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Prince Charming, out to avenge his mother, the late Fairy Godmother

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The heroes have defeated the Big Bad, and as they step out of the ashes and rubble, they congratulate themselves on a job well done. Now that the day is saved, they can relax and have a nice evening at home, knowing that the world is once again a safer place.

But wait! The Dragon rises from the rubble, filled with determination and a thirst for vengeance. He was loyal to his former master, who may have even been an Evil Mentor. He might even turn out to be worse than his predecessor.

This is often a Sequel Hook.

Compare and contrast Dragon Their Feet, Dragon with an Agenda, The Starscream, and Bastard Understudy. Take Up My Sword is the heroic equivalent. Sometimes overlaps with As Long as There Is Evil. While they are very similar, there's a crucial difference between this trope and being The Starscream: the Dragon was not directly involved with the Big Bad's downfall. There is a grey area with this, as sometimes the Dragon "drags his feet" or has his own agenda, but so long as he displays at least nominal allegiance to the core leadership, he's not the Starscream. The opposite of this trope is Demoted to Dragon, where a character who was previously Big Bad in their own right becomes The Dragon to a new Big Bad.

There will be spoilers ahead.

Examples of Dragon Ascendant include:

Anime & Manga

  • Kabuto in Naruto fused some of Orochimaru's remains into his own body following the latter's death, and this act seems to have given him access to Orochi's 'Impure World Resurrection' jutsu. Which, displaying an absurd level of Genre Savvy (not to mention showing that in a matter of months at most he's surpassed both Orochimaru and the creator of the technique in his mastery of it), he immediately used to revive and place under his control dozens of extremely powerful deceased ninja (including most of the previous Big Bads, the tailed-beast hosts, at least 3 Standard Evil Organization Squads, a number of Kages, any dead Main Characters.. basically making him one of the most powerful people on the planet.
    • However, he is almost instantly dropped to Big Bad Duumvirate status when Madara gets the Rinnegan back. Both of them have the means to completely screw the other over, with Madara's Rinnegan being fully capable of wiping out the army of undead ninja and Kabuto being able to wipe out the army of Zetsu. Kabuto expressly states that he wants to avoid making an enemy out of Madara at all costs, at least for now.... The two of them currently have a mutually profitable alliance, but neither one trusts the other at all. It's a fairly interesting dynamic.
    • Literally with Kabuto's new transformation.
  • After Beld is killed by Karla in Record of Lodoss War, his Dragon Ashram takes over and continues the original plan the same way as before.
  • Valgaav of Slayers Try. Also literally a dragon. Although so was his boss.
  • In Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Quamzin/Kamjin (aka Khyron) embodies this trope when he shows up (late in the series) after a long absence. The last of the baddies and seemingly more un-hinged than even before, he plans to end the post-war peace by finally destroying the Macross.
  • In Transformers Headmasters, Scorponok becomes Decepticon Emperor of Destruction after Galvatron dies. Twice.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Fate and Dynamis both qualify for this, though it's unclear who of them is currently the Big Bad and who is The Dragon.
  • Schneizel has aspects of this in Code Geass: after Lelouch erases Charles, Marianne and their Thought Elevator from existence, his scheming, plotting brother becomes the biggest threat to his plans to establish a peaceful world - and, in fact, the entire world itself, thanks to the stockpile of FLEIJA warheads he's installed aboard his flying fortress. Not entirely played straight, though, as Schneizel is arguably a far greater direct threat to Lelouch's plans than Charles is even before their confrontation.
    • Especially considering that Schneizel was literally planning to have the Emperor assassinated and Lelouch just got to him first. Considering the old man had nothing going for him other than his bizarre Instrumentality scheme, it's no wonder that both Schneizel and Lelouch saw offing the old man as a big step forward.
    • Although Schneizel's assassination attempt could never have succeeded, given that Charles was immortal by that point.
    • There's a contradiction there anyway. Charles also had the Geass working for him, any assassin could have been made to forget or even be made to think he works for him and try to off Schneizel instead, if he wanted to be all dramatic, but by that point he just didn't care. He also had his loyal Geass-order Mooks, C.C. and Marianne's loyalties, and that sums up into a lot of occult power which can be used IRL. Schneizel should have also known about his Geass, but apparently didn't, so anything he could have done falls into Failure Is the Only Option. Basically, he betrayed Lelouch for nothing, and Lelouch having killed Charles was his best option to take over the world like he wanted. If it weren't for Lelouch, he'd be a pile of mindless liquid, along with the rest of the world.
  • Toredia Graze in StrikerS Sound Stage X of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise is revealed to have died four years ago. The person behind the events of this mini-arc is his loyal subordinate Runessa, who plans to finish the work he started.
  • In the post-script season of Monster Rancher , Mu's lead Dragon/Starscream tries to pick up where he left off.
  • Bleach had an interesting variant: Muramasa spends almost the entire season of fillers orchestrating and escalating the Zanpakuto Rebellion to its peak, and was assumed to have been the Big Bad for a while, until towards the end, where he reveals he's just The Dragon for his master... who promptly leaves him half dead. Bigger Bad killed shortly after, and Muramasa was all that was left of the opposition, who promptly turns uber-hollow and subconsciously summons an army of Menos.
  • Prince Sincline/Lotor from GoLion and Voltron, who ends up wrestling the control of the enemy away from his father Daibazaal/Zarkon and, in GoLion ultimately gets him killed.
  • Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam is a very interesting example of a Dragon Ascendant that crosses into the grey area between this trope and The Starscream, to the point it's highly debatable exactly how to sort him out. After the death at the end of the first series of the Zabi family that rules the Principality of Zeon, Char rises to increasing prominence among the Zeon remnants, to the point that by the capstone movie "Char's Counter-attack" he's leading most of the Zeon forces. Arguably, he's a better leader than the Zabi family was. This is one of the big moral debates of the series: most Zeon nationals honestly believe in the cause of Spacenoid independence from Earth's oppressive rule, and many didn't particularly like the corrupt Zabi family, but they still saw them as their best chance for independence. Char, however, wanted to kill the Zabi family because they had his own father assassinated during their seizure of power over the space colonies. One of the ironies of the series is also that neither Char nor Amuro Ray ended up killing the big fish of the Zabi family, the father (Degwin) and eldest son (Gihren) who were calling the shots. Those two were killed by internal squabbles in the Zabi family. Char did betray the youngest son (Garma) to his death, and personally shot the daughter (Kycilklia) as she was fleeing the final battle, but this wasn't really a pure "Starscream"-style betrayal because it didn't really have any affect on the outcome of the war. Those who believe Char to be the Dragon Ascendant argue that he didn't really kill the Zabi family members he did for personal gain: indeed, instead of immediately trying to seize power, he spent the next two series manipulating events from the sidelines, and only gradually accepted a more prominent position in the Zeon hierarchy.


  • The Star Wars: Legacy comic series has Darth Krayt killed by his Dragon Darth Wyyrlok (who actually is loyal up to that moment, but that's another story); Wyyrlok places his dead master in stasis to hide the truth and decides to fulfill Krayt's "united under the Sith" goal in a rather more literal way - everyone in the entire galaxy will be Sith.
  • Grimer from Sonic the Comic is loyal to his master until the very end, but when he realises that Robotnik is insane, and unfit to serve, he quits and retreats to the shadows. He chessmasters his way into discrediting Sonic, leaving Mobius to the mob, and starting a destructive chain reaction of volcanoes before escaping to another universe. He appears near the end to gloat to Sonic, as a hologram. Badass.
  • Meanwhile, in the American Sonic comics, we have the Bride of Conquering Storm - she was the closest thing the Iron Queen had to a Dragon, and following the Queen's recent defeat and imprisonment by the Freedom Fighters, Conquering Storm's taken over as the main villain in the Dragon Kingdom (insert pun here). Of course, this isn't the straightest example, as Conquering Storm is still subservient to Eggman.
    • A better example would probably be Snively after he succeeded in killing the original Robotnik and taking over his empire, or the period after Eggman's Villainous Breakdown when he allied with the Iron Queen; however, both these times, Eggman eventually showed up/ recovered and put him back in his place.
  • Green Lantern: After Sinestro Heel Face Turned and rejoined the Green Lanterns, his Dragon Arkillo took control of the Sinestro Corps.


  • Commando: Bennett doesn't need the girl. He doesn't need the gun. He's going to kill you now.
  • Subverted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze. After the apparent death of Shredder in the first movie, his right-hand man Tatsu steps up to lead the Foot Clan, seconds before Shredder busts through the door to take his old position back.
  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, After Destro is badly burned, The Doctor takes over and takes the name Cobra Commander. Also, Zartan has infiltrated the White House by impersonating the U.S. President.
  • The Big Bad of The Long Kiss Goodnight, Daedalus, is unseen until about halfway through the film — up until then, The Dragon (Timothy) was the main onscreen villain. Daedalus is killed about ten minutes after first appearing, after which Timothy becomes the new Big Bad.
  • Prince Charming in Shrek the Third takes over the Kingdom of Far Far Away, carrying out the plans of his mother, the Fairy Godmother, who was killed at the end of the second film.
  • While he served as The Fallen's lackey throught the film Revenge of The Fallen, Megatron actually went back to being the leader of the Decepticons in Dark of the Moon.
    • Only for as long as it took Sentinel Prime to reveal his true colors, at which point he becomes Sentinel's bitch. At the end, he decides take back the position of leadership, which gives Optimus the opening to kill both villains.
  • Rock N Rolla: It's heavily implied that Archy took over things for Lenny after his untimely demise. (Having Lenny's old driver, Johnny calling him a real rock n' rolla, the bit with The Russian and so forth.) Kind of a subversion as Archy was the one to kill Lenny. Not out of a Heel Face Turn so much as really not appreciating being lied to or sent to jail.
  • Subverted by Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith where everyone believes Grievous to be the dragon ascendent of the Droid Army after the death of Count Dooku. The viewers are aware however that the true mastermind is the Sith Lord Sidious and both men were merely dragons.
  • In the first Spy Kids film, Floop appears to be the main Big Bad. Then his Dragon Minion deposes him and starts calling himself Mr. Minion. Floop quickly makes a Heel Face Turn. By the second film, so does Minion.
  • In Banlieue 13, when Complete Monster Taha is killed by his own men, his Dragon K2 takes over and does a much better job running things.


  • Sauron, the Big Bad of Lord of the Rings, was actually The Dragon to Morgoth in the First Age. Morgoth was defeated and locked away in the void, but Sauron was AWOL for that battle, and took up the mantle himself afterwards.
    • He actually had a Heel Face Turn after the battle, and genuinely wanted to help rebuild... but the temptation to abuse his power and status was too strong to resist.
      • Actually, it's stated that he honestly did repent...though only out of fear of being punished. When he was told that he wouldn't be given a blanket-amnesty but would have to stand trial to be forgiven, Sauron feared (probably correctly) that he would lose, so he ran.
    • Sauron's fundamental loyalty always seems to lie with himself, with a healthy dose of self-preservation- he's more than willing to work with whoever the most powerful being currently around is while advancing his own goals in the process. It seems to be the realization that after the armies of the Valar depart he's the most powerful entity active in Middle-Earth that sets him on the path towards the throne of Big Bad and Evil Overlord.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Sirius was introduced as Voldemort's former Dragon who was out to avenge his boss, but this turned out to be completely untrue. The real villain responsible for the crimes he'd been accused of was not The Dragon, being very low-ranked in Voldemort's organization, and he explicitly didn't have the guts to try things on his own. Later we find out that the real Dragon, Bellatrix Lestrange, tried to be the Avenging the Villain flavor of this, but was caught within days of Voldemort's downfall (though not before she had the chance to cross the Moral Event Horizon, unfortunately).
  • In Animorphs, Visser Three ascends to the role of Visser One when the previous Visser One is killed and its host freed from Yeerk control.
  • In The Sundering, Ushahin takes Godslayer and runs off after Sartoris dies and his forces are broken. Several characters muse that he might be even more dangerous than Sartoris, as while he lacks raw power, he is not limited by Sartoris's sense of honor.
  • In the Dale Brown novel The Tin Man, Gregory Townsend, who was The Dragon to Henri Cazaux from the previously non-continuity title Storming Heaven, is the new Big Bad. Also, Sun Ji Guoming from Sky Masters who becomes Big Bad by Fatal Terrain.
  • Trent in Ursula Vernon's Black Dogs is a love-interest-turned-Dragon. The story's Big Bad is killed by the demon he summons due to the Dragon's Xanatos Gambit, and the protagonist is left to face him instead.
  • Subverted in the Mistborn trilogy. After the Lord Ruler dies, it appears that his Co-Dragons, the Steel Inquisitors, have taken over as the Big Bads. They've actually just transferred their allegiance- or rather, had it forcibly transferred- to Ruin, who was actually the ultimate Big Bad all along.

Live Action TV

  • Cigarette Smoking Man after the destruction of the first Syndicate in The X-Files.
  • Santana Lopez in Glee seemed to be en route to this, taking over Quinn's role as the Alpha Bitch when Quinn's status as a Fallen Princess (she suddenly became unpopular when her pregnancy was revealed) made her do a Heel Face Turn. After Quinn had her kid, though, she first regained her status in the Cheerios and then half a season later both of them ended up quitting.
  • Smallville's tenth season features the Vigilante Registration Agency (VRA) led by General Slade Wilson. Slade and his group provide a great deal of the conflict in the early half of the season, with Slade himself finally going down in the eleventh episode. That isn't the end however, as episode twelve's Villain of the Week is Lieutenant Trotter, Slade's aide de camp, who has taken over the VRA and directed it towards her mentor's agenda of taking down all the heroes. Only her defeat ensures the end of the persecution.
  • Babylon 5 season five, and its spin-off Crusade, has the Drakh, former servants of the Shadows who were abandoned when their masters agreed to stop interfering with the younger races and decided to take over as Big Bad. Their name even resembles many Romance languages' words for "dragon".
  • The final episode of The Shadow Line has Dragon-in-Chief Gatehouse killing his bosses and becoming the Big Bad proper.
  • Subverted in Power Rangers RPM. After Venjix is seemingly destroyed in battle, his Dragons decide to fight over who gets to assume the role of Big Bad. Tanaya 7 wins, but Venjix comes back online directly after that. He isn't too mad though.
  • At the end of Season 1 of The Wire, Big Bad Avon Barksdale is convicted of drug trafficking and sent to prison, but his right-hand man, Stringer Bell, who managed to avoid being caught on tape doing anything illegal, is left out on the street. Since Stringer is a lot smarter than Avon was, he proves to be even tougher to catch.
  • A mild example in Doctor Who with the Cybermen of Cybus Industries. When the Cyberleader is killed, another Cyberman immediately upgrades himself to Cyberleader. It's not made clear if there is any hierarchy in place to determine succession.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: After Gul Dukat is captured, Gul Damar steps into this role for a while though ultimately pulls a Heel Face Turn and becomes the hero of a Cardassian resistance against the Dominion.

Video Games


 Wild Dog: How could you?! You killed my boss!! What do I do now... I can't let things end this way!

    • Note that Wild Dog has no reason to do this, he just feels like it. This becomes a trend for the series - Wild Dog is always a mercenary, and he's always the last guy you fight.
  • Subverted in Final Fantasy II: After the heroes kill The Emperor, his sidekick the Dark Knight tries to take his place, until The Emperor returns from hell, having made a pact with the devil to return to life as a demon. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Final Fantasy VII After President Shinra is killed by Sephiroth, his son, Rufus, the Vice President of Shinra Inc. assumes his position.
  • Fawful, The Dragon of Big Bad Cackletta, was the fan favorite villain of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, thanks to Nintendo's localization efforts. His popularity (and not to mention he wasn't seen dead) played in his transformation to a major Big Bad in the third game Bowser's Inside Story.
  • Call of Duty : Modern Warfare franchise. Vladmir Makarov was an underling of the Big Bad of Modern Warfare 1, Imran Zakhaev. He is now the main villain of Modern Warfare 2.
  • In the Ratchet and Clank series, Captain Qwark becomes the Big Bad after the game in which he was The Dragon.
  • Kyle Katarn kills Desann, after beating his apprentice Tavion but allowing her to go, in Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast. Tavion proceeds to be the Big Bad in Jedi Academy, the next game, seeking revenge for her humiliation, among other things.
  • In Myth 2, Soulblighter returns to try and finish the job that his boss, The Leveler started. Too bad the job is wiping out all human civilization and ushering in a thousand years of darkness.
  • In Prototype, the Supreme Hunter/Hybrid is the final boss; you kill its "Mother" Elizabeth Greene (who was the source and driving intelligence behind the infection) several levels earlier. The Hybrid may have actually facilitated Greene's death. At the end of the game, the Hybrid reveals that it had consumed and assumed the form of Specialist Cross. Cross had been secretly advising you; his advice led to Greene's death. It's unclear as to whether the Hybrid consumed Cross before or after this. The hybrid wants to eat Alex in order to grow powerful to survive a nuke and live to spread the infection elsewhere.
  • Cho'gall was the lieutenant of Gul'dan, mastermind of the conflicts in the first two Warcraft games. When Gul'dan was killed and the Horde dismantled, Cho'gall and the remnants of the Twilight Hammer Clan disappeared. Decades later, the revamped Twilight Hammer Cult has its fingers in every dish of apocalypse-pie they can find with Cho'gall at their lead.
    • Ultimately, though, he takes a backseat yet again. Lacking the power to personally bring about the end of Azeroth, Cho'gall has aligned the Twilight Hammer with the Old Gods and Deathwing.
  • At the end of Mega Man Zero 1, the tyrannical ruler of Neo Arcadia was defeated by Zero. In Zero 2, Harpuia, de facto leader of Copy-X's 4 Guardians, assumes leadership, while keeping it a secret from the Neo Arcadian citizens that Copy-X was dead.
  • Red Faction has first half of them game hunting down Capek, after that it's fight against mercenaries and their leader Masato.
  • Starcraft: Immediately after Tassadar destroys the Zerg Overmind, Kerrigan ascends to rule the swarm, although Daggoth initially takes control of half the swarm as well, starting the so-called Brood War.
  • Often in Castlevania games, Dracula isn't always revived for most of the time the castle is around. This leaves Death to try and figure out how to revive him and set some of the plots in motion, such as in Harmony of Dissonance and Portrait of Ruin. Inevitably, he succeeds (or fails but but comes back anyway) and Dracula is one again the final boss.
  • An example From a Certain Point of View happens in Tales of Vesperia, where the Fallen Hero Duke picks up where Pharoh left off; trying to save the world through questionable means. Unfortunately, nobody realises until it's too late that his Necessary Evils include Kill'Em All. Oh, and the name of one of his attacks? Dragon Ascendant. It's From a Certain Point of View because, with a few exceptions, the game runs on White and Grey Morality.
  • Jimmy Pegorino becomes this in Grand Theft Auto IV's Revenge ending.
  • The Godfather: Played with. Once Sollozzo's taken down, Bruno Tattaglia seems to be the one pulling the Tattaglias' strings during the mid-point of the war against the Corleones, but he's killed fairly quickly. After that, Johnny Tattaglia (Bruno's brother) tries to form up his own army to take down the Corleones from Brooklyn in one of Tessio's contract hits. Key words: Contract Hits, so he's whacked shortly after his existence becomes known.
    • Played straight in the sequel if you take the Villain Protagonist angle - You as Dominic were Aldo's underboss and become the new Don after Aldo gets killed.
  • In Onimusha 3, the game ends with Nobunaga's final defeat. The game ends with sequel bait showing that his right hand man, Hideyoshi, is ready to make his move. The hell he plays a hand in unleashing in Dawn of Dreams is war worse than anything Nobunaga ever accomplished.
  • In Strange Journey, Mastema serves as the yes-man for the Three Wise Men, the Law authorities of the setting. They intend to use the Schwarzwelt's powers to rewrite reality so the Law of the Lord will forever be in Humanity's heart. Problem is, Mastema really doesn't give a shit about the Wise Men's motives. He doesn't believe in human cooperation, bonding or any human activity aside from their blind faith and devotion. What he believes in? Power. For himself. All he ever does is for the possibbility of ascending to a higher form. Even after the Wise Men's armies have been mostly junked in the Chaos Path, he tries going himself against the protagonist and is thoroughly humiliated and forced to own up to his own silly pretenses.


  • Ansem was The Dragon to the FOX director of the first season of Ansem Retort, but has ascended to become his own Big Bad, made all too apparent in the newest season.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • At first, it seems as if Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender will be ascended when her father crowns her Fire Lord. Subverted in that, two seconds later, he crowns himself Phoenix King, removes all power from her position, and makes her stay home instead of fighting in the final showdown.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Shredder's adopted daughter Karai takes up her father's mantle and attempts to avenge him after his defeat.
    • Hun also gets this treatment, going from being Shredder's bodyguard to a competent leader of a more black-ops incarnation of the Purple Dragons. While only appearing as the main villain in only a small handful of episodes, he had a tendency to get away scott free at the end of the episode, as opposed to appearances in earlier seasons when it was pretty much standard procedure for him to get his ass kicked by the end of every storyarc.
  • In the Five Episode Pilot of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, the Rangers defeat ruthless mob boss Alden Klordane. He's never seen again, but his Right-Hand-Cat became a frequently recurring villain, as did the Mad Scientist he was employing. Though Fat Cat's status is questionable, since he already had a criminal empire and plans of his own when he was a pet.
  • At the end of the Five Episode Pilot for Transformers Prime, Starscream appoints himself Decepticon leader roughly a minute after Megatron disappears in a space bridge explosion. This goes here rather than under the trope he named because, for once, he didn't have anything to do with what happened to the Big Bad, though he's not above worsening the damage once he finds what's left of his former master in the next episode.
    • Though it should be noted that when Starscream does take command, you can tell by his voice and the look on his face that he is absolutely loving his chance at ascension. So rather than his usual trope, this seems to make him more of a Bastard Understudy.
  • Before that, there's Galvatron in the third season of the original Transformers cartoon, due to Unicron's body being destroyed at the end of Transformers: The Movie.
  • Arguably Zira from The Lion King II. Although we do not see her in the first film, it's actually implied that she and Scar are actually married and therefore, she was his second-in-command. When the hyenas kill Scar at the end of the film, Zira actually put the blame on Scar's nephew and arch-nemesis, Simba, and since then, vows to destroy not only him, but also his entire pride as revenge.
  • Snively at the end of Sonic Sat AM was shown stepping up to this role in the final episode after Robotnik fled. But the series was canceled before he got to do anything.
  • Zemerik from Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 was this to Krytus. He used to be Krytus' Dragon but gained freewill, betrayed Krytus, and sealed him away. He proceeded to take over Krytus' role of Big Bad over the Sark. Unfortunately for him, Krytus eventually returns and takes said role back.
  • Abis Mal, who was first seen working for Jafar in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, actually becomes this in the TV spinoff after Jafar's death.
  • Black Manta ascends as a main member of The Light in Young Justice after his former boss, Ocean Mater, becomes "disgraced" after an unspecified incident during the Time Skip.
  1. Liquid Snake in the first game, Solidus Snake in the second, and Colonel Volgin in the third