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Whenever a Big Bad is defeated, goes missing, or escapes, and the fans (or the plot) demand more from him, an Interim Villain is neatly placed between the fall and reemergence of the previous Big Bad. Whatever the original villain does after he returns will vary, and the Interim Villain can affect what happens after his spotlight gets shut off, but this only counts if the original villain returns in some way and remains fairly prominent throughout. This type of villain can be found in movie trilogies, anime story arcs and TV series.
An Interim Villain isn't necessarily a Replacement Scrappy, a Filler Villain or a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, but he may turn out as one. Best ways to determine an Interim Villain are their placement (is their predecessor still at large/already back at the scene?), their impact (did they affect the story or characters?) and their significance after their reign (do they remain in the story after their defeat?). If you've answered "Yes" to all three, then you've got yourself an Interim Villain.
The reasons for having an Interim Villain may vary. On one hand, it introduces a new side to the story, giving fans the chance to compare and contrast the Interim Villain with their predecessor. On the other hand, it could just be a Filler Villain meant to drag the story along without having to go to hiatus. In some cases, an Interim Villain could be planted and used as a scapegoat by the previous (or upcoming) Big Bad (if he's still at large by the time).
Anime and Manga
- In the anime version of Bleach, Jin Kariya of the Bount arc took over the scene, following Aizen escaping into Hueco Mundo in the previous arc. After Kariya was killed by the end of the Bount arc, Aizen returned for the Arrancar arc. What sets Kariya apart from an Arc Villain is how he returns as a vision to Ichigo, indirectly assisting in getting him to defeat his Inner Hollow.
- Subverted with Kageroza Inaba, another Filler Villain. Inaba makes his debut after Aizen's defeated, though he doubles as an Arc Villain, since he never makes an appearance after the Invading Army arc. However, the time fluctuations in the Dangai (caused by Aizen destroying the Janitor) were fixed following his defeat.
- The Fullbringer arc gives us a non-filler example, Kugo Ginjo, the original substitute Shinigami, and Shukuro Tsukishima.
- Death Note had the Yotsuba executives, one of whom was the third Kira, whose Death Note restored Light's memories as the original Kira and led to L's death.
- Ronin Warriors had some shmo take over as #1 Bad Guy for the handful of episodes after Tulpa was defeated and before he came back.
- The Makaiju aliens, Al and En in the first part of Sailor Moon R (anime version).
- Rave Master gives us Pumpkin Doryu, who is the primary antagonist between King's death and Lucia reviving Demon Card.
- In Transformers Robots in Disguise, Galvatron is Season 2's Big Bad. Everything else happens thanks to Shockwave's schemes.
- The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie had Hector Barbossa as the main antagonist, while Davy Jones becomes the prime villain for the second. In a subversion, Barbossa becomes the Sixth Ranger in the following film, Jones himself is Demoted to Dragon and Cutler Beckett (villain of the third movie) is the archetypal Big Bad for the original trilogy.
- In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Darth Sidious is the Man Behind the Man for Nute Gunray and Rune Haako during Episode I. In Episode III, he establishes himself as the Galactic Emperor, wipes out the Jedi Order and reorganized The Republic into The Empire. In Episode II, he had a minor role (even as Chancellor Palpatine), whereas Count Dooku was given more screen time and treatment as a Big Bad, but in a subversion, Sidious was the one that pushed for the formation of Dooku's organization (the Confederacy), and intentionally placed Dooku as a scapegoat while he pulled the strings from the shadows. Furthermore, the threat of the Separatists prompted the development of the Clone Army, later known as the Imperial Stormtroopers.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Thanos is the Bigger Bad in The Avengers and the Big Bad in Avengers: Infinity War. Though the Mind Stone plays a role in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the eponymous AI has nothing to do with Thanos or his plans.
- Thanos is likewise the Bigger Bad of Guardians of the Galaxy and squares off against the Guardians in Infinity War. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sees the A-holes square off against Ego the Living Planet who, like Ultron, has nothing to do with Thanos or his plans.
Live Action TV
- The strongest Buffy the Vampire Slayer example is perhaps the Anointed One in season 2, who takes over for and tries to resurrect the Master, the previous season's Big Bad, and is subsequently used to introduce Spike...who promptly kills him.
- In Season 2 of Twin Peaks, Wyndom Earle served as this, until Bob, the original Big Bad, returned.
- Buffy would often do this: Mr. Trick was replaced by Faith and the Mayor, The Trio gave way to Dark Willow, Spike (season 2) was eclipsed by Angelus, etc.
- Doctor Who:
- The Daleks were the main villains in the first and fourth series of the revival, while sharing and ultimately stealing the spotlight from the Cybermen in the second series. In the third, The Master takes over the limelight.
- The Silence were the Big Bad of Steven Moffat's era with the Great Intelligence sneaking in during Series 7.
- In Sherlock, Moriarty is the Big Bad of the first two series and his influence is felt in the fourth. Series 3's Big Bad is Charles Augustus Magnussen.
- The Legend of Zelda has two of these, most notably Vaati from The Legend of Zelda Four Swords and The Minish Cap, who serves as the Big Bad in those games. And from Majora's Mask, we have the titular mask itself which is the game's Big Bad and is ultimately the man behind the Skull Kid's mischief.
- Fawful from the Mario and Luigi RPG series games. In the first game, he was Cackletta's Dragon; in the second, he was only seen as a cameo while the role of the Big Bad was taken by the Shroobs; and finally in the third he is now the Big Bad.
- In the animated Teen Titans series, Slade was the Big Bad for the first two seasons, until his death by the end of the second. Brother Blood takes over as the Big Bad for the third season, but he works like an Arc Villain and a Filler Villain (not a single mentioning or appearance other than his four episodes), so how is he included here? The H.I.V.E organization was already in existence in prior seasons, Slade himself returned in full on the fourth season, and Blood's defeat led to the H.I.V.E. Five striking out on their own as an independent team. It also comes with a subversion - Slade was already killed in the previous season.
- Jasper in the third season of Steven Universe. As a Rogue Agent, she has no connection to the Diamonds' plans with the Cluster.
- Zig-zagged with Prince Lotor in Voltron: Legendary Defender. When Zarkon is near death in the third season, Lotor takes over as the main villain. Then Zarkon comes back in season four thanks to Haggar's efforts, but Lotor remains a fixture as he keeps going ahead with his own plans. He joins with the Paladins in the season finale, and in the following season takes Zarkon out of the picture for good himself.