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Eleventh Hour Ranger
A subtrope of the Sixth Ranger. The Sixth Ranger is always someone who joins an ensemble later on and changes it into another type. However, sometimes, they decide to take their sweet time and don't join the group until much, much later. So much later that the term "late to the party" is a gross understatement.

An Eleventh Hour Ranger is any person who joins an ensemble right before or during the endgame/Grand Finale, sometimes even right before the Final Boss fight.

Compare Last Episode New Character, Gondor Calls for Aid and Eleventh Hour Superpower.

This is an Ending Trope. Spoilers.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Fan Fiction

Film
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon introduces the Wreckers, Autobot heavy hitters near the end of the film. They join the main Autobots for the final battle.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, Masters Croc and Ox refuse to join the heroes, believing that Lord Shen is unbeatable and that their involvement will only make things worse. During the climax, Shifu turns up with them in tow to pull a Big Damn Heroes moment and participate in the final battle.

Literature
  • Trapped on Draconica: Alister's daughters rescue him at the very end so he can join the final showdown against Evil Overlord Gothon.
  • Villainous example: in The Wheel of Time, Mazrim Taim, who'd been a recurring villain for much of the series, gets promoted to the Forsaken near the beginning of the last book; he's the only new member they get over the course of the series.

Live Action TV
  • Super Sentai and Power Rangers, Trope Namers by proxy, have a few examples:
    • Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger has Mikoto/AbareKiller, who joins the fight right at the end thanks to a last-second Heel-Face Turn. (For the record, Power Rangers Dino Thunder has their White Ranger join the heroes earlier, then an evil clone was created so they could use the Heel!AbareKiller footage.)
    • Power Rangers S.P.D. has the Nova Ranger, an ally of the Future Badass Sixth Ranger, who arrives in the middle of the final battle while searching the timestream for him.
    • Mahou Sentai Magiranger and Power Rangers Mystic Force had two characters join the Rangers' side just in time to face N Ma-sama/the Master: MagiMother/the White Ranger, either presumed dead (in Magiranger) or The Mentor whose powers were out of commission (in Mystic Force) for most of the season; and Wolzard Fire/Wolf Warrior, who had been Brainwashed and Crazy as The Dragon Wolzard/Koragg.
    • Some consider Juken Sentai Gekiranger's Rio and Mele an example thanks to a joint Heel-Face Turn in the last two episodes, despite their never officially being acknowledged as Gekirangers. The reason why it's only "some" is because they die redeeming themselves. Power Rangers Jungle Fury not only plays it straight, but straighter than straight, having all seven mentors, the Spirit Rangers, and Jarrod and Camille join in the final battle. And nobody dies in this version.
    • Kaoru in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and her counterpart Lauren in Power Rangers Samurai are a subversion. They're introduced late in their respective series and join the heroes, but then get injured and are forced to sit out the final battle.
    • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger arguably has the team's mentor, Wise God Torin join the team as Kyoryu Silver, the shining Brave, shortly before the final arc. Averted with his successor Dantetsu who simply fills Torin's place.
      • Yuko and Shinya could be considered this as well. While they had predecessors, Ramirez and Shinya's ancestor Tessai, who showed up to assist the team early on from time to time, the two successors join the team in the final two episodes.
  • Angel: Illyria becomes part of the team for the last six or seven episodes. As she's replacing Fred Burkle, she is played by the same actress. Since she's very strong (due to being a De-powered Elder God), she is able to help out a lot in the final battles.
  • Breaking Bad has Todd and Lydia, both of whom are introduced and become integral parts of Walt's drug empire during the final season.
  • How I Met Your Mother waits until the ninth and final season to add the titular mother to the main cast.

Toys
  • Throughout the first BIONICLE film, Mask of Light, the 6-man team of Toa Nuva are desperately trying to defend their villages from the vicious Rahkshi, Makuta's most powerful troops and a six man band of their own. They overwhelm the Toa, and the Toa's Elemental Powers don't help them much. Luckily, two villagers find the legendary Mask of Light, which prophecies the arrival of a seventh Toa with the power to destroy the darkness. After one of them gets killed fighting a Rahkshi, the other realizes he is meant to be the Toa. He puts on the mask, becomes a Toa, and proceeds to mop the floor with the Rahkshi in about 30 seconds. Then he goes to fight Makuta one-on-one.

Video Games
  • Kingdom Hearts II has Riku being purified of his darkness, and becomes a playable member for the final level (and even in the subsequent Final Boss Fights as your only partner).
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Sonic the Hedgehog joins the cast in the cutscene right before the fight against the Final Boss in story mode.
  • Depending on your decisions in the two Digital Devil Saga games, Heat can join your party in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • In Jade Empire, the player character can force Death's Hand to join the party right before the final battle.
  • In the PSP release of Growlanser Wayfarer Of Time, you can recruit Tricia, your senior from the academy for the last three battles of the game.
  • Although you can recruit Legion in Mass Effect 2 at pretty much any time during the last third of the game, you can only get the game's best ending if you 1.) Hold off completing the relevant mission until you've finished nearly all the other missions and assignments or 2.) Leave all other uncompleted missions and assignments until the post-game. Since the character in question ended up becoming popular among the fanbase despite lacking the screentime of the rest of the party members, BioWare made up for it by giving Legion a large role in the main plot of Mass Effect 3.
  • Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins can be recruited into your party just before the final battle if you spare him. Doing so will cause you to lose Alistair though. Oghren isn't quite as bad but he doesn't come up until half-way through the Dwarven section, intended to be played just before the endgame plot kicks off and well past the 3/4 mark.
  • In Final Fantasy II, Leon joins just before the final dungeon.
  • FuSoYa from Final Fantasy IV. He joins you abruptly a few hours before the end of the game, and then promptly leaves. He exists only to fill the fifth party member slot when Kain's Heel-Face Revolving Door is on the other side again.
    • Made very explicit when you discover that when he gains levels, nothing happens, not even HP gain.
  • Gabranth in Final Fantasy XII joins the party as a guest for the Final Boss.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Umaro and Gogo are only available in the World of Ruin toward the end of the game. Relm and Strago are a lesser example, showing up a bit earlier, but still almost at the very end of the World of Balance.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has Alma, who despite being in your roster at one time, only help you fight against the endgame boss.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, similar to Dragon Quest IX below, won't let you have any special character (other than Montblanc) joining your clan until you've beaten the main storyline. The only one member you can get before the final boss is Ezel, via a series of subquests.
  • The Fire Emblem series has an entire Archetype of this, called Gotoh after the first such character. Other members of this archetype are Sety and Galzus in Thracia 776, Karel in Sword of Seals (who only shows up in a Perfect Run Final Boss playthrough), Athos in Blazing Sword, Tibarn, Naesala, and Giffca in Path of Radiance, Caineghis and Giffca (and arguably also Tibarn, Naesala, and Nailah) in Radiant Dawn (also Lehran on a second playthrough if certain conditions are met), Nagi in Shadow Dragon (again only if certain conditions are met, and getting her means Gotoh won't join your party) and in New Mystery. (Also Michalis if certain conditions are met)
    • Awakening spices this up with a handful of powerful endgame units through Spotpass with several stat focuses: Gangrel, whose main advantage is speed and luck, Walhart, with a high balance yet a focus on strength, Emmeryn, with a focus on magic, Yen'fay, with a focus on skill and speed, Aversa, who's entirely balanced but has access to dark magic, and Priam, who has a focus on possessing high strength and skill coupled with five very useful abilities.Morgan also counts, since s/he can possess infinite potential and have his/her parents be anyone in the entire game.
      • A more classic example from the same game: After helping you throughout the game, Basilio and Flavia join your party in one of the final chapters.
  • The original Shining Force has Hanzou the Ninja, who joins as a hidden character right before the last battle. The GBA version changed this.
  • River City Ransom EX has Ivan Popov, who, if certain conditions are met, can be recruited literally at the gates of River City High, where Slick and the Dragon Twins are holed up.
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation 1 has Elzam and Sanger join right at the end. The sequel has them join about 2/3's in instead
    • However, OG2 also features Einst Alfimi as an available party member, who literally joins your party for half of the last mission unless you get the Bonus Boss fight, in which case she's available for that as well. In fact, several Super Robot Wars games feature such characters - Alpha Gaiden, for instance, allows you to acquire Sanger just before the game's end, piloting the absurdly powerful Thrudgelmir, if the proper conditions are fulfilled. If the player has enough money on hand to upgrade it fully...
    • OG Gaiden has a slew of them: Axel Almer, Einst Alfimi (again), Despoiniz and Shu Shirakawa (though the latter ends up betraying the team for the final battle)
    • 2nd OG isn't too bad with this as even usual late joiners like Axel and Shu (who doesn't betray you this time) are permanently part of the team by at least prior to the homestretch of the game. Of course there are a few like Alfimi. Touma is an interesting case. He gets Raioh on stage 49 giving you about 13 to 14 stages to use him, which is a decent amount. But he still joins unusually late for a character on the cover and intro of the game, and who was advertised significantly.
    • It's actually common in a number of games to get last-minute reinforcements, starting with Ingram in Super Robot Wars Alpha. Other notable ones include Schwartz, Julia, Zechs (if you unlocked Heero), and Heinel (if you unlocked him) in Shin, Irui Ganeden in Alpha 3, Al-Van Ranks in J, Applicant in W, Xine and Asakim, although Asakim's exclusive to the Rand-route in Z, and Margaret Reeds in Z2-1.
    • Master Therion is the most powerful secret character in Super Robot Wars UX. He has the best default stat in the game (higher than Kuro) as well as the same skill set as when he was an enemy. The Liber Legis also has a default S rank in every terrain too. It's bonus is +300 attack power for both Melee and range weapon, immune to status change and a 35% special evasion. And the most important thing is that he has the "Soul" Spirit Command.
  • Kurtis in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness joins a few battles before the end, on the very last world.
    • In Disgaea 3, Master Big Star and Salvatore The Magnificent join you right before the last two storyline fights against Super Hero Aurum. They leave when the story's over though, and have to be defeated in the postgame to get them to permanently join your party.
  • .hack games have a tendency to drop new party members into the group right near the finale. Redemption, in particular, gives you an absolutely huge dump of previously unavailable party members just before the last sequences, among them Bordeaux, Alkaid, and Shino.
    • Not only that, you can unlock Natsume and Tabby after the game "ends". (And the Azure Knights.)
  • Final Fantasy Legend II has Isis join your party for the final dungeon. She's insanely powerful, but you have to fight the final boss without her because there are two of them and Isis has to fight the other one.
  • Final Fantasy Legends III has a Gotoh-like mutant join your party at the end. The game has several guest star party members.
  • Depending on the choices you make throughout Devil Survivor, Amane, Black Frost, Gin, Izuna, Kaido, Mari, and Naoya can join your party on the final day or even the Overclocked-exclusive 8th Day.
  • The remakes of Dragon Quest IV, a playable epilogue has a revived and reformed Psaro, the Big Bad of the main game's story join with the heroes and take on The Chessmaster who was the real mastermind behind the events of the main game's story.
  • Dragon Quest IX lets you create your very own customizable party members to take with you on your adventures. However, there are actually 5 characters you meet in the game who will join your party after completing their respective quests. These quests, however, are not only on a DLC schedule, but aren't available until after you've beaten the game.
  • In Dawn of War 2, Captain Gabriel Angelos joins your marines for the final battle, at the end of the last level of the campaign.
  • In Record Of Agarest War every single protagonist and their respective women from the previous four generations come back to you and will help you kick the asses of six gods.
  • Radiata Stories has over one-hundred-and-fifty recruitable characters, but the most powerful and competent fighters cannot be recruited until late in the game: Elwen, Kain, Curtis, Nyx and Natalie for the humans and Galvados, JJ and Gruel for nonhumans.
  • Dr. Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. She'd been in the first game as part of the Mission Control-with-an-agenda, but doesn't really join Team Snake until part-way through the heroes' final mission. Turns out, more of an Eleventh Hour Ranger Traitor. Except not. We think...
  • Himi in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, and to a lesser degree Eoleo. Subtly lampshaded in the final dungeon when Arcanus shows up— everyone is shocked and outraged except these two, who don't know who he is.
  • In Fallout 3, you can't recruit Super Mutant Fawkes until after you've dealt with President Eden and escaped from Raven Rock. While you can still explore the world and complete side-quests with him, you're pretty much at the end of the game's main story line at that point.
    • Likewise for Liberty Prime, who only gets activated once the final main quest starts, and you're past the Point of No Return (unless you have Broken Steel installed, and he gets killed in the first quest of that).
  • In Wasteland, you can recruit an android robot named VAX in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. He has the best stats of any recruitable NPC in the game.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, upon entering the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, you're given the opportunity to recruit several new party members (if by some stroke of fate you entered with none). These include Arronax, the person you've been led to believe is the game's Big Bad. Turns out he's repented of his misdeeds, and it's another of The Void's prisoners that's the one behind the world's chaos. Others are a giant hungry demon, an evil warlord, and a human magically transformed into a dragon.
  • MS Saga has Hal. He joins and leaves quite frequently in the beginning of the game, but his notable point in joining permanently is right before the final boss, while piloting a Sazabi.
  • In the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia, Flynn kind of takes this role. He joins your team at the end of each arc in the story (with maybe one or two bit exceptions) and doesn't permanently join until right before the final dungeon of the game.
  • When you encourage the Yehat in Star Control 2 to rebel against their queen, they spend most of their time fighting the loyalists. Then right before the final battle, they contact you and mention the results of the rebellion.
  • Gandar in Valkyrie Profile is unavailable until the final period, and can't be sent up to Valhalla. Suo and Lyseria may also count, being only available as the last einherjar you're gonna to meet.
  • Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II has the title character, who only joins the playable roster in the very last portion of the game where the Z warriors collect the dragonballs and then fight Cell.

Visual Novels

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Suki joins the Gaang two episodes before the four-part Grand Finale. Zuko joined a few episodes prior.
    • And then in The Legend of Korra we have Zuko's grandson General Iroh, who assists Team Avatar in the season finale.
  • That Beast Wars was going to transition into Beast Machines was sort of an eleventh hour thing and the writers didn't have much notice to wrap up the show's storylines. One consequence of this is that a plot from Season 2 where the characters of Tigatron and Airazor were abducted by the Vok was hurriedly wrapped up in the last episode before the two-part finale, where they return to Earth having been merged by the Vok into one super powerful entity, Tigerhawk, who dies two episodes later in the finale.
  • Sinedd in season 3 of Galactik Football.
  • Ex-villain Jinx joins the party right in the middle of season 5 finale in Teen Titans.
  • In Young Justice Rocket joins the team the episode before the first season finale. And she's no longer part of the team when the second season starts...because she joined the Justice League during the Time Skip.
  • In Transformers Animated, Jazz (who was already a recurring character) officially joins up with the main cast at the end of the episode right before the finale. Had the show continued, he would have remained as a major character.


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