Created By: SomeSortOfTroper on June 23, 2013 Last Edited By: SomeSortOfTroper on June 26, 2013

Frozen Hero Cliffhanger

A hero is rendered comatose in the cliffhanger of the second movie.

Name Space:
Page Type:
There is a particular type of cliffhanger used in Second Chapter Cliffhangers where the hero or one of the heroes is rendered effectively comatose (whether in a literal coma, frozen in carbonite, under a magical sleeping spell or the like). Allies of the hero or the rest of his band will then have to deal with the absence and rescue of the hero.


  • At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is frozen in carbonite to be escorted to mob boss Jabba the Hutt, while all the others in the band are to be taken off elsewhere, they get rescued but after all's said and done Han still needs to be rescued and the ending note is the promise to save him. Then in the next movie, the opening sequence is the attempt to rescue him. Interestingly, Han was kept frozen in carbonite (as opposed to being killed or tortured or forced to act as Jabba's personal orifice wiper) so they rescue him from his incapacitated state.
  • At the end of the The Matrix Reloaded, Neo, the One, saviour of mankind, ends up in a random coma after a never explained occurrence right after finding out that being The One is in fact not that useful for saving mankind. He is then not just in a coma but quite neutered as The One while simultaneously his evil counterpart is in the coma bed right next to him promising that when one wakes up the other will.

  • At the end of The Two Towers Frodo is paralysed by a Giant Spider bite, Samwise spends some time thinking he is dead before discovering that he is alive but now captured by the enemy. The ending note of the volume is that it is now up to Sam to save his master.

The name is a difficult trick- if you just go for something like The Hero In A Coma then it just says...that the hero is in a coma, nothing about the structure and timing which is actually about half the trope.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • June 23, 2013
    This seems too specific. How about Frozen Hero Cliffhanger? That way, maybe you can put more examples (from TV and stuff).
  • June 23, 2013
  • June 23, 2013
    Try Human Popsicle Cliffhanger
  • June 23, 2013
    Not just Trope Namer Syndrome. The title doesn't even make sense and makes it sound like it's about borrowing a cliffhanger from another series.
  • June 23, 2013
    Helpless Hero Cliffhanger, maybe?
  • June 23, 2013
  • June 23, 2013
    Out Of Commission Cliffhanger? Helpless Hero Cliffhanger also works.

    Regarding The Empire Strikes Back, I believe Harrison Ford was considering not coming back for the third film. So the writers had his character frozen (rather than simply captured) so he could just as easily be unfrozen or killed, depending on Ford's decision.

    • Pirates Of The Caribbean Dead Mans Chest is an odd case of this. The action ends with Jack Sparrow dying, but in the final scene of the film, Will and Elizabeth learn that death isn't quite as final as they thought, and they resolve to go to the land of the dead and bring Jack Sparrow back.
  • June 23, 2013
  • June 23, 2013
    agreeing with Helpless Hero Cliffhanger

    • A pseudo example in The Dark Knight Saga. At the end of the second movie Batman is on the run from the cops taking the fall for Two-Face's crimes and he retires. At the beginning of the third movie Alfred, Lucius and others in his life are trying to get Bruce Wayne out of self imposed exile and Batman out of retirement, eight years later
  • June 23, 2013
    Helpless Hero Cliffhanger is a better name.

    But it should be expanded to any cliffhanger at the end of a major section -- any film, book, chapter of a webcomic that doesn't update often, etc. Not just second chapters/books/films.

    Also, it should be expanded to anything that takes the hero out of comission and requires rescue, including imprisonment, being lost/stranded somewhere from which they can't escape, turned into something completely pathetic like an earthworm or dandelion, possessed, mind-controlled, etc.
  • June 23, 2013
    If the trilogy is seen as a single arc, this moment would correspond to Belly Of The Whale.
  • June 24, 2013
    Helpless Hero Cliffhanger, but I think the title could make an awesome crossover fic.
  • June 25, 2013
    Italicized the example work titles (one of the few times I haven't had to Namespace them as well) and divided the examples into media types.
  • June 25, 2013
    • At the end of the second Jack Blank book, Jack had been abducted by the Rüstov, and left in cryogenic stasis aboard a Rüstov spaceship en route to their throneworld where he would be processed and converted into a Rüstov soldier.
  • June 25, 2013
  • June 25, 2013
    ...And it doesn't strictly have to be during a second installment.
  • June 26, 2013
    Is the sponsor ever going to change the name?
  • June 26, 2013
    I guess I prefer the human popsicle or frozen hero; helpless is broad but sleep or unconsciousness has some primal quality that i believe the works are relying on. That's why I don't like the Dark Knight rises "example"- he's not exempt from the effort. That plus the fact that everything else doesn't fit- it doesn't happen as a cliffhanger, it's not done across episodes n the series.

    ^^ Yeah, we can relax that. I reckon it's just popular for a Two Act Trilogy's cliffhanger because it allows for an easy sense of continuity plus climatic shock.