The Pawns Go First
The BigBad deliberately lets the heroes defeat his henchmen before fighting them himself.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-11-30 22:13:07 sponsor: Excrubulent edited by: DracMonster (last reply: 2014-05-25 06:54:32)

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The Big Bad could easily step in and join the fight at any time, but instead he chooses to wait until all their subordinate forces are defeated. Unlike Orcus on His Throne, he's not necessarily passive or staying off-camera, this is a case where he has made a conscious choice to spectate for this particular battle.

May show that the villain has no regard for his henchmen's lives and just wants to get his money's worth out of them, that he considers fighting alongside lesser forces beneath him, or that he's too overconfident to consider the heroes a threat. If he's watching from a Slouch of Villainy, it's likely to be all three. If the villain could conceivably have won if he'd stepped in earlier, he may be holding the Idiot Ball.

On the other, more pragmatic hand, the villain may be letting his minions soften up the heroes while minimizing risk to himself, or taking the opportunity to observe the heroes' fighting style. Or maybe he plans to try to recruit them if they're good enough to defeat his Elite Mooks.

Usually occurs at the top end of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, with the Final Boss.

Compare Mook Chivalry, Flunky Boss, Run the Gauntlet, Boss Rush.

Examples:

Film
  • Two nested occurrences of this trope appear at the end of Equilibrium. First Brandt and DuPont calmly watch Preston kill the guards, then DuPont calmly watches Preston curb stomp Brandt, and only then does DuPont fight Preston. All of this happens in the same room.
  • In Kill Bill: Volume One, when The Bride comes after Yakuza boss O-Ren Ishii ("Cottonmouth"), she first faces the mooks who are dining with her, then the "Crazy 88" squad who roll in on motorcycles. When she kills them all (leaving one last youth among them to run away), she then faces O-Ren in a quiet winter garden setting behind the building.
    The Bride: "Any more subordinates for me to kill?"
  • In X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto holds back while his hordes of lesser powered mutants blitz Alcatraz, telling his right-hand man, "In chess, the pawns go first."
  • The final fight in Jackie Chan's Project A has the heroes mowing down waves of enemies while the head pirate San-po makes a point of standing back and watching the fight.

Tabletop RPG
  • In the Champions supplement "Ninja Hero" the martial arts version of this is explained as a specific perk of being master of a fighting school—if challenged, you can deflect it to your students first, to see if the challenger is worth your while, and also spot any weaknesses in their fighting style you can exploit. (An actual skill in the Hero System called "Analyze Style.")

Video Games
  • In the first entry of the Kunio-kun series Nekketsu Kou¨ha Kunio Kun (as well as its Western localization Renegade), Kunio would fight Mooks while the stage's boss would hang to the side and watch. When you were down to two or three mooks, the boss would then join in the fight.
  • Subverted in God Hand with the boss Afro Fist. While he initially sits back and lets his two ladies do the fighting for him, the moment one dies or his couch gets destroyed, he begins to fight... with no cutscene warning to the player either!
  • This is apparently what the Street Fighters are doing in Street Fighter X Mega Man.
  • The God King in Infinity Blade doesn't bother rising from his Slouch of Villainy until you've defeated his minions. Comes full circle in the third game, the God King challenges the Worker of Secrets in the opening, who is too busy updating his blog (or whatever he's doing with his computers) to pay much attention until his guards are down.
  • Subverted in Rise of the Underminer: The heroes think that the powerplant foreman Dug is doing this, but it turns out that he was never loyal in the first place, and was deliberately getting all his bodyguard robots destroyed at the heroes' hands so he'll be free to negotiate with them.
  • In Project X Zone, boss and mini-boss units will skip their turns until your units get close to them, while the Mooks start charging from the beginning.
  • In the Vindictus mission "Friends?", unlike most missions, the boss doesn't spawn immediately when you enter the boss room. Instead, you face a constantly replaced swarm of Mooks and Elite Mooks, and the boss doesn't show up until you've taken out one hundred of the latter.
  • In World of Warcraft, some of the instance bosses do this. For instance, when you enter Emperor Thaurissan's throne room in Black Rock Depths and start cutting your way through his courtiers, he will make remarks like "They were just getting in the way anyways."

Webcomics
  • In The Order of the Stick book Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, the Big Bad Xykon tells his minion to arrange the mooks with the weakest monsters on the highest levels and the strongest ones near his throne room, mostly so the weakest mooks can be slaughtered for his own entertainment.

Western Animation
  • The first time we see "Father" of the Delightful Children From Down the Lane in Codename: Kids Next Door, he's the Big Bad Badass. Once his Children are beaten by the Kids, he takes them on and does great...until an adult Nigel Uno gets the upper hand with a soft-ice-cream spraying machine to cool off his fires.
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