Ninjago Villains and Their Motives – Part 1

Welcome to ‘Ninjago Villains and Their Motives’ series, spearheaded by the talented and very-well informed Jared. This is his second guest post, but it won’t be his last.

Villains: the essential antithesis to heroes, the opposite force that brings drama to the stories we love. No action adventure story is without its antagonists, and Ninjago is certainly no exception. Not all villains are created equal, however. Often what distinguishes a villain from their peers is their motivation. Essentially, what makes the villain a villain-the why behind what they do-can make them an utterly compelling character or a total bore.

With season nine wrapped up, it seems a good time to go back and look at our various villains and see what it is that makes them tick. A couple disclaimers: first, what is expressed here is my opinion. Second, I have watched only a handful of season eight episodes and no season nine episodes, so much of my information on characters who star in them is secondhand. With that in mind, let’s get into the analysis.

Garmadon

Villains of Ninjago - Garmadon
The original Ninjago overarching villain, and arguably one of the most complex characters in the entire series. The oldest son of the First Spinjitzu Master, Garmadon was “consumed by darkness” according to the pilot. Later seasons revealed this darkness to be a combination of Great Devourer venom and Garmadon’s Oni nature. This heritage from his father was apparently awakened by the evil snake’s bite, though it didn’t take full effect until his banishment to the Underworld.

Whatever the nature of Garmadon and his younger brother Wu’s relationship originally, this dark infection caused resentment and jealousy to grow within Garmadon’s heart. At least in his eyes, their brotherhood became a competition, not only for the love of their father but, eventually, for the love of the same woman. However, at least for a time, Garmadon was still swayed by his nobler emotions, as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t rebel against his father. Furthermore, though she would later express some regret at the decision in Garmadon’s darkest moments, Misako did choose him over Wu.

Garmadon also demonstrated, at least in his youth, that his love for Ninjago outweighed his desire for evil. Though he spent some time in the tutelage of Master Chen, he later forsook Chen’s service in order to battle alongside the Elemental Masters. His loyalty endured during not only the Anacondrai Wars, but during the later rebellion of the Time Twins Acronix and Krux. However, at some point after he and Misako had Lloyd, the creeping evil in Garmadon’s heart took hold, and he made an open play for ownership of the Golden Weapons and rule of Ninjago.

Thwarted and banished to the Underworld, Garmadon became consumed with escaping and returning to Ninjago in order to reshape it into his own image. This led him to enslave the Skulkin, implied to have once been his foes, and manipulate both them and the Ninja in order to achieve his ends. His desire for freedom and vengeance were so great that he was willing to kidnap Nya, threaten various innocents, and eventually trick his unwilling minion Samukai into an act of self-destruction. With freedom gained, he then set out for a realm that would grant him the power to use all four Golden Weapons at once, altering not only his own form but threatening the balance between good and evil.

However, Garmadon was moved to put his villainous ambitions on hold for a time when Wu came in search of him to inform him of the danger to his son Lloyd. Showing genuine love for Lloyd-despite the fact that they seemingly had little time together after Lloyd’s birth-Garmadon agreed to work with Wu and the Ninja to help Lloyd. Admittedly, he proved a difficult ally, taking particular delight in antagonizing Kai and later stealing information from the Destiny’s Bounty computers after Lloyd was rescued. However, Lloyd’s disappointment in his father spurred Garmadon to an unlikely act: remarshalling the Skulkin to help him battle the Serpentine and save Wu, Nya, and the Ninja.

Having learned that Lloyd was the destined Green Ninja, fated to defeat the Dark Lord-whom all assumed to be Garmadon-Garmadon seems to have set his sights on avoiding the confrontation by leaving Ninjago. However, in the midst of buying Traveler’s Tea, a news report about the Great Devourer’s attack on Ninjago City again moved Garmadon to go to the aid of his son. Taking advantage of his ability to wield all four Golden Weapons, he worked with the Ninja to destroy the monstrous beast, apparently in part to avenge himself upon the snake. Unfortunately, his darker nature came into play once more, and he stole the weapons he had so long coveted.

Garmadon’s desire to reshape Ninjago in his own image led him to enlist the aid of the very enemy he had so recently opposed: the Serpentine. He also attempts to unlock even greater power than the Golden Weapons are capable of apart, and forges them together into the Mega-Weapon. However, his desire to conquer Ninjago is coupled with a desperation to avoid his fated confrontation with Lloyd. As such, most of his activities involving the Mega-Weapon revolve around preventing Lloyd from reaching a point where such a confrontation would occur.

Eventually, Garmadon’s determination leads him to tamper with the very fabric of time itself, traveling back in time in an effort to prevent the Ninja from ever becoming a team. With this latest scheme thwarted and his Mega-Weapon lost, Garmadon sets out in search of the Dark Island. Upon finding it, he willingly allies himself with the Overlord-whose history one can hardly imagine him being ignorant of-and takes command of the Stone Army. He quickly demonstrates that his new minions aren’t worth as much to him as the dark matter he is sacrificing them to obtain, which he believes to be the key to molding Ninjago into his own image at long last.

However, Garmadon’s loyalties remain divided between his dark mission and his family, as seen in his reluctance to face Lloyd. He also is unwilling to harm Misako despite her opposition to him, and even offers her a place at his side once again. Unfortunately, he ultimately continues on his dark path, corrupting the denizens of Ninjago and unwittingly opening himself up to be possessed by the Overlord. Luckily, Lloyd’s initial defeat of the Overlord frees his father from his accumulated corruptions, thus ending Garmadon’s villainous career…or so it seemed.

Enter Emperor Garmadon, a character so drastically departed from the redeemed Sensei Garmadon that he seems best classified as a separate entity entirely. Perhaps when Lloyd purged his father’s darkness, it became a being in its own right in the Departed Realm? Regardless, this new Garmadon is a being whose motivations are, to put it bluntly, confusing. In his initial appearances, he comes across as a nihilistic figure: he seems eager to burn the world and dance on it’s ashes.

However, more recent episodes featuring Emperor Garmadon have apparently depicted him in a different light. While he’s apparently devoid of any feeling for his blood son, he is evidently able to feel some fondness for his ardent supporter-some might say worshipper-Harumi. In addition to taking her on as an adopted daughter, he claims that his reign of terror over Ninjago is actually meant to prepare it for a coming threat. It’s an interesting, if not entirely novel, concept: apparently Darth Revan of the Star Wars: Legends material had a similar agenda going.

Ultimately, the two different villainous incarnations of Garmadon have the following common motivations: love of family, love of Ninjago, but also a love of power. Even the demonic undead Emperor Garmadon attaches importance to family, though strangely to one who seeks to be part of his family rather than to his own blood relatives. Both versions also seem to have a genuine love for Ninjago, though this is regrettably tempered by a need to rule over it with an iron fist. Still, were it not for the fact that Emperor Garmadon learned of the coming threat while in the Departed Realm, one might wonder whether Lord Garmadon’s desire to remold Ninjago might not have had a similar motive of preparation behind it.

Posted by Jared Boyd

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