Created By: Westrim on April 21, 2011 Last Edited By: Westrim on September 10, 2014

Single File Threats and Friends

Enemies and allies come one at a time, never doubling up or overlapping.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Whether friends or foes, nearly any story that goes on long enough is going to have to introduce new characters in addition to the main cast and other initial recurring characters. Some may be friends, some may be enemies, but at least a couple are nearly guaranteed to to have some aspect to them that makes the consumer wonder how they heck they weren't mentioned before. Perhaps they have power or prominence in some relevant area, maybe they have close personal ties with some of the preexisting characters

Due to its status as an Omnipresent Trope, only works where the trope is averted or otherwise played with will be listed. Also listed are the multiple tropes used as justification for the absence of the character.

Can be the result of a Sealed Cast in a Multipack. Compare with Mook Chivalry, but on a much larger scale.

Justifying tropes:

Aversions: Literature
  • Averted with the Battle of Five Armies in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, wherein the dwarves are besieged in Lonely Mountain by the men of Long Lake and the wood elves of Mirkwood. More dwarves from the Iron Hills march to relieve Thorin's band. However, when Gandalf declares that the orcs of the Misty Mountains are approaching with an invasion force, everyone else agrees to fight the orcs instead. Invoked earlier in the same work when Gandalf meets with the lone woodsman Beorn. Knowing that Beorn is distrustful of strangers, Gandalf instructs the dwarf party to approach Beorn's home in twos and threes at intervals, to avoid appearing like a siege party.
  • Averted in the Honorverse where the conflict with Haven comes to an abrupt end shortly after an Ancient Conspiracy attacks the Manticoran home system and tension with the Solarian League becomes a shooting war, so from one to two opponents with a short period of overlap. The conspiracy that triggered all of this is revealed, putting the count at two at once.
  • The Lost Fleet averts this, as even while the titular fleet tries to get back to friendly space and avoid their human pursuers, they are increasingly pressed by an previously unknown alien enemy and mutiny is a recurring issue.
    • Later on, after they reach home and a peace of sorts is established, all threats continue to be active even when the fleet is not spatially present, from machinations at home, continued threat from their former enemies, and incursions into and by alien space. The only significant additions are a new, friendly alien species, and a split off from their former enemies going its own way and looking to them for protection.

  • Series/Nikita lays out all but one of the major antagonist groups and individuals in the first season, drawing tension instead from the constantly shifting alliances.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • May 20, 2011
    arromdee
  • May 20, 2011
    Westrim
    No, since those tend to be individuals or small groups, not tied in with larger events. They only just robbed the bank for themselves, they inhabit one cave, etc.
  • May 20, 2011
    Treblain
  • May 21, 2011
    pure.Wasted
    Compare with Mook Chivalry. This is that, but blown up across the entire show.
  • May 21, 2011
    Westrim
    That's a pretty good comparison, Wasted.

  • May 23, 2011
    Bisected8
    Can be the result of a Sealed Cast In A Multipack.
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee
    This doesn't really seem like a trope to me...
  • August 22, 2011
    Westrim
    Why not?
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee
    Why would everything in a world appear all at once?
  • August 22, 2011
    Westrim
    That's not what the trope is about. This isn't black and white, all at once/ one at a time. There's a whole lot of middle ground, and that is what this trope is about. For example, as it mentions, there are cases where there's no clear reason why a threat waited until the previous one had been neutralized, since they are stated to already be prepared or active well before the previous enemy was finished, yet it's only then that the protagonists become aware of them. Using Chuck again, the weapons dealer was clearly stated to be active and malevolent well before the plot started, yet we don't hear so much as a whisper about him until the fourth season.
  • August 22, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    This is so prevalent that I think there should be examples of serials where it doesn't happen or when there's a good explanation why Big Bads come one at a time. This would be an Acceptable Break From Reality as it allows the series to stretch out longer and to allow the protagonist to improve as the series goes on.
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee
    ^Yeah, I think that's actually the only problem I have with it. It's an Omnipresent Trope, to the point that a list of examples is neither interesting nor useful. I think listing only aversions and other Playing With examples is best.
  • February 9, 2012
    Arivne
    .
  • March 21, 2012
    Westrim
    I'm fine with only having non straight examples.
  • August 8, 2014
    Westrim
    bump
  • August 8, 2014
    DAN004
    So... what is this?
  • August 9, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
    • Averted with the Battle of Five Armies in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit, wherein the dwarves are beseiged in Lonely Mountain by the men of Long Lake and the wood elves of Mirkwood. More dwarves from the Iron Hills march to relieve Thorin's band. However, when Gandalf declares that the orcs of the Misty Mountains are approaching with an invasion force, everyone else agrees to fight the orcs instead. Invoked earlier in the same work when Gandalf meets with the lone woodsman Beorn. Knowing that Beorn is distrustful of strangers, Gandalf instructs the dwarf party to approach Beorn's home in twos and threes at intervals, to avoid appearing like a siege party.

  • August 21, 2014
    Chabal2
    • Real Life has (had) this with "Crossing the T", a naval tactic where a ship fires all its side guns on an enemy that can only fire its Fixed Forward Facing Weapon.
    • Appears in the "Tug of War" subgenre of Real Time Strategy games, where the player builds barracks that continually spawn units that head for the enemy's base. Due to the pathfinding mechanics, the units move in single file but spread out in a perpendicular line to fight, so newcomers end up being shot at by every enemy at once (see Crossing the T). The important skill in this kind of game is to time construction so the units are all spawned, move and attack at the same time.

  • August 21, 2014
    Westrim
    That's a more literal interpretation than I thought of; I'd like others thoughts on including them in a meta trope about plot, but I'd be okay with having a literal section. If so, I'd add many tower defense games, which typically have only a one to few routes that enemies come through, and where aside from different speeds that allow them to double up, the whole point is that an otherwise overwhelming force is attacking in waves and columns that with a proper setup you can defeat.
  • August 30, 2014
    DAN004
    The Index Of The Week is pretty much a subindex of this trope?
  • September 3, 2014
    JesseMB27
    Melee A Trois should be mentioned in this article.
  • September 3, 2014
    DAN004
    Looks close to Debut Queue.
  • September 10, 2014
    Westrim
    Good catch Dan, I haven't seen that trope before. Definitely related, but it's specifically about characters taking their turns getting introduced, even though they may have been present from day one.
  • September 10, 2014
    eroock
    Contrast Avengers Assemble where new team members are being introduced one after the other.
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