What makes a satisfying end to a Villain’s story? Is redemption the most meaningful? How about an epic showdown between the villain and protagonist? Are climactic showdowns preferred?
Good villains make the audience love to hate them and revel in their demise. Sometimes that’s not what happens. Sometimes the author is led to end the villain’s arc more quietly.
For the sake of risking spoilers, I won’t name the book series, but one I read recently had the major villain reduced to an insane shadow of himself. The background and reason for it was given in a flashback and I couldn’t help feel cheated. This big bad that was the mastermind behind the protagonist’s troubles was reduced to nothing before the main characters reached him.
Personally, climactic battles between the forces of good and evil have the biggest payoff and are the most memorable. This may be a common way to tell a story, but it has endured for a reason. I like to see the villain win sometimes, because in the real world bad people do win occasionally. I want the villain to feel secure in his power and make that security believable. Once that happens, that is time for the protagonist(s) to confront him/her.
Redemption is satisfying too, but only if it makes sense for the character. Vader is a great example. His ending is beautiful in the novelization of Return of the Jedi.
How do you like villains to meet their end? Do you prefer they sometimes win? Do you like epic showdowns between them and the main character(s)?