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"Irresponsible children. My patience is stretched miles beyond its threshold. Embrace your wounded; you will be joining them in hell."

In order to add more drama to a series which has been, up until that moment, lighthearted and comedic in nature, a villain is introduced (usually the Big Bad, but may also be The Dragon of the series) which is played completely straight, in contrast to the bumbling and comedic villains the heroes have faced before.

This villain's arrival is usually heralded by a sudden downturn in humor, as well as several Kick the Dog moments (up to and including killing off recurring characters) to show the audience this guy means business. In other words, a catalyst for a drastic change in mood toward the dark and dramatic.

In some depictions, particularly Lighter and Softer ones, said villain may still have some light hearted or comical traits, but still gives a much higher sense of dread and genuine threat to the heroes than previous adversaries. Some cases of the trope may be harder to define by comparison in a particularly ineffective Rogues Gallery, though a clear cut example at the very least can actually place the protagonist in real danger compared to the Harmless Villain that poked his poodle in a previous arc.

A typical symptom of Cerebus Syndrome. A Knight of Cerebus is very likely to be Dangerously Genre Savvy, but also runs the risk of becoming a Villain Sue. Arguably a subtrope of Threshold Guardians. See also Dead Serious, Not-So-Harmless Villain. The show may Shoo Out the Clowns first. Often, this results in a case of Vile Villain Saccharine Show. When this kicks off Cerebus Syndrome, his arrival is a Gut Punch.

Examples of Knight of Cerebus include:


  • Makuta from Bionicle started out menacing enough, but his constant defeats and failures gradually robbed him of his credibility. After the original head of the Story Team left, the character of Makuta underwent a serious retcon, which resulted in him turning into a calculating mastermind who had planned his victory from the start, turned out to be the Bigger Bad behind a lot of former villains, and by the end of the story arc, ended up winning.


  • Camelot is extremely lighthearted up until Mordred arrives, and then starts building toward a genuine tragedy. This could easily have caused Mood Whiplash, but it's handled extremely well.

Web Animation

  • Zetto in TV Tome Adventures, a Blood Knight who usually shows up in each season around the time things are getting serious.
  • Red vs. Blue introduces, in Reconstruction, several characters who are entirely serious military personnel, including the Director of Project Freelancer (Dr. Leonard Church), Agent Washington (who isn't actually a villain, but nonetheless marks the shift to a mix of silly and serious for the series) and the Meta, who's a creepy, insane blend of several A.I. It's a considerable shift from Omega's "feast on their bodies and crap out their souls" vibe.
    • Washington double-dips on Knight of Cerebus duty by coming back at the end of the more comedy-oriented series "Recreation" and offing two major characters on the spot.
      • Church, after witnessing Washington ruthlessly execute fallen enemy South on Delta's advice, summed it up the best: "Dude, you guys are some cold motherfuckers."
  • RWBY starts off as lighthearted and honest kid-friendly in nature, even Torchwick (who does poses a threat in the finale of Volume One) is a comedic and entertaining villain in his own right and the show mostly played like a slice of life/action series. However the moment Cinder shows up, it finally takes a dark route (despite appearing to be more generic in Volume 2) when she manipulates events, has Pyrrha accidently kill Penny via illusons and releases Grimm and the White Fang on Vale causing Beacon Academy to fall and thousands to die, as well as brutally kills Pyrrha in front of Ruby. She suffers from Villain Decay in Volume 4, but returns as much of a sociopath she was by stabbing Weiss through the stomach and killing Vernal in cold blood.

Web Original

  • "Oh, but I am Linkara... More or less."
    • After Mechakara was dealt with, things got sillier again with Dr. Linksano as the main villain... only for a second Knight of Cerebus to emerge: Lord Vyce. "All that he sees, he conquers."
  • The Neanderthals from AH Dot Com the Series.
  • Stalker, the first Complete Monster in Tasakeru.
  • Suburban Knights had the Big Bad, Malachite. He scares the living shit out of the regular cast, and with good reason.
  • Most of Epic Rap Battles of History's "Donald Trump vs. Ebenezer Scrooge" is, at least, relatively lighthearted until the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears. Apart from making Scrooge jump with a "Boo!", unlike every rapper in the series to date, what he has to say isn't funny at all.
  • Team Four Star's Abridged Series of Hellsing Ultimate, Hellsing Ultimate Abridged, has a weird, short-lived heroic version in Dr. Abraham van Helsing, whose one scene at the beginning of the episode has him delivering a long, but deadly-serious speech to the dying Alucard, albeit with Alucard giving it a very, very dark punchline.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: The Musical flirted with the idea when the last new cast member of the original "week" cut in and started actually threatening or outright killing people, then unmistakably took a hard turn into "dark and serious" with Sister Location's Circus Baby singing "Blood and Tears".
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