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When the good guy leading by example rebels and does a Face Heel Turn, and others continue to follow his example and turn to the "dark side" along with him.
The Paragon isn't just a good guy, he's the good guy. Everyone looks up to him. He's at the forefront of every battle, gives the Rousing Speeches, and has probably personally trained most of the heroes.
What happens when someone like that turns evil?
So does everyone else.
This trope is about when the brightest beacon of hope and good decides despair and evil are better options and manages to worm his way into the hearts of the men and women who look up to him, turning them to the dark side as well. This is the distinction from Fallen Hero: He's not just falling, he's making sure to take everyone else with him.
So, to reiterate: it's not just the paragon falling by themselves; it's not this trope just because the guy is the number two good guy or the greatest whatever; it's about their dragging others with them.
Anime and Manga
- Popular background for newly created villains, particularly in Shounen series. Naruto has used and is using (and playing with) it with the Uchihas, Yu Yu Hakusho has a prior Spirit Detective in the Chapter Black arc, and it is--conveniently in the most recent release--now being used in Bleach with the last Substitute Shinigami before Ichigo being a newly revealed villain. If the hero's granted an honorary title, a yet unmentioned prior holder is almost certainly going to be a villain. When done well, as in Yu Yu Hakusho, a good reason will be given for the Face Heel Turn.
- Sailor Galaxia in Sailor Moon, though in the anime it's explained because she simultaneously extracted her own star seed and absorbed elemental chaos. She just got corrupted in the manga. And she cast it out to protect it from Chaos.
- Orochimaru in Naruto: while lacking anything regarding morality, he certainly was considered one of the brightest minds of his generation. He pulled a Face Heel Turn prior to the start of the story. Later on, Sasuke does the same thing.
- The anime delves a little more into Orochimaru's backstory, wherein he starts as an orphan, developing into an obsession with rebirth and a desire to overcome death. It even adds a small moment where old Orochi is there when Tsunade learns about her little brother's death.
- Itachi could be considered an inversion - in this case, The Paragon was the only one to not rebel.
- Itachi did, however, betray his own clan, the Uchiha, by being loyal to the Konoha government. As such, this is also an example of playing it straight, since the Uchiha considered Itachi to be their best.
- So what you're saying is Itachi likes to play it both ways. Since he's a Paragon to both sides of the conflict... No wonder he seemed like such a troubled guy in the flashbacks.
- And no wonder Sasuke doesn't get what he's trying to teach him...
- Yomi from Ga-Rei Zero, thanks to Trauma Conga Line. The OP song is even titled "Paradise Lost".
- Kagura on the other hand doesn't rebel as much as she cracks under pressure, taking the world with her.
- In Saint Beast, Lucifer refuses to stay as number two and takes Gabriel to hell with him. History then repeats itself with Judas and Luca, their students, whose motives are better but who also fall from the highest rank to ruling hell.
- Sosuke Aizen from Bleach was once the greatest and most beloved of the Gotei 13 Captains.
- Played straight when revealed, but subverted later with flash backs. He was evil before hand. He cultivated the paragon persona and reputation to throw people off his trail.
- Former Green Lantern Sinestro, the best and brightest Green Lantern who turned to evil.
- Recent works have tried to pitch him as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, with mixed results.
- Originally applied to Hal Jordan - Green Lantern of the Silver Age - who fell from grace during the 90's when the Guardians refused to give him enough power to restore his home town (which had just been destroyed in an unrelated Superman story arc). Jordan did not take this well and went on a killing spree of his fellow Lanterns to amass enough power to do so, becoming the villain known as Parallax.
- Depending on which retcon you choose to believe, this may have happened to Xorn of the X-Men.
- Irredeemable is all about this. And with the rise of The Survivor, it appears to be doing it again.
- Captain America, the most respected hero in the Marvel Universe, rebels against the US government in Civil War. Notable in that the majority of fans agreed with him and disliked his supposed Heel Realization.
- Mandrakk the Dark Monitor in Final Crisis was once Dax Novu, the greatest of all the Monitors. To make the Satan parallels even clearer, Novu was once known as "The Radiant One."
- In the theatrical cut only, Deckard in Blade Runner is allegedly the greatest Replicant killer around but becomes a Defector From Decadence by the end.
- John Travolta's character in John Woo's Broken Arrow is a hotshot army combat instructor before he turns on his own country.
- Happens in the movie Gabriel, which is all too appropriate considering the movie is about angels and demons. Michael betrays his fellow angels and assumes the identity of the fallen angel Sammael with the intent of making the souls in the purgatory dimension they're fighting over into his own kingdom with which to battle Heaven and Hell.
- Green Street Hooligans
- Agent 23 in the 2008 film Get Smart is CONTROL's best agent. Naturally he's KAOS's Mole.
- The villain of the film First Knight, Prince Malagant, used to be King Arthur's greatest champion before his greed and ambition made him question the Round Table's equality.
- The Silmarillion:
- Melkor was the greatest of the Valar, and when he fell, he dragged a number of the Maiar with him.
- Fëanor. The most gifted, talented and intelligent of all Noldor, who rebelled after the theft of the Silmarils, and drew the Noldor - the High Elves - with him from the Undying Lands to Beleriand, Middle-Earth, to wage war against Morgoth.
- Mistakenly thought to happen in The Bible. A lot of people think that Satan/Lucifer was the greatest angel before he rebelled against God. However, this is Word of Dante rather than Word Of God. In the actual text, 'Lucifer,' whose rank is unmentioned, is not identified with Satan, and Archangel Michael is the greatest angel and The Paragon, and he never rebels.
- In Stationery Voyagers, Luminarod was about to be the Paragon. But no sooner did Dolondri offer him the title of Prociot than the gears in his head immediately snapped; and he began to question the Definition Essentials. When he didn't get the answers he wanted, he immediately tried to overthrow God; and became the codifier of all evil. Martarel, who would have been the Duciot, receives the title of Prociot immediately after expelling Luminarod from Alto and clogging the Chasm Tube connecting Alto to Darko, so that it would become the Great Chasm. Sort of a compromise between what's left unstated in The Bible and what's made explicit by Dante.
- Ambrosio, from The Monk. An extremely devout monk. The progress of the novel chronicles his fall from innocence and virtue to complete evil.
- In Warhammer Fantasy, the High Elven king Malekith. His followers became the Dark Elves.
- In Warhammer 40000, Horus was the Warmaster of the Imperium and out of all the Primarchs, he was probably the one with the closest relation to the Emperor. He's also the person after which the Horus Heresy, the cataclysmic civil war that reduced the Imperium to the Crapsack state we all know and love, was named. Technically he wasn't the first Primarch to turn to Chaos (Lorgar turned before him, and orchestrated the corruption of Horus), but he was the one that caused half of the other to turn to his side and start the war.
- Lucifer in Demon: The Fallen was canonically the most powerful and wise of the Elohim, second only to God Herself. However, in this case, his "Face Heel Turn" was not caused by suddenly growing evil but by him shifting priorities from loving God to loving humans, just as God ordered him in the first place. Of course, this being the World of Darkness, It Got Worse and Lucifer remains a Hero with Bad Publicity.
- In Points of Light, Asmodeus was the greatest angel leading the strongest army in the war between the gods and the primordials. However, after a while he stopped caring about the innocents that got between him and the enemy, and after arguing with his boss about it, was cast down. He then took a rod crafted of pure evil and struck down his master with it, but in doing so was imprisoned within his master's domain for all time, transforming it into the Nine Hells.
- In the 3rd and 3.5 editions of Dungeons and Dragons, the prestige class Blackguard "epitomizes evil". Naturally, they get lots of special abilities if they used to be an Always Lawful Good Paladin. If you'd rather have a slow decline into evil, you can take a few levels of Grey Guard in between. Either way, The Dark Side Will Make You Forget about those Paladin class features you lost.
- Henry "Hotspur" in Henry IV part 1. Probably the greatest fighter in England, Hotspur and his father were on Henry IV's side in Richard II, but become disillusioned sometime between the events of the two plays and rebel against the king. Notably, King Henry thought of Hotspur as the son he should have had (his own son, Hal, is a listless drunkard-- although this turns out to be a massive case of Obfuscating Stupidity).
- This seems to be a running theme in the Mega Man meta-series:
- The original series has Dr. Albert Wily, a genius roboticist. Appropriately enough, his own greatest creation in this series, Bass, rebels against him. Quite a bit, in fact.
- Mega Man X has Sigma, once the greatest Maverick Hunter and protector of humanity. However, despite the atrocities he commits, his inclusion here is debatable; he's as much a victim of The Virus as a willful rebel.
- Commander Elpizo in Mega Man Zero 2 goes from being the champion of the free Reploids to opposing them when he becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist out to utterly destroy Neo Arcadia and everyone in it.
- Big Boss is the Deconstructor Fleet version of this and numerous other tropes. A few of the games' other antagonists probably count as well, at least the ones who weren't always acting as The Mole.
- Final Fantasy I, Garland is the top-knight of Cornelia, but turns evil and kidnaps their princess.
- Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII has Angeal, Genesis and Sephiroth, the top-ranking SOLDIERs of Shinra who are famed and idolazed worldwide. By the time the game is over all three of them have gone insane and betrayed the company, though Angeal's turn to darkness is a bit more complicated then Genesis or Sephiroth's.
- In Final Fantasy X, Seymour is a high-ranking Maester in the Church of Yevon, proposes to the main heroine and is polite and helpful. He's also totally insane and wants to kill everyone in Spira. However, turns out all of Yevon's leaders except for Kelk Ronso are corrupt.
- You could argue Kelk Ronso was also corrupt, just to a lesser extent. After all, he did knowingly allow dead people to rule.
- In Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, Lightning gets back to Order's Sanctuary to report that Kain is going around killing his allies off, only to find out that the Warrior of Light not only is in on Kain's plan, he tries to finish Lightning off himself. Doubly effective since his fighting style actually is "Paragon". Subverted though in that he and Kain are Well Intentioned Extremists who believe they're doing the right thing, and after a What the Hell, Hero? speech for the two of them they come to their senses.
- Larry Foulke, alias Solo-Wing Pixy, in Ace Combat Zero starts off as the Number Two in the best squadron of the entire Allied air force, but eventually grows disillusioned with the Allied strategy (his own Belkan heritage probably helps) and joins the terrorist organization A World With No Boundaries, eventually facing off against his former flight lead. Needless to say, that fight is so epic, they made an entire extra level just for the two of them.
- While not exactly a Paragon (he is more on the Renegade side), Saren Arterius in Mass Effect was one of the best Spectres before his Face Heel Turn.
- Which is hinted to be a case of More Than Mind Control from a certain Eldritch Abomination. According to the prequel novel, he started the Face Heel Turn that got him brainwashed in the first place due to rampant speciesism; humans killed his brother in the First Contact war and he thought that nifty giant warship he came across would be perfect in getting his revenge. Then it brainwashed him.
- Benezia might be a clearer example: she was a wise and respected Asari Matriarch before she was corrupted by Saren.
- You could, also, play Shepard this way.
- As of Mass Effect 2 Shepard appears to have taken on this status, going from the savior of the Citadel and the Council's pet hero to an insane renegade fighting alongside human-supremacist terrorists.
- In the Backstory of Knights of the Old Republic, Revan was an immensely gifted and charismatic jedi, who (along with his sidekick Alek who would face the same fate) inspired a number of others to join him in fighting the Mandalorians against the wishes of the Jedi Council. That was still rebellious action for a good cause, but the next thing you know, he had turned to the Dark Side, reforming the Sith order and trying to take over the Republic.
- In the sequel, the Exile, a Magnetic Hero if ever there were one, can become a Sith Lord. Depending on the strength of her relationships, she will drag her companions' alignment down too.
- Dragon Age Origins gives us Teyrn Loghain, the kings commander and Fereldens national hero for driving out the Orlesians despite being a mere peasant. He goes on to abandon his king to his fate, the son of the man he fought beside during the war against Orlais, before usurping the throne and throwing Ferelden into chaos at the worst possible time. He did, however, truly believe he was right and that his detractors were wrong.
- Several sources cite Carmen Sandiego as one of these, having once been the best Acme agent in the world before growing bored with it and deciding becoming the criminals she was assigned to catch would be more of a challenge.
- In Star Wars:The Old Republic, this happens with Havoc Squad. It can also happen to Republic player characters who turn to the dark side.
- Republic players on Nar Shaddaa are sent into Shadow Town, an Imperial prison for war criminals, to free a legendary Jedi by the name of Ako Domi. Guess what they find.
- Beluosus in Earthsong is a planetary consciousness that has decided to become a Planet Eater by eating the soulshards of other planets in sentient beings.
- Alpha in the Men in Black Animated Series was once The Men in Black's greatest agent, but went bad when he started adding alien parts to his body in a bid for power and immortality.
- Kyodai Ken in Batman: The Animated Series.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh 274 was The Ace of the organization. Then he frames our heroes (because Growing Up Sucks for the KND, and he's trying to hide the news of his thirteenth birthday) and very quickly becomes a recurring villain once the Revealing Coverup blows up in his face. Until it's revealed near the end that he was The Mole.
- Deconstructed in ThunderCats (2011) with the character of Grune, who always wanted to rebel and become his kingdom's usurper due to his limitless ambition, and realized that becoming a paragon by rapidly working his way up the military ladder to General was the best way to succeed.