Dragon Their Feet

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So we have a Big Bad, and he has his dragon. The plot unfolds as our heroes do what heroes do. Laughs are had, tears are shed, and finally they reach the end of their quest.

Somehow along the way, though, they missed the Dragon. Then the Dragon turns up. He's not The Man In Front Of The Man, he just wasn't around when the Big Bad went down. Sometimes there's a reason for it, but sometimes... he's just absent. He was Dragon His Feet.

His motives for persisting in going after the heroes can vary. He might be out for Revenge for his murdered boss, he might have an agenda all his own, or he might simply have not got the memo that his side's already lost.

("I think he's been spending too much time with Ray...")

May result in a Post Climax Confrontation, or a Dragon Ascendant if the heroes are really unlucky.

Examples of Dragon Their Feet include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • This happened with the 5th Dragonball Z movie, Cooler's Revenge: when Goku recovers from his injuries and powers up to fight Big Bad Cooler the force waves throw Cooler's remaining henchman and more or less Dragon Salza into a rock face which he disappears into. He's forgotten until the very end when Cooler is vanquished, when he emerges to try and finish off the exhausted and battered heroes. Until Piccolo blows a hole in him via an offscreen Makkelranko Mallerkasanko Mykillerisdanko SPECIAL BEAM CANNON.
  • Quattro in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, though she had an excuse. She was operating the Cool Ship that was heading to space while Big Bad Jail Scaglietti was in his Elaborate Underground Base when Fate came to kick his ass. That, and she had one of Jail's backup clones implanted in her womb, so her not going down with the Big Bad was what the Big Bad wanted.
  • The Kirby anime has an interesting variation. In this continuity, Meta Knight is technically a vassal of King Dedede (a Large Ham borderline Harmless Villain), but Dedede himself is frequently annoyed that he never seems to help out except in the most dire circumstances. Meta Knight being technically a good guy might have something to do with it.
  • This was also the case in the Soul Eater manga. Where one of Arachne's dragons, Giriko, was drugged by the good guys. Which resulted in him sleeping through the entire invasion of Baba Yaga's Castle and Arachne's Death.
  • An example of this occurs in the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime: after Roy is finished with Pride, he exits his lair only to be shot in the eye by Frank Archer, who had been marching slowly into the area. Despite this Pride was not the actual Big Bad, Archer having been the Dragon to another Dragon.

Film[edit | hide]

  • These have a habit of happening in James Bond films.
    • Diamonds Are Forever had Mr. Wynt and Mr. Kidd (Blofeld's assassins) try to kill Bond and Tiffany Case with a Time Bomb after Bond dealt with Blofeld.
    • The Spy Who Loved Me had Bond fighting Jaws after killing Big Bad Stromberg.
    • Scaramanga's assistant Nick Nack took a final shot at Bond at the end of The Man with the Golden Gun. Perhaps justified with him being a little person.
      • Well, actually, that's an inversion. Firstly, he wasn't absent- he watched the whole thing on camera, and was manipulating Scaramanga's playhouse to torment Bond for amusement, then got worried when Bond managed to escape from viewpoint. And secondly, he wasn't out to avenge his master- he was supposed to inherit Scaramanga's island upon his death, and Scaramanga even let Nick Nack hire hitmen to kill him to that end, since Scaramanga liked to test his skills. In other words, he's pissed at Bond for destroying his inheritence.
    • Big Bad Carver from Tomorrow Never Dies is completely alone when Bond takes him out and then his Dragon Stamper emerges afterward to have the final battle with Bond and in The World Is Not Enough, the final showdown is with Renard when Woman Behind The Man Elektra King is dispatched at the end of a scene where she tortures Bond, who has to face Renard, though this may be a case of Big Bad Duumvirate.
    • Tee Hee has a fight with Bond aboard a train after he kills Kananga in Live and Let Die.
    • The trope even follows into the parodies: Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery has Random Task infiltrate Austin's hotel room at the end, and at the end of the sequel The Spy Who Shagged Me Fat Bastard makes a surprise re-appearance ("SURPRISE SURPRISE!")
  • In The Running Man, Ben Richards incapacitates Dynamo, one of the four "stalkers" - dragons of Damon Killian and stars of his show - but spares his life. The stalker comes back later and is killed by Amber.
  • General Grievous from the Star Wars prequels is supposedly Dooku's right hand man and most feared commander and assassin, but he's nowhere around while Dooku tries to take on two very powerful Jedi and gets himself killed. Perhaps justified as part of Palpatine's manipulations.
    • Although, he could have just been considered The Brute, because Palpatine was really the big bad with Dooku as the dragon.
    • If you count The Series as canon, it becomes much more believeable; there, Dooku appears to have a Sith-like relationship with Grievous, i.e., competitive and prone to potentially life-threatening betrayals as a way of "testing" his underling.
    • It's a dual relationship because of the Man Behind the Man stuff going on. Sidious is behind everything and is the Big Bad, but Dooku is the one everyone is aware of as the leader of the Separatists. Grievous is the droid army military commander. So while Dooku is technically The Dragon to Sidious, Grievous is The Dragon for Dooku.
    • Grievous wasn't there to fight for Dooku for the simple reason that he actually was doing his job by commanding the fleet. It's not Grievous's fault that Dooku couldn't hold two Jedi- or that Palpatine was playing a bigger game.
  • From the 2003 Zatoichi movie, the Ronin bodyguard Asano waits until after his boss is dead to fight Zatoichi. The Man Behind the Man is still out there, but Asano certainly isn't aware of that fact. Considering the effort Asano puts into investigating Zatoichi's fighting style and MO, you wonder where he was when Z was carving up an entire mansion full yakuza, including Asano's employers.
    • Given Asano's backstory, though, it doesn't seem like he'd shed many tears over the death of his employers- Asano being a samurai, and the Yakuza gang merely successful commoners- and may even be inwardly pleased that someone has released him from his contract without forcing him to dishonour himself. By the end of the film, he seems far more interested in validating himself as a samurai by facing down Zatoichi than by fulfilling his contractual obligations.
  • Mr. Joshua from Lethal Weapon fled the scene of the movie's semi-final battle and instead chose to battle Riggs and Murtaugh in front of Murtaugh's home after the primary Big Bad bit it.
  • Of Lo Pan's three dragons (The Storms) in Big Trouble in Little China, only Rain gets killed before Lo Pan dies while Lightning is knocked out during the battle royale. Thunder, who was distracted by one of the heroes when Lo Pan is killed, returns and self-destructs upon seeing the body. Then Lightning shows up to destroy the heroes as they escape, only getting killed when Egg Shen drops a statue on his head during the pursuit.
  • The film Die Hard has Karl turn up one last time at the very end of the film after previously being left for dead. Although, he did fulfill his duties as Dragon, having beaten the crap out of John McClane before his defeat. He was just too Bad-Ass to die, at least until Sgt. Al Powell regained the confidence to shoot a gun.
  • A sort of reverse version of this shows up in The Departed. The Mole causes the death of the Police Chief, his Bad Boss, and the hero himself, though not all directly. Things are looking pretty good for him, as he's the only one left standing. However, in the last scene he walks into his apartment to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun held by the Police Chief's right-hand man, who disappeared about halfway through the film after his boss died. The film ends with The Mole's brain splattered all over his front door.
    • And before that, after both the police chief and Costello die, the movie continues on for quite a while as the rival moles try to finish each other off as well, with the evil mole becoming the new villain.
  • In the film Road to Perdition, after the protagonist kills the entire Rooney crime family, Psycho for Hire Maguire still shows up at the end and kills him; justified in that it was Nitti who hired him rather than Rooney.
  • In Hot Fuzz, after the final, massive shootout against the NWA and the defeat of Devil in Plain Sight Simon Skinner and the Big Bad Police Chief, everything seems like it's all wrapped up and the cops are all finishing up their paperwork, when suddenly the one NWA member they forgot about bursts into the police station and starts shooting.
  • In Hudson Hawk, Hawk kills the Mayflowers by sabotaging the Gold Machine, but their Battle Butler Alfred was far enough away from it that Hawk has to beat him in a hand-to-hand fight before he goes down.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The final battles of the Fighting Fantasy books Vault of the Vampire and Return of the Vampire are NOT against the titular vampire but his weaker sister, seemingly added as a "screw you" if you somehow best the title vampire and are on your last legs, though if she is portrayed as The Dragon depends on how you play. The Book Is A Cheating Bastard?
  • In the first novel, Erast Fandorin barely survives the encounter with that book's Dragon (Career Killer Achimas Welde), then after he destroys the Big Bad, the Dragon comes after him, kills his wife on the day of their wedding, and disappears again. In the fourth novel, the Dragon returns for the final time as a full-fledged Big Bad himself.
  • Oddly enough, the novel From Russia with Love makes straighter (and more successful) use of this trope than its film adaptation, courtesy of Rosa Klebb.
  • In Lynn Flewelling's Tamír Trilogy, the wizard Niryn is set up as the primary villain. However, he gets shoved off a tower by his angry ex-girlfriend midway through the last book. So...the final antagonist ends up being the mentally disturbed and rather pitiable King Korin, who was really Niryn's patsy.
  • Sauron was this. He dragged on for a long time (and got promoted to Evil Overlord status), but he was Morgoth's Dragon in The Silmarillion.
    • Saruman, too, insofar as he played The Dragon to Sauron.
  • More of a case of "Mook Their Feet", but Father Gomez pulls this at the end of The Amber Spyglass.
  • Happens in an odd way in Warrior Cats. Tigerstar, the Big Bad, becomes Brokenstar's dragon. However, since Tigerstar is eternally the true Big Bad, in The Last Hope, he shows up after Brokenstar's death as the final villain.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • One of the possible endings for Way of the Samurai 2 featured the Big Bad's Psycho for Hire, Kyojiro Kagenuma, dropping by to fight you AFTER you've defeated and killed her boss. But then again, she's more 'Psycho' than 'For Hire', and only really followed him in the first place, because he gave her plenty of opportunities to kill people. (One of those possible endings is actually a bit of a subversion - she shows up at the Good Guys 'victory party' to fight you - but you've already left to Walk The Earth again, so instead, she simply slaughters everybody there, including your temporary love-interest, and drinks their blood while crying for you to come back and fight her...)
    • Also, take too long to find her, and you'll come right after she has impaled said love interest to the ground, and later dying on your arms (the love interest). Note, the Love Interest is an Action Girl who is actually quite competent as far as allies go. Kyojiro is just that damn good.
      • It should be noted that Kyojiro, in her own way, has a monster crush on the protagonist, and those bloody actions are her way of getting his attention. She even, at one points, tell you "I like you so much, I could just hack you into little pieces...!". Yandere much? Yeeeeaaaaahhhh...
  • The arcade shoot'em up game Time Crisis is also an example. Two thirds through the game, Miller manages to kill Big Bad Garo in a fairly anticlimactic battle. His mercenary Dragon, Wild Dog, then takes command and tries to finish his job to make up for not being paid.
    • Though Wild Dog would return in Time Crisis 2-4 as a more traditional Dragon. Even when it seems like he won't. Apparently he wears an explosion proof vest.
  • Skies of Arcadia ultimately does this more than once - the game initially builds up the Big Bad to be the Empress of Valua, with The Dragon as Galcian. Eventually, its revealed that Galcian was the one manipulating things in the first place and he too comes with his own Dragon, Ramirez. Galcian ultimately kills the Empress and much of the population of Valua, thus seating himself as the actual Big Bad. However, instead of you taking out The Dragon and defeating Galcian afterwards, the game reverses this as Galcian attacks you first - leaving Ramirez to defend his superweapon instead. After Galcian is killed during his escape, Ramirez goes insane and tries to destroy the world as his revenge, leading to Ramirez becoming the final boss fight of the game.
  • Arguably the case in the first Breath of Fire game. Jade, seemingly The Dragon, is the one you have the biggest grudge against, since he personally captured and brainwashed your sister, and he survives his boss Zog to resurrect the goddess Tyr. However, he was probably planning this from the start anyway, so he may qualify as the Man Behind the Man, even though Zog also planned to resurrect the goddess Tyr and use her to acquire ultimate power.
    • Yuna in the fourth game is a more typical example. He and Yohm are setup as Dragons to Soniel. After Soniel's death, Yohm goes on to serve Fou-Lu and fight against the party at the start of the final dungeon. But Yuna is nowhere to be found, and is very much alive in the game's ending, unpunished for the BodyHorror he inflicted on Nina's sister.
  • The Adventures of Bayou Billy has you chasing and confronting a villain named Godfather Gordon. When you beat him, his bodyguards Rocky and Rocko appear: they serve as the game's final battle. Great work letting YOUR BOSS GET TRASHED, guys...
  • In Unreal there's an implication that the Warlord you encounter a couple of times (and kill) is some sort of royal guard for the Queen and the Skaarj mothership, but in Return to Na Pali you encounter another one as the Final Boss who is hardly referenced at all and was nowhere to be seen in the mothership.
  • In the first Metal Gear Solid, Revolver Ocelot is conspicuously absent for the big smackdown against Liquid Snake....if by 'conspicuously absent' you mean coming down with a case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and running far, far away.
  • In the original Dragon Quest, after defeating the pansy Dragonlord/Dracolord, you literally fight his trained superdragon. The westernized "Dragon Warrior" version of this seems to have realized how silly that is and had him turn into said dragon instead.
  • This happens in every Fallout game. In Fallout 1, it's optional based on the order you tackle the last 2 levels, whereas it happens as part of the plot in 2 & 3.
    • Namely, in Fallout 1, the last two levels are a cathedral where you confront and kill the Big Bad, and a military base where you kill The Dragon and destroy the Big Bad's Forgotten Superweapon. You can tackle them in any order you want.
      • According to Canon actually, This is what happened. According to the Vault Dweller's Memoirs, he destroyed the Cathedral and the Master BEFORE finding the Mariposa Military base and making it explode.
    • In Fallout 2, the 15-foot tall, genetically engineered, cybernetically augmented , Ax Crazy Psycho for Hire Dragon shows up to fight you at the very end of the game, after you've already caused the Enclave's oilrig fortress to self-destruct and have likely already killed the Big Bad President Evil also.
    • Likewise, in Fallout 3, after destroying the Big Bad President Evil and nuking the Enclave's mountain base, the game's final quest has you dealing with The Dragon and the remaining Enclave soldiers, who've deserted the Big Bad and holed up inside the Water Purifier facility around which the main plot revolves.
    • New Vegas however, has a possible subversion in that you yourself could be the Big Bad. Also, the Final Boss is arguably Legate Lanius, The Dragon to Caesar, who by this point is most likely dead and rotten, playing this trope straight.
      • Likewise, for alternative playthroughs aside from the above route. It's possible to kill President Kimball of the NCR in an assassination before confronting General Oliver if you sided with the Legion or have other reasons for wanting NCR weakened. If Legate Lanius isn't the Final Boss in your game, then the other contender is certainly going to be General Oliver.
  • This sort of happens in the "Revenge" ending of Grand Theft Auto IV. If you choose to execute Big Bad Dmitri Rascalov, minor villain Jimmy Pegorino shows up, kills the player character's girlfriend, and runs off (with the final mission being the player chasing Jimmy down and killing him).
  • Ogre Battle has many examples, but the most obvious is in Tactics Ogre. Xaebos plays this role to the Galgastani remnants, whose main leader has either stabbed himself or been sufficiently guillotined off-screen.
  • In Tomb Raider 2, the Big Bad turns himself into a giant Chinese dragon and is fought and killed by Lara in a massive boss battle in the game's second to last level. In the last level, Lara is relaxing at home when the Big Bad's remaining men crash through the front door, led by the Big Bad's 8-foot tall, dual-shotgun-wielding The Dragon.
  • Duran, The Dragon to Kerrigan is conspicuously absent from StarCraft: Brood War's final battle. Finishing the game's secret mission reveals he was The Mole for a fourth faction all along, and has now returned to his true masters.
  • This happens in the "true ending" path of Contra: Hard Corps. You defeat the Big Bad at the end of the 2nd to last level. At the beginning of the last level, The Dragon shows up to fight you. When you point out that his boss is dead, he replies that he doesn't care and just likes fighting.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, one could argue that Zagi is at least temporarily the Dragon for every villain except for Cumore and Alexei, who share Yeager as their Dragon. Yeager's Dragon, of course, would be Zagi.
  • Sort of happens in Wario Land 2, where after going through the game, fighting the Big Bad multiple times and going through the secret worlds, the very final level ends with a battle against The Dragon (the giant spear man) on an invisible floor.
  • This happens in Prototype. You kill the Big Bad in a Climax Boss fight about 4/5ths of the way through the game, and her "offspring" the Supreme Hunter then spends the rest of the game manipulating you in a Xanatos Gambit to destroy Blackwatch and allow the city to be nuked, so the Supreme Hunter can escape undetected and restart the infection elsewhere.
  • Happens twice in Shadow Hearts: Covenant. First with Nicolai and Rasputin, then with Kato and Ishimura.
  • Used in an odd sort of way in the sixth Fire Emblem game. Narshen more or less acts as Zephiel's second in command, but is sort of a weasel and dies relatively early. However, Zephiel is always being followed by the priestess Idoun, who is a literal dragon. After you kill Zephiel (the "normal" ending) you can go on to find that Zephiel was working for Idoun, but not being commanded by her, making each of them The Man Behind the Man to the other.
    • In the seventh Fire Emblem, either Lloyd or Linus becomes the final boss of the second act, depending on who died first.
  • The whole Mario & Luigi series is this. We have The Dragon of the first game, Fawful, being forcefully ejected from Bowletta's castle. In the second game, he's a badge salsman who is in a spot where he conveniently can't see the adult bros. Then, in the third, he's the Big Bad, or at least he is until the Dark Star takes over.
  • A common theme in Splinter Cell is that in the Big Bad and main instigator of the current problem is killed off in the penultimate mission, with the finale being something of a mop-up mission. In Splinter Cell it takes place in a DLC, while in Double Agent it's a bonus level for achieving the full ending.
  • This is fairly common in the Warcraft universe, especially in the MMO.
    • Rend Blackhand was chief lieutenant to Orgrim Doomhammer during the Second War. During the climactic battle which saw the Horde defeated, Rend and his clan were sent to deal with Gul'dan. After a few final skirmishes with the Alliance, Rend and his remaining allies retreated to Blackrock Spire. Decades later, Rend has proclaimed himself the Warchief of the Horde in opposition to Thrall. However, his battle is doomed to failure and he is little more than a minor lieutenant to Nefarion.
    • Kargath Bladefist was a major player in the Second War but remained largely on Draenor. After its destruction and his corruption by fel energy, he declared himself Warchief of the "True Horde". Ultimately, he and the Fel Horde were easily dismantled by heroes.
  • As possibly a homage to James Bond, this happens in No One Lives Forever. Three times. After Kate storms the Very Definitely Final Dungeon and defeats her Arch Enemy, Volkov, she goes to a quiet Swiss village to contact her superiors, where she's surprised by The Baroness. After The Baroness is dealt with, it looks like the game is over... until The Mole shows up and challenges her to a one-on-one shootout because you killed his employer, thus preventing him from getting the big, fat paycheck he worked so hard for. After beating The Mole, another Mole shows up, and is promptly dealt with in a cutscene after explaining the entire plot of the game.
  • This is the entire premise of Command & Conquer Yuri's Revenge. When the Allies won the war and caught Romanov, Yuri slipped away somewhere else. A few months after the war, he's back - and he's a few minutes away from total world domination via mindcontrol. Unluckily for him, the Allies have an ace in the hole, New York is still not under Yuri's control and they have a time machine to send themselves back in time to undo Yuri's plan.
  • As The Chessmaster, Porky of the MOTHER series has a habit of leaving his dragons around to wreak havoc with the protagonists after he's defeated. First Giygas, then Claus.
  • Olga from Asura's Wrath in the true ending. She gets killed by the Bigger Bad before she can do anything else, however.
  • In God Hand, this happens when you beat Belze to find that The Dragon of the group, Azel, has left for his own plans of world domination, tired of the failings of the demons. He did not realize Belze made a Xanatos Gambit to use Azel as a sacrifice to summon Satan, which actually worked.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • SatAM Sonic. It's heavily implied that Snively takes over Robotnik's role. The series ends here, however, and there is no sequel planned.