"You're all clear, kid! Now let's blow this thing and go home!"
With the hero left alone, the fight looks lost. But no! At the last moment the people in question return to save the protagonist. A way of setting up Big Damn Heroes
Friends can let the hero down for many reasons. Coming back usually entails character growth.
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Anime and Manga
- Hiei from YuYu Hakusho leaves the rest of the team during the Chapter Black arc, claiming he has no loyalty to the human world and would like to go home. Yusuke assures everyone else that "he'll come and rescue us in the end when we need him the most", and he does. This makes perfect sense as, while Hiei 'joined the team' because backing up the Spirit Detective was his parole assignment, the reason he actually joined the team and saved their lives back in Maze Castle on the first mission was that Yusuke, against all forms of sanity, trusted him to do so. There's something about that confidence you just don't want to let down.
- Cowardly Sidekick Pop from Dai no Daibouken leaves Dai and Maam when they go fight the big bad Crocodin, then shows up in the nick of time to help when they're in trouble. Somewhat unusually, a whole chapter explains exactly why, and the trope is played less for the reveal that he comes back than to show character growth.
- Ken Wakashimazu pulls that in Captain Tsubasa World Youth Cup, after the conflict with him and coach Mikami boils up to its limits since Ken feels he's The Unfavorite of the team, no matter how hard he trains. He comes back later, though.
- Lieutenant Yamamoto of Irresponsible Captain Tylor meets up with the rest of the crew, attempting to rescue Tylor from a firing squad but unable to find him in his cell in order to tell them where the execution would be carried out.
- Kouji Kabuto from Mazinger Z did this after an Achilles in His Tent in episode 7. Since everybody blamed him for the destruction the Mechanical Beast and Mazinger-Z had caused as they battled (in spite of if he would have not fought, the destruction and the death toll would have been worse!), and not even Sayaka was willing fighting anymore, he decided staying in home. His best friend and brother tried to reason with him, but he would not listen. Finally, he listened to reason when the Mechanical Beast struck again, and he fought.
- Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion pulls this off when he runs away for the second time. Situation: Rei and Asuka are both defeated, Zeruel breaks into the command center... just in time for Unit 01 to break through the wall and punch the Angel in the face, meters in front of the entire command staff.
- The Rebuild version of said battle upped the ante even higher: he came back because he witnessed Zeruel eating Rei and took it personal.
- Aizawa in Death Note. True, this was the Lighter and Softer arc, as Death Note goes, but his mad undercover skills and subsequent cavalry charge are no less awesome for that.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Cell is on the verge of overwhelming Gohan and destroying the Earth....all his friends are helping him out but to no avail. Just when all hope appears to have been lost, Vegeta (who was previously too busy angsting about not being able to do anything) joins the fray. He fires a massive energy blast at Cell which weakens him, allowing Gohan to turn the tide and win the day.
- Which is different from how it went in the manga. In the manga, when Cell and Gohan entered their Beam-O-War, everyone looked on helplessly instead of trying to attack Cell. Then, just as Cell was on the verge of overwhelming Gohan, Vegeta attacked Cell, catching him by surprise and distracting him for a moment, during which time Gohan upped his power and overwhelmed the distracted Cell.
- At one point in the manga adaptation for Kingdom Hearts II, Sora abandons a battle in the Land of Dragons to search for Riku after receiving a Paopu Fruit via Shang from him, forcing his allies to go on without him. He later turns up in a Big Damn Heroes moment to save the Emperor from Shan-Yu, angrily blaming him for not being able to speak with Riku.
Don't underestimate me and my Keyblade!
- Star Wars:
- A New Hope: Luke and Han come to odds over the attack on the Death Star. Luke is the young idealist, ready to die for a cause. Han is the old cynic who sees it as suicide. When Han saves Luke from Darth Vader at the last minute he grows as a character, finding his loyalty to his Fire Forged Friend is important enough to risk his life for.
- This happens with Luke himself (to Yoda). He walks out on Yoda when his friends are in trouble. Then later, he comes back to complete his training, where Yoda tells him the fact that he came back means his training is done.
- Harry Osborn in Spider-Man 3.
- Professor Falken in WarGames. When he goes to bed he's walking out on humanity. But just when it looks hopeless, he joins the fight.
- Tom Cruise's character did this at the end of Top Gun: he bugged out during a battle with enemy jets, then returned and shot down several of them, saving his wingman.
- A rare complete inversion is in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, where Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) acts the part of the cavalry in the gunfight with the titular character, but neither audience nor characters know it until much later.
- Gettysburg: Col. Chamberlain, by the last three holdouts of the 2nd Maine. They later join the fight and save his brother Tom.
- King Kong (2005): Snooty actor Bruce Baxter, faced with the perils of Skull Island, gives up on rescuing Ann, only to return later Just in Time for a Big Damn Heroes moment.
- District 9: The whole thing unfolds in seconds: Wikus runs from the captured Christopher in the middle of the climatic battle. As Christopher is about to die he changes his mind. Unstoppable Rage meets Mini-Mecha!
- The title character in 2002's Roger Dodger, 'saving' his Nephew late in the film.
- In The Magnificent Seven, the eponymous seven are betrayed by a group of villagers and driven out of the town they were hired to protect. One by one, they each decide to go back, except for Harry Luck, who informs them they're all crazy and rides away. When Chris is cornered without cover during the climactic gunfight, however, Harry comes galloping in to save him.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Captain Jack Sparrow abandons ship just before it gets attacked by the Kraken. He then changes his mind and comes back in time to fire the shot that blows up the Kraken's tentacles. Then Sparrow is abandoned himself and the Kraken takes down the Pearl with him along for the ride.
- Fright Night. After Jerry Dandridge charms and kidnaps Amy, Charlie goes to Peter Vincent for help. Vincent refuses to help him because he's too scared. Later on when Charlie goes to Dandridge's house to rescue Amy, Peter shows up to help him.
- Silver Streak has a comical example. As George Caldwell is about to leave with FBI agents to stop Deveraux aboard the titular train, Grover Muldoone, the small-time crook who'd been helping George, asks to go home. Later, during a gunfight outside the train, George bumps into Grover, asking him why he'd come back. Grover answers "Forgot your wallet?", making George reply "Oh, some thief you are!", before they get back to stopping Deveraux.
- The Dark Knight Rises has Selina Kyle only looking out for her own skin for the majority of the film. During the climax, she agrees to help Batman clear an exit path for the civilians of Gotham to evacuate, should the worst come to pass - but that much, and no more. Once she's done that, she swears she's getting the hell out of reach. She has a change of heart, however, and winds up unexpectedly saving Batman from certain death at Bane's hands... by shooting him dead-on with the Batpod's missiles.
- In The Avengers, Bruce Banner makes it clear that he's only along for the ride as a scientific consultant, and won't be doing any fighting. After an unexpected attack on the Helicarrier makes him Hulk out, cause considerable damage, and fall probably 10,000 plus feet, no one except for Tony thinks he's coming back. But as the heroes desperately try to regroup in the middle of Manhattan to try and figure out how to defend against the first wave of the invading army while Iron Man frantically battles a massive mechanical whale-like ship, Bruce comes riding in — on a ridiculous-looking, battered, teeny-tiny motorcycle — and shows that he can in fact control the Hulk to some extent by downing the enormous ship with one punch, providing the brute strength necessary to mount a defense.
- Bilbo in The Hobbit attempts to leave the company while they were resting in the mountains after Thorin had harshly claimed that Bilbo had no place with them. But after being captured by the goblins and his adventures with Gollum, Bilbo chose not to leave and continued the journey with the dwarves. His return would later help save Thorin from being beheaded by Azog's mook.
- In The Rock, Mason decides to abandon the mission after he breaks himself and Goodspeed out of their cells. He believes rightly as it turns out that Hummel won't really launch the V-X gas missiles though some of his men are willing. He gutpunches Goodspeed when the latter tries to stop him. Mason eventually returns and saves Goodspeed when the latter gets in trouble again. He decided he didn't want Goodspeed's unborn child to grow up without a father.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
- Ron pulls one of these. His return, just in time to save Harry and destroy the locket Horcrux, is also a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
- From the same book there's Horace Slughorn, who initially flees with the Slytherins and other students, but returns Just in Time alongside all the villagers of Hogsmeade and everyone related to anyone left in the castle. Whether that was his intention all along was never revealed.
- Also Percy Weasley.
- In Matthew Reilly's Temple, Bassario decided it was time to leave when Renco planned to do a Heroic Sacrifice. He quickly returned because he didn't want to be known as the guy who bailed on The Chosen One.
- Star Wars:
- In Dark Force Rising, a New Republic force is scheduled to head out after the reported location of the Katana Fleet in the morning. Since there's little time and it's headed by Borsk Fey'lya, the heroes send out their own force in the middle of the night; in the morning Fey'lya follows, planning to arrest them for treason. Those plans are cut short when the two New Republic forces are ambushed by an Imperial Star Destroyer. The first force flies a delaying action while Fey'lya's force flees, but Fey'lya is lured into an Engineered Public Confession, turning his allies against him and making them go back. The heroes still needed two more groups of Big Damn Heroes and two cases of Ramming Always Works before they won the battle, although they were too late.
- In Galaxy of Fear: Army of Terror, the Arrandas and their Uncle Hoole are surrounded by the enraged Kivan wraiths, who blame Hoole for what happened to their world; initially they want to punish the Arrandas too, for being with Hoole, but they back off and let the kids be after hearing that they are from Alderaan. The Arrandas find that Hoole actually is behind it and abandon him - later they hear more of the story and return to save him from the wraiths.
- The Vampires in ''Blade of Fire''.
- In the third Skulduggery Pleasant book, Fletcher teleports away from the battle when the Faceless Ones attack, but later returns to save Valkyrie
- In The Way Of Kings, Sadeas's army abandons Dalinar's force to get slaughtered by the Parshendi, but then one of his bridge crews arrives just in time and helps them escape. From their perspective, it's this trope, until they learn that Kaladin disobeyed orders to save them.
- Trapped on Draconica: Rana Initally refused to help Daniar but later came to save her after the Easatern Alliance was slaughtered. Appropriately, this was at the nadir of Team Good's Darkest Hour.
- In Taylor Anderson's Crusade, the USS Walker and her allies, the Lemurians of the Sea Homes and the Baalkpan Lemurians, arrive to relieve the siege of Aryaal, a city of another group of Lemurians, by the Grik. After obliterating a Grik fleet, Captain Reddy gets Lord Rolak, the High Protector of Aryaal, to commit his forces to Reddy's battle plan. The goal is for the Alliance army to strike the Grik, causing the Grik assaulting the Aryaal walls to move away to attack the army. Rolak's forces must then sally and strike the Grik in the rear. Unfortunately, just as Reddy shoots a flare to signal Rolak, the king of Aryaal overrules Rolak and orders him to stand down, wishing the sea-folk and the "tailless ones" to wear down the Grik, so that the Aryaalans can finish them off. Rolak, whose honor is on the line, decides to sally anyway, with only a third of the force willing to follow him, as well as the queen of a neighboring city and her elite guard. They are late, though, and the Alliance lines break under the Grik onslaught.
Live Action TV
- In the fourth season of Andromeda, Beka Valentine initially opts out of the final battle with the Magog worldship, only to fly in during that fight and help out.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine arc where they try to retake the station, the Klingons refuse to commit any ships...until the precise moment in the battle in "Sacrifice of Angels" when the Federation fleet is heading straight into a trap, whereupon a wing of Klingon battle cruisers come screaming into battle, punch open a hole in the Dominion/Cardassian lines and save the day.
- In the pilot of the The Magnificent Seven series, Ezra Standish abandons his watch to check out a gold mine nearby; seeing that the bad guys have attacked in force while he was gone, he hurriedly rides away in the opposite direction. ...until he turns around, comes back, and attacks the enemy leader, buying enough time for his captured comrades to free themselves.
- Happens in the Super Sentai 30th anniversary special: Boukenger vs. Super Sentai. Eiji tries to recruit Rangers from previous sentai series when the rest of his team gets captured by previous series' baddies. They've all gone on with their lives, even the ones who are still Rangering, and turn him down, not having the time. He tries to fight the villains from other seasons who've returned alone, and the retro-Rangers return to save his skin at the dramatically appropriate moment.
- It seemed to be more of a miscommunication. They fully intended to help him eventually, but had other things to do first. Eiji just got impatient. (and to be fair more or less barged in on them in the first place.) They were however a bit out of practice.
- Avon of Blake's 7 did this constantly while he was with Blake on the Liberator. But funnily enough, despite professing complete contempt for Blake's ideals and cause, and threatening to leave on many occasions, he never did; in fact, he saved Blake's life on several occasions.
- Combined with Conscience Makes You Go Back in the Doctor Who episode "The Waters of Mars". The Doctor knows that the staff of Bowie Base One are historically supposed to die by blowing up their own base to destroy the "Flood Monsters". Adelaide even lets him return to the TARDIS, but on the way there he overhears them dying and decides, just this once, to Screw Destiny.
- Yet the fixed point in time - the death of the captain and the destruction of the base - is still established.
- In fact—just for weirdness points here—it's when he goes back to save everyone that he is established as Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. Alien moralities and he bigger picture, you see.
- In Angel when Faith finds out Angelus is back.
- In Once Upon a Time a rather surprising one happens. Gold/Rumplestiltskin, after making it clear that he had no intention of saving Mary-Margaret/Snow White from Regina's wrath, returns to stop her, knowing that he is the only one who can combat her magic. It is unclear exactly why he did this. His motives aren't always clear, but be it genuine care for Snow and his newfound family in Bae, Emma, and Henry, or just repaying his debt to Snow for saving his life, he came back.
- The Ultra Fast Pony episode "Hippocratic Oafs" has a rather cynical version of this. Twilight Sparkle has moral objections to Ponyville's behavior, so she declares, "That's it. I'm out. I hope a bear eats you all," as she retreats to her library. Then a giant bear appears and threatens Ponyville. Spike begs Twilight to save the day, but she points out that she wasn't kidding when she said, "I hope a bear eats you all." Twilight eventually does drive the bear away, but not because she changed her mind—only because Princess Celestia ordered her to.
- RWBY has an abbreviated example; during their first assignment at Beacon, Ruby and Weiss are partnered together. Because she doubts Ruby's combat abilities, Weiss turns and walks away...only to find that the next person she could partner with is even more incompetent. This prompts her to walk back and drag Ruby off.
- In Worm, in Extermination 8.5, when Leviathan (a monstrously powerful creature that can sink entire cities) has just left the shelter and knocked Skitter — at that instant the only cape in position to track Leviathan's movements — face-down into the water with a broken back, Bitch turns up with a pack of empowered dogs, rescues Skitter, and keeps Leviathan tied up fighting on the street long enough for Scion to arrive.