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When a character, most often The Dragon or The Renfield, breaks out the Big Bad. Most commonly done either in the form of freeing the Big Bad from an Tailor-Made Prison or breaking out the Sealed Evil in a Can. Sometimes, this will be part of either an Evil Plan some sort by the sealed entity. Generally, one of three possible outcomes occurs:

  1. The person or thing being broken out is fully cognizant and quickly gets back on their feet, barking out orders as though nothing happened.
  2. The person or thing being broken out is heavily tired by their long captivity, and must be minded by their liberator. Perhaps his mental faculties are in order, but his body is not, perhaps the opposite. Regardless, it will normally take anywhere from a few days to a few years to recover. Rarely, this state can be permanent.
  3. The liberation backfires, and the entity kills, enslaves or otherwise harms its allies. Often a consequence of unleashing the Sealed Evil in a Can (because Evil Is Not a Toy), and may lead to an Oh Crap or My God, What Have I Done? moment.
Examples of Breaking Out the Boss include:

The person or entity is fully cognizant

Anime and Manga

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Kimblee comes to save Pride by blowing open the prison that Hohenheim made for him.
    • In the 2003 anime adaptation, Greed is freed from several centuries of captivity by virtue of Barry the Chopper hitting a fortuitously placed "self-destruct" button. Greed then frees other captives, namely the chimeras who become his henchpeople, Shou Tucker, and Zolf J. Kimblee. The latter would be an example of type 3 in respect to Greed.

Film

  • In X-Men 2, Mystique plays a critical role in breaking Magneto out of his plastic prison, by injecting iron into the bloodstream of one of the security guards so that he can kill the guard by extracting it from him and use it both as a weapon and a transportation method.
  • "I... am... MEGATRON!" You'd never guess it if you'd just watched the movie, but his minions had different ideas of what type this example was.

Live-Action TV

Video Games

  • Dr. Wily planned for his capture, and was broken out by 4 Robot Masters in Mega Man 7.
  • In Dragon Age, if the Warden (possibly plus Alistair) are defeated by Ser Cauthrien while raiding Arl Howe's estate, they'll get thrown in Fort Drakon's dungeon. This results in either the Warden breaking out, or a pair of the party members breaking him/her out, with various degrees of violence or subterfuge.

Western Animation

  • Wildfire: Some goblins spent most of an episode trying to release their boss. When he eventually escaped, despite the goblins having been defeated, there was no reason to believe he was any less powerful than before. Fortunately he was defeated again.


The person or entity is only partially cognizant

Anime and Manga

  • In the beginning of Code Geass R2, the Black Knights fetch Lelouch/Zero. It falls into type 2 because he is amnesiac after the Time Skip.
  • Still in great shape, but certainly past his prime was Piccolo Daimaoh. He managed to curbstomp Goku the first time they met, before he got rejuvenated by them Dragon Balls. Also, sort of Type 3 for Pilaf, who, even if he didn't get killed, also got no gratitude from Piccolo and got ditched pretty quickly.

Literature

  • In Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, Opal Koboi is broken out of her mental clinic-prison by the Brill Brothers. She is mentally cognizant, but extremely physically weak (even by pixie standards), and it takes several days in a muscle-massager to get her back into shape.
  • Partially applies to Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter. While Wormtail never had to break him out, he did have to (a. find (b. feed and (c. nurse his master back to health. For almost a year.

Western Animation

  • Occurs to recurring baddie Jammerhead in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward episode "Enter the Jammerhead", after he had been imprisoned during his last appearance. The "partially cognizant" bit comes from the fact that he was suffering from a system crash (Jammerhead is at least partially cybernetic) that had left him catatonic.
  • In one episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Cordoth's daughter tried to undo his banishment. When he was finally brought back, it was revealed he let himself go and was quite overweight.

The breakout backfires on the liberators

Film

  • Part of the plot of 3:10 to Yuma.
  • Unusual example: In the movie of Mystery Men, Captain Amazing arranges for Casanova Frankenstein's release from the jail so he can gain publicity by fighting him. It doesn't go well.
  • The parody and pastiche Kung Fu Hustle does this for laughs, when the Axe Gang has an inept patsy with a knack for picking locks break out the Big Bad from his prison. Throughout the prison, the film sends up horror cliches, including the blood-flooded corridor, before revealing the Big Bad to be an old, unkempt, flabby-looking man. Naturally, it turns out his kung fu is virtually unstoppable and he winds up taking over the Axe Gang.

Literature

  • In the backstory of The Wheel of Time, Lanfear did this accidentally, thinking the Dark One was just an untapped magical power source. When "the Bore" was drilled into his Can, evil and brutal chaos was unleashed on the world. Now that he's been re-sealed, the Forsaken plan to break him out again--this time completely. They (mostly) don't understand that fully breaking him out involves destroying the world itself, and themselves.

Video Games

  • This happened in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Grodus freed the Queen of Darkness, who promptly destroys Grodus's body. However, The Shadow Sirens intended it to happen all along.
  • In the third game of Mega Man Battle Network, Wily collects the four Tetra Codes so he can awaken Alpha, the prototype Internet to, well, destroy the internet. Alpha then proceeds to eat Wily and Bass.

Western Animation

  • One episode of The New Batman Adventures has two goons driving the Ventriloquist insane so his criminal mastermind alternate personality Scarface can emerge. When he does come back, he sets up a grand heist. When getaway is imminent, he tries to kill the goons for forcing him out early.

 Scarface: When the arms think they're smarter than the brains, it's time to amputate.

  • An episode of The Batman has Black Mask's thugs organizing their boss's liberation from the GCPD. As soon as Black Mask is free, he electrocutes his right-hand man and hands the reins over to a random goon.

 Black Mask: You, you're my new Number One.

  • Jackie Chan Adventures: If not for Jackie, Shendu would have probably killed the Dark Hand at the end of Season 1.

Examples for which revealing the nature would constitute a spoiler

Film

  • In the first Hellboy film, there is a female nazi seeking to reincarnate Rasputin. Results in type 1.

Live Action TV

  • Lilith and Ruby of Supernatural plot to break Lucifer out into the world.

Video Games

  • The villains of the first Wild Arms game spend most of the first act attempting to unleash the sealed Mother, who will ostensibly lead them in their conquest of the planet. It's a bad enough Type 3 that the Dragon simply allows the heroes to kill Mother before resuming said conquest himself.

Parodies

Western Animation

  • In Kim Possible, Dr. Drakken is left in prison for the first half of season 4, and he's constantly waiting for rescue from his henchmen. On two occasions, other villains show up to liberate his sidekick Shego, but they completely ignore him. In one case, the jailbreaker is Drakken's own cousin, Motor Ed, who takes the time to wave goodbye. When he does get busted out, it's by an alien suffering from mistaken identity.
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