tong when the Gaang inquired about it.
  • Brother Blood in the Teen Titans cartoon. He's the Big Bad of the third season, given a bombastic personality, a close personal connection to one of the protagonists, and portrayed as a serious threat. After the season three finale, he's never seen or mentioned again.
    • Likewise with Trigon in the fourth season. An unnamed representation of him appeared in Raven's mind in season one, and Raven briefly summed up the events of his arc in one fifth season episode, but aside from that he's never mentioned again (or seen, but that's because he's dead/banished).
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