Dragon with an Agenda

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A Dragon with an Agenda is a character serving as The Dragon to the Big Bad, but having different goals from him. For example, if this character encounters the heroes immediately after the death or defeat of his boss, he won't try to complete his master's Evil Plan, but will instead go on to pursue his own plans.

Most commonly, he and the Big Bad have a mutually profitable alliance, and the Big Bad just happens to be more powerful of the two. If he's also influencing the Big Bad's plans, then he's at the same time the man in front of the man and The Man Behind the Man. Dragon-in-Chief is when The Dragon is actually the more dangerous of the pair, by a significant margin. It is not unknown for him to have taken on service for his own purposes and fooled the Big Bad into thinking he's subordinate.

Rather than a straight evil character, he tends to be an Anti-Villain or an Enigmatic Minion. Contrast with Battle Butler and Psycho Supporter, who are often The Dragon but have the same goal as their master. Unlike The Starscream or the Reliable Traitor, they are usually at least nominally loyal, and their main agenda doesn't outright conflict with that of their boss. If The Dragon and the Big Bad are equal or nearly so, you have a Big Bad Duumvirate. If they outlive the original Big Bad, this type of Dragon may go on to pursue their own motivations and become a Dragon Ascendant. Compare/contrast with the similar trope Piggybacking on Hitler. The equivalent among the hero's allies is ...Who Needs Enemies?.

Examples of Dragon with an Agenda include:

Anime and Manga


Char: Blame this on the misfortune of your birth.


Comic Books

  • In the Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War story arc, every major baddie had a different agenda.
    • The Anti-Monitor's goal is simple - to wipe out every single thing in the matter multiverse. Nice when a villain has such a clear focus on what they want, isn't it?
    • Sinestro was aiming to bring order to the multiverse by taking it over and ruling as the head of the Sinestro Corps in much the same way as he did his home planet of Korugar...or so he lets everyone think. In reality, his goal was not to win the war but to do so much damage that the Guardians of the Universe would allow the Green Lantern Corps to kill. In doing so, he believes he set in motion the events that would lead to the Green Lanterns being feared.
    • Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, is much cleaner, as all he has ever wanted was to die and be reunited with his dead wife. If the Anti-Monitor is Sinestro's Dragon, then Henshaw is the Anti-Monitor's as the Anti-Monitor promised him death. It almost worked. He was destroyed during the story but, in The Stinger, was located by the Manhunters and resurrected.
    • Superboy-Prime, meanwhile, only ever wanted to kill the Anti-Monitor as retribution for Earth-Prime being destroyed. He actually succeeded.
  • In Infinite Crisis, the main members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains:
    • Lex Luthor was apparently there to brainwash the heroes, but he had a secret pan to restart The Multiverse. And he would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling kids.
    • Talia al Ghul was there so that when the villains took over the world, she could betray he allies, kill the surviving villains and create an ecologically sustainable utopia.
    • Black Adam signed up to get villain help protecting his country. Even Bad Men Love Their Fatherlands.
    • Calculator and Deathstroke were in it for the money, fellows.
    • Doctor Psycho was... Uh... Ummm...
  • Mystique practically defines this trope. Her betraying the boss in charge is almost expected at this point, such as when she killed Mr. Sinister in a Batman Gambit to save Rouge's life.

Fan Works

  • Past Sins has an interesting twist on the concept; the Big Bad is an extremely Reluctant Monster forced into the role, where The Dragon expects an Omnicidal Maniac.
  • The Doctor Who/Jem crossover fancomic Outrage reveals that Eric Raymond's toady Techrat was actually one of these.
  • In With Strings Attached, the Raleka have a completely different agenda than Brox and Co., but they have to work together to take the Vasyn pieces from the four.
  • In Ponies Make War, Nihilus serves King Titan with the intention of betraying him the moment she secures the Elements of Harmony. Princess Celestia anticipated this from the start, and actually helped to encourage it.


  • Shenzi from The Lion King has an agenda. As the Matriarch of the hyena clan, who the Big Bad Scar used to keep the Pride Lands under control, she seemed to just want freedom, power and food for her clan.
  • In Con Air, Cameron Poe asks black supremacist Diamond Dog why he's content to be second in command to white Big Bad Cyrus Grissom. Dog replies that while his long term agenda is vastly different from that of Cyrus, he needs to escape before he can get back to it - going along with Cyrus is "a means to an end".
  • In Die Hard, Hans' top henchman Karl's brother—another of Hans' henchmen—is killed by McClane. Karl wants revenge against McClane, losing interest in the main mission for the rest of the movie.
  • The Twilight: Eclipse movie seems to do this to Jane, implying that she will allow the Cullens' deaths without Aro's knowledge. This makes more sense than in the book, where Aro wants Edward and Alice to join his side but nevertheless is willing to let Victoria's army kill them.


  • Galadan Wolflord in The Fionavar Tapestry. Rakoth, the Big Bad, is a pretty standard dark god/ Evil Overlord who is out for world domination, but Galadan wants to destroy the world because he was driven mad by the death of his love, and he views Rakoth as a convenient weapon to help accomplish this. Obviously these goals are mutually exclusive, but it's implied that Rakoth knows all about Galadan's plans and does nothing simply because he knows the Wolflord isn't powerful enough to be a threat to him.
  • Per Word of God, Sauron only worked with Morgoth in The Silmarillion to advance his own ends- namely, to create perfect order by turning the world into a giant totalitarian state. As Morgoth's goals were, essentially, to take over the world so he could say "mine" before blowing it up, it's very likely that an Enemy Civil War would have broken out had the bad guys won. Fortunately for Sauron, Morgoth went down first, allowing him to graduate to Big Bad in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn and Jedi Master Joruus C'baoth. C'baoth took Thrawn's orders with more and more reluctance as time went on, and he wanted very different things. Towards the end they weren't really on the same side anymore. Thrawn was fully aware of this, and at the time of his death was planning to solve the problem by eliminating C'baoth and making a replacement C'baoth. His own death, nearly simultaneous to C'baoth's, derailed his plan.
  • In the Codex Alera, Lady Invidia Aquitaine serves as her husband Lord Aquitaine's Dragon so that she can get her hans on the Realm's reins of power (and married him primarily for this purpose), while he wants to topple a First Lord he sees as corrupt, but has no real desire to hold power himself. After breaking with him, Lady Aquitaine winds up in a similar relationship with the Vord Queen, serving her only because she is able to keep Invidia alive despite her crippling injuries.
  • In Tad Williams' Otherland, John Dread is this to Corrupt Corporate Executive Felix Jongleur. Jongleur's Evil Plan is focused on living forever, and he's trained the Ax Crazy Serial Killer Dread as a Psycho for Hire to go after his physical opponents. Dread is far, far more ambitions than Jongleur realizes, however, and is simply biding his time, waiting for a moment of weakness to take over. And he does indeed, deposing Jongleur as master of Otherland and embarking on a godlike orgy of virtual destruction.
  • On the good guy side we get Vimes playing this role to Vetinari, maybe. Most of the time Vimes appears to be just a good little dragon, but he does sometimes have a different agenda, or at least a different motivation. Depending on how you look at it; technically, they both want what's best for Ankh-Morpork, but they do often differ on what exactly that means.
  • In David Eddings' The Malloreon, the Demon Lords Mordja and Nahaz work for Zandramas and Urvon solely so that they can seize the Sardion from them in their moment of triumph and then drag them into hell. Urvon's other Dragon, Harakan/Mengha is also a Dragon with an Agenda; he conspires with Nahaz to drive Urvon mad and take his place, so that the two of them can rule with the world. Since Nahaz is out to betray both of them, and both of them believe that their magic is enough to keep him under control, he succeeds in being Dragon with an Agenda and Dragon-in-Chief to two separate characters.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Ascalante. He was summoned to help the conspirators, and in his first appearance, comments on how his tools think he is their tool.
  • Drake from Gone (novel). A psychopathic Complete Monster, he serves as Big Bad Caine's top enforcer, but it's apparent from his interior monologues that he's just helping Caine in hopes that Caine and Sam will kill each other. Although he probably would've turned on Caine as soon as they no longer had mutual goals, Caine tried to kill him after Drake gave Diana near-fatal injuries, which caused Drake to switch over to The Gaiaphage.

Live-Action TV

  • In the 2009 remake of V's S1 finale, we find out that Marcus definitely seems to have an agenda different from Anna's.
  • In Angel the incorporeal demon Sahjhan tried to use Holtz as his dragon by offering him vengeance against Darla and Angel. However Sahjhan's true goal was actually to either prevent the birth of Connor, Angel and Darla's unborn son, or kill him as a child. Sahjhan quickly grew frustrated with Holtz's focus on punishing the vampires instead of simply killing them as quickly as possible i.e. before Darla gave birth. And then Holtz decided that stealing Angel's son and raising him as his own would be a more fitting punishment, at which point Sahjhan totally lost control of his ally.
  • The Security Chief, who is Dragon to the War Chief's Big Bad in the Doctor Who serial The War Games.
  • In The Wire, it becomes apparent that Stringer Bell has very different goals from Avon, wanting to use the money from their drug operation to escape the ghetto and become a legitimate businessman. Avon meanwhile wants to protect his reputation and power as a gangster, and will even sacrifice smart business decisions to make war on the streets. This causes tremendous strain between them that builds until they both betray each other- Avon betraying Stinger to Brother Mouzone, and Stringer informing on Avon to the police. This leads to the downfall of the Barksdale organization.
  • Alex becomes this for Oversight during season 2 of Nikita

Tabletop Games

  • The Ebon Dragon of Exalted serves as this to Malfeas. While he may advise Malfeas or defer to his authority, he constantly seeks to manipulate the Demon King to his own purposes, and endemically betrays him. One of the biggest exmples would have been back when they were the Dragon's Shadow and the Holy Tyrant respectively, and he manipulated him into creating the Unconquered Sun (a deity who could serve as something for the Shadow to oppose, even while he would also subvert the authority of the Tyrant).
  • In Warhammer, if you are a Dark Elf or a Skaven chances are you're this or have one or more of these under your comand. Wariors of Chaos and Orcs also might fit under this.
    • Similarly in Warhammer 40k, all Dark Eldar assumes this of their subordinates, as backstabbing is the only way to gain a promotion. Part of the reason why Incubi are valued as bodyguards over the Archon's own cabalites, Incubi loyalty is tied to their coffers, not your competency.

Video Games

  • The man in the trope picture, Ocelot. In Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Ocelot has been seemingly working for the Big Bad, but working behind their backs, and usually the backs of the people he's supposedly really working for. The portrayal of him in The Last Days of Foxhound even named the trope Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. The only MGS game he isn't this trope is the one where he's the Big Bad himself, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, where his agenda comes to fruition.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, it is revealed that Darth Vader has been Palpatine's Dragon with an Agenda much earlier than the "I am Your Father" Scene in Episode V mentioned under Film. Vader tries pulling off a similar speech to the young Starkiller, but proves unable to sway him.
    • In the "Dark Side" DLC available for some versions of the game, Starkiller actually becomes a Dragon with an Agenda appealing to Luke Skywalker.
  • Astaroth in the Soul Series, according to the backstory.
  • In Suikoden III, you eventually learn Albert Silverberg orchestrated everything just to prove his skill as a strategist. He then casually derails it and walks away, likely leaving many players aching for a chance to settle the score. Or at least wipe that not-quite-smile off his face.
  • From the Paper Mario series, we have you guessed it; Dimentio. In this case, The Dragon is even more evil; an outright Omnicidal Maniac instead of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • The player was clued into the fact that Dimentio's trying to work behind Count Bleck's back pretty early on. However, it isn't until the end of the game that we learn that he's really higher up on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, instead of just being a Reverse Mole.
    • Before that we had the Thousand Year Door where power hungry Sir Grodus tried to unearth an ancient power. Too bad said ancient power was a demoness whom Beldam served, and wanted to spring free. Grodus ends up living as a talking head afterwards.
  • Kefka from Final Fantasy VI kills the emperor at the end of the Disc One Final Dungeon and spends the next year killing whatever he pleases. He fits for this trope assuming he had an agenda in the first place.
  • All of Chaos' Warriors in Dissidia Final Fantasy have priorities other than serving him.
  • Cabadath, the Tall Man from the Chzo Mythos. The central conflict of the series, in fact, is him resisting replacement by Chzo. He fails in the last game, and the Player Character Theo becomes the new Dragon.
  • Dragon Age has Morrigan, who serves as The Dragon to Flemeth (though how evil Flemeth really is may be debatable), yet turns on her mother at the first sign of betrayal.
  • In Hordes of the Underdark, Mephistopheles spends the first two chapters manipulating events so that he can be freed of the Valsharess' control; culminating in the final battle of the second chapter in which he removes all obstacles between you and the Drow queen so that you can take his revenge for him.
  • The Ancient Minister and Ganondorf, as well as possibly Bowser, all take this role in Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Subspace Emissary
  • Hawke in the Advance Wars series. especially noticeable in Dual Strike as he actively chafes against Von Bolt taking control of Black Hole and eventually ends up leaving him for the heroes.
  • Samir Duran could be considered a Dragon With An Agenda compared to the Big Bad Infested Kerrigan in StarCraft when we discover some of his agenda in Dark Origin. He could also be viewed as an Enigmatic Minion and The Mole (against two different factions!)
  • Colonel Autumn from Fallout 3 counts, as both he and the President have different aims for Project Purity. He wants to use it as leverage to control all the free humans in the Capitol Wastelands, and President Eden wants to use it to exterminate everything in the Capitol Wastelands. It's also why he takes the opportunity to split as soon as the Lone Wanderer hits the Enclave base.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation (as well as some non-OG games, to an extent), Shu Shirakawa acts as this to Bian Zoldark. Bian is well aware that Shu is both more powerful and more interested in pursuing his own goals, and he actually requests for Shu to merely observe during his final battle.
  • Cyril in Star Ocean 2
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days reveals that Saix and Axel were planning on overthrowing Xemnas together, and Axel had actually been following Saix's plan throughout Chain of Memories. Neither of them got as far as becoming The Starscream, however - Axel's friendship with Roxas and Xion led him away from the plan, and Saix apparently ended up dropping the idea and Becoming the Mask.
    • Xigbar also seems to have shades of this, looking back after Birth By Sleep, as he literally knows more about the backstory and mechanics of everything than the Big Bad, and is almost certainly manipulating his boss to an extent.
    • Vanitas displays hints of this in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, by nearly killing a key member of his master's Xanatos Gambit before they've done their job, and allowing another person to live as a "plan b" in his own words suggests he has plans of his own, but in a subversion winds up following his master's plan exactly anyway.
    • Given how he is Made of Evil, it could be he didn't even have reasons for trying to kill Ven and letting the "plan b" live- he did it just because he could. And the novels reveal that his true motive is simply to rejoin with Ventus.
  • Mastema in Strange Journey. He outright states he hates the Three Wise Men and is just doing the job for the chance to ascend to a superior form.
  • Recurring villain Wild Dog in the Time Crisis series.
  • It is revealed midway through Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood that Cesare, Rodrigo Borgia's Dragon (and son) is one of these, with plans to conquer all of Europe.
    • Which Rodrigo tries to fight, as while the Templars want world domination, they don't want to be seen doing it. They'd much rather work behind the scenes.
  • In Might and Magic VII, Kastore initially serves as an advisor to King Archibald of Deyja (along with the three other Terrans that followed his lead, but Kastore is the dominant one). Once you've made your choice between Light and Dark, however, it becomes increasingly clear that Kastore is building a power-base of his own (apparently going for a more traditional military-focused necromantic regime, but it turns out it is a bit more complex than that), culminating in Archibald evacuating his closest followers to a laboratory off the coast of AvLee and Kastore assuming the throne of Deyja.
  • Commander Shepard arguably falls into this role in Mass Effect 2, being forced to work with the Illusive Man stop the Collectors from abducting colonists. Ironically, the Illusive Man seems surprised when Shepard (possibly) opts to destroy the Collector Base, tells him where to shove it, before taking the Normandy and loyal crew for themselves.
  • The Black Knight in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn aided The Chessmaster in unleashing Ashera and her judgement and fought on their side in the game's climax, but didn't seem to have much interest in which side won in the end. His only personal goal was to surpass his teacher, Greil, as a swordsman. After Greil was killed he figured his son Ike would make a suitable substitute, and siding with Ashera gave him the chance to face Ike in combat. This goal also existed when he was serving Ashnard in Path of Radiance, but the player didn't know about it then.
  • Konishi from The World Ends With You. It's hinted at but eventually she outright betrays the Conductor by making a deal with Minamimoto, wanting to be the new Conductor when he becomes Composer.
  • Play a Horde character in World of Warcraft and go through the Mists of Pandaria scenario, and you quickly become this to Garrosh, eventually becoming The Starscream during the Seige of Orgrimmar.

Web Comics

  • In Antihero for Hire, Angelson has at least one Xanatos Gambit going on under his boss's nose, we just don't know what.
  • Xykon and Redcloak have a mutually beneficial alliance in The Order of the Stick. Redcloak only serves Xykon in order to open the Gates and get a fairer deal for the goblin race.
    • Although there's a fair bit more to it than that, as seen in Start of Darkness. Whether or not he'll turn Starscream eventually, or be forced to confront Xykon if their plans diverge, remains to be seen.
    • Also from OotS, Sabine is Nale's Dragon. However, she's also covertly working for The Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission. Luckily for Nale, her agenda involves helping him advance his agenda.
    • And getting lots of hot hot sex from him.
      • Well, considering what she is, that last part goes without saying.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Ysengrin wants to Kill All Humans, and his boss Coyote apparently doesn't. It's possible that Ysengrin is trying to pull strings behind Coyote's back, and that Y killed Red and Blue because they saw too much.
  • Wanda from Erfworld seemingly serves Stanley the Tool willingly, but it turns out she convinced him to attack her kingdom of Faq because she expected him to get slaughtered, and when he emerged victorious, she only joined him in his quest for the legendary Arkentools because she was hoping she'd get to wield one herself. She does.
  • Torg from Sluggy Freelance seems to be doing this professionally now. First with the Minion Master, and now with Crushestro ever since he found out that the Minion Master's sister betrayed him to Hereti-Corp.
  • Ian and Anita in Errant Story fit this trope pretty well, with the added little twist that it isn't totally clear which one is the Big Bad and which one is The Dragon.

Web Original

  • In The Gamers Alliance, Ronove becomes the closest lieutenant of Duke Malphas after the siege of Vanna but has his own, secret agenda for working with the demonic duke.
  • In the That Guy With The Glasses world, The Other Guy is the real puppet-master behind the site. The one who everyone thinks is the ineffectual Bad Boss, The Nostalgia Critic, is just like that because he's desperate for attention and praise.
  • Linksano and Mecha-Kara are ultimately this during the Lord Vyce arc of Atop the Fourth Wall. In fact, Linksano defects to the side of the good guys to take Vyce down, while Mecha-Kara was a former Big Bad who only went along to take out Linkara.

Western Animation

  • Destro in some iterations of G.I. Joe. He's pretty much in it for the money and The Baroness.
  • In Teen Titans, Slade (formerly a Big Bad himself) only serves as Trigon's Dragon so he can get his mortal body back. Interestingly, he starts out this plotline very subservient to Trigon, and gradually starts acting less as a servant and more like a partner when he gets closer to getting what he wants. When it becomes apparent that Trigon has no intention of honoring their agreement, Slade teams up with the Titans to take him down.
  • Raythar from WITCH serves this role during the first part of the second season- Big Bad Nerissa has her own agenda, but Raythar just wants to avenge the previous Big Bad, Phobos. When a chance arises to put Phobos back on the throne, he ditches Nerissa and transfers his loyalty back to his original boss. Nerissa, meanwhile, replaces him with Shagon, who is her creation and therefore completely loyal.
  • The Fright Knight in Danny Phantom subtly expresses his absolutely distaste working for Pariah Dark and it hints he wants to go a different route. It ultimately proves true when he works against Pariah during the final battle. It's hinted he went to serve Vlad, but the original writer left the show before possible stories of this could have been told in Season Three.
  • On Gargoyles, the Weird Sisters serve this role for the Archmage—he wants revenge on Goliath, while they want revenge on the Magus and the rest of the Avalon Clan. They couldn't really get on the island themselves, however, since Oberon had forbidden it; the reason they willingly put themselves under the Archmage's service was because they knew he would order them to go there, exploiting a loophole in Avalon's laws.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Snively in the final minutes of the series finale was revealed to be this.
  • In the original My Little Pony, Porcina's Raptorian minions encourage her to go to the extreme of turning Ponyland and all the Little Ponies into glass because they want to take the place for themselves.
  • The X-Men: Evolution version of Mystique. In the first season, she's working for Magneto, but they have a slight falling out and works independently for the rest of the series. This causes some tension when both tried to take command of the Brotherhood, with varied results depending on the episode and the Brother.
  • In a dark future episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Grim is ultimately this to dark overlord Mandy. She was aware of this and set things up to capture the rebels and make Grim pay.