Evil Beats Evil

Freddy vs. Jason! Place your bets!
~ Lori Campbell in a deleted scene of Freddy vs. Jason.

In some long-running stories, a major antagonist may not necessarily be beaten by the hero, but rather by a new evildoer. This trope is referred to as "Evil Beats Evil" (also commonly recognized as "Evil Vs. Evil"/"Evil Versus Evil"). This can have one of two impacts on the story:

  1. It makes the losing villain seem indestructible via heroic deeds.
  2. The winning villain looks even more sinister, as they are clearly not on any side but their own.

It can get a bit repetitive to have every protagonist be a hero (pure of heart or otherwise). A refreshing dose of moral ambiguity can do just the trick. When it becomes too tiresome of watching heroes be heroic, watching a villain protagonist be villainous can be a nice change of pace.

However, there lies a problem with this. Heroes are very popular because people take a liking in their benevolent acts. This is probably because people are, to some small extent, basically good; they like watching other people be happy, succeed against all odds, and so forth. At least most of the time anyways. The reason villains lose much of the time is because they do things that make the audience unhappy. Watching a villain defeat the heroes and plunge the world into darkness and suffering might be refreshing at first, but it leaves a bad taste in their mouth.

The solution to this is to pit the villainous protagonist against the villainous antagonist. Someone so rotten that no matter how low one's karma can be, one want to go after them and carry out justice. That way, the character(s) can be evil while doing good. It is the best of both worlds.

An individual have to do really rotten things like kicking puppies (even fire-breathing demon puppies from the classic videogame Spyro). It is kind of hard to take over the world when another Evil Overlord is already ruling it; or wants to destroy it. It also would never do to allow some other villain to kill their heroic archenemy before they can score that triumph for themself.

Note that if a work's primary conflict is about Evil Versus Evil, then there is a serious risk of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. If the viewers/players/readers cannot support any faction, they may simply not care. This may be averted by making one of the sides more sympathetic, a villain with standards, or at least some likable trait to endear him to the audience.

Of course, if he gains too many good traits, then the trope shifts into Black and Gray Morality which is a different trope.

Examples

  • Jason Voorhees defeated Freddy Krueger in Freddy vs. Jason even though it was Lori Campbell who chopped Freddy's head off at the end.
  • Orochimaru was the primary antagonist for the first half of Naruto, but was finally defeated by his disciple Sasuke Uchiha.
  • In Star Trek: Into Darkness before Kirk could arrest Alexander Marcus, Khan (the main antagonist) crushes Marcus's skull killing him.
  • Dr. Gero was an initial threat in Dragon Ball, but when he activated Androids 17 and 18, they turned on him. 17 tore off his head and crushed his brains, establishing his ruthlessness. There are several other moments like this in the Dragon Ball franchise, but this is arguably the most memorable.
  • In BleachUlquiorra Cifer successfully kills Ichigo, but then Hollow Ichigo takes over and brutally attacks Ulquiorra in a similarly one-sided battle.
  • In the Batman and Robin comic-book series, Dr. Hurt eludes Batman, only to be confronted by the Joker, who buries him alive. In a twist of irony, the original antagonist defeats the new antagonist, upholding the established order.
  • Drakath killed his former master Sepulchure by ripping out his heart of darkness and crushing it in the palm of his hands in the beginning of AdventureQuest Worlds, and later did it again during the finale of the second part of the Doomwood saga.
    • Likewise, Gravelyn, as the Champion of Light, destroyed Dark Sepulchure later afterwards during the same saga's finale by purifying his Necrotic Blade of Doom and using it to pummel him.
  • Kirei Kotomine and Dark Sakura team up and unleash their combined attacks to destroy Zouken Matou's body in Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel. Of course, Zouken doesn't truly die until he sees Illyasviel von Einzbern in the Dress of Heaven, which reminds him of Justica and sees to it that he finally accepts his end and dies peacefully.
  • Mojo Jojo attacks an alien invader where he finally is able to defeat him.
  • Korso betrays Preed by breaking his neck.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro niEva-Beatrice tries to kill Beatrice in order to get to Jessica Ushiromiya, who is being protected by both her and Kanon's spirit, but finds she can't do it because Beatrice's heart proves to be indestructible. Later, during her duel with Battler, Beatrice ends said duel by using the Red Truth to deny Eva-Beatrice's existence, causing her to disappear.
  • In the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien series' finale episode "The Ultimate Battle: Part 2", Vilgax defeated Diagon by absorbing his power through a machine and Vilgax was actually following Diagon's orders in the beginning.
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