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I Work Alone
"Once upon a time, I had somebody that I cared about... It was a partner. Somebody I had to look after. And in this world, that sort of shit's good for one thing: Gettin' you killed. So you know what I did? I wizened the fuck up, and realized it's got to be just me out there."

Captain Lonerguy has just been offered by an equal to team up. Perhaps it is an out-of-town Cape looking for help on a case that wandered into the Captain's turf. Or his enemy needs help fighting off a power worse than the both of them. If Captain Lonerguy is lucky, it is an equally matched love interest, regardless what side she's on.

In any of these situations, the answer will always be the same. "I work alone."

Cue in audience eyerolling as they must now sit through several scenes of Captain Lonerguy getting his ass handed to him, only to be rescued by said offerer, just so that he can learn An Aesop about the Power of Friendship... or at least strength in numbers. (Even, mind you, if it turns out that he's an Informed Loner — he actually doesn't seem to be alone a lot.)

Occasionally, (and especially if they've had a partner or sidekick die on them) they will strenuously refuse partnering with a Reckless Sidekick, and/or harass new helpers who are competent.

Even after they have learned their lesson, they may have to hear Remember That You Trust Me to keep it going.

-OR-

The Hero really doesn't need other's help and is more Badass for saying so. Cowboy Cops and heroes that actually enjoy their solitude count in this type. A form of Good Is Not Nice. Think Nothing of It and Don't You Dare Pity Me! are common. Of course, saying this line can sometimes be Tempting Fate, and in this particular instance, the usually competent hero might for once find himself in way over his head, and will, often reluctantly, accept the offer of help.

Contrast with I Just Want to Have Friends, True Companions, or You Are Not Alone.

-OR-

The hero knows that they are The Only One who can deal with a problem, and wants to protect everyone else. If they do team up, they're likely to make a Sneaky Departure and go fight the Big Bad alone before it gets ugly.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Dragon Ball series, Vegeta always wants to train alone, even though he could potentially become stronger if he trained with a sparring buddy. Perhaps justified given that the only potential sparring partner who'd be able to keep up is the guy he desperately wants to surpass; Vegeta wants training that he alone will benefit from.
  • In Ghost In The Shell Standalone Complex, Aoi recites this when he is offered a position in Section 9.
  • In Switch Hal does this and, despite emphasizing teamwork, rookie Hiki also tended to do this.
  • Kouji Minamoto in Digimon Frontier for the first five episodes. And then he gets his ass handed to him by Grumblemon in episode 6 but he doesn't accept being part of a team until episode 7 after many fights with The Hero.
  • Jyu Viole Grace from Tower of God rejects the option to recruit 7 team members for a team based test and asks the administrator to fail everybody else. This is because he is working for his boss because his friends are being held hostage and he really doesn't want to bring more people into this. Ultimately, he becomes an ally of Ja Wangnan and the rest because of his good nature. And that's good, otherwise Ja would have been eviscerated and his organs would have beeen sold off.
  • Phoenix Ikki from Saint Seiya is a textbook case of this. Years after the manga debuted he's still off doing his own thing away.
  • This is Chang Wufei's attitude throughout Gundam Wing, until an encounter with the ZERO System convinces him that teaming up with the other pilots is the best course of action. He goes right back to being a loner in the post-series manga, culminating in Endless Waltz where he does a Face-Heel Turn because he refuses to change his way of thinking.
  • A common theme in sports manga/anime is having a very talented player say this repeteadly and refuse to team-work, often to see him/herself forced to when things go hard. Examples are: Kaede Rukawa from Slam Dunk; Koujiro Hyuuga, Louis Napoleon and Natourezza from Captain Tsubasa; Ryoma Echizen and Kaoru Kaidoh (at the beginning) from The Prince of Tennis.
    • Played for Laughs in the case of Takeshi Momoshiro and Ryoma, who try to play doubles and simply cannot do so in the Fudomine arc. Momoshiro gets over that later and becomes a decent doubles player, but Ryoma stays a singles player.
  • In Pandora Hearts Sharon calls Break "Mr. One-Man-Show" because of his tendency to refuse help and go off on his own. He even says himself that he doesn't know how to fight as a team. He's actually pretty good at taking care of business by himself, but due to his recent blindness and deteriorating overall physical condition, his willingness to rely on others, however slightly, is part of his character development.
  • George Schuyter of Muhyo And Roji, as a result of losing his assistants one after the other, falls into this to the point at which he actively forbids Muhyo and Roji from participating in the fight against Vector and threatens Roji with his sword when he arrives.
  • Blood+: After the Time Skip, Saya, as part of her Heroic BSOD, makes this a priority and goes out of her way to avoid working with her pals in the Red Shield because, after losing Riku, she doesn't want to feel the pain of loss anymore. Eventually, she snaps out of it.
  • This was actually the Fatal Flaw of Heartcatch Precure's Yuri Tsukikage. She was so confident in her abilities as Cure Moonlight, that she ignored her partner, Cologne, in finding allies. End result? A massive Curb-Stomp Battle leading to Cologne's death and her temporary depowerment.
  • Barnaby holds this stance for the first third or so of Tiger & Bunny, insisting that Kotetsu's only good for getting in the way and being annoying. He changes his tune completely post-defrosting, to the point that he doesn't see any reason to be a Hero unless Kotetsu's there with him.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!!: Seto Kaiba often utters this when someone offers their help. He actually despises the idea of team work because he hates relying on others, especially his rivals.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a silent version is Homura's typical response to Mami.
  • Cassandra from Claymore always preferred to work alone during her lifetime, secretly self-conscious about the "ugliness" of the Dust Eater technique that propelled her to the top rank of the Organization's warriors. When she let other people get closer to her, it did not end well at all: one of them let the other be brutally murdered, copied Cassandra's technique, and had her executed, as well.
  • In A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, Misaki Shokuhou refuses to trust anybody whom her mental powers cannot affect, as she is extremely paranoid and tends to assume people she can't mind-read will betray her. She has reluctantly worked with the immune Mikoto Misaka a few times for a common goal, but they can't stand each other. Ironically, since she's madly in love with Touma Kamijou, she'll believe anything he says and follow his path anywhere, even though she can't read or affect his mind.

    Comic Books 
  • Nearly every superhero team up starts with one of the parties saying this. Yes, we get it. You are usually alone on your beat. But aren't you failing at school, missing out on dating the cool girl and generally sucking at your normal life because of all the crime-fighting? Why complain now that you have a sidekick?!
  • This is Batman's favourite phrase, despite him nearly always having at least one sidekick, several other members of the Bat family, and regularly working with the Justice League.
    • For all the Broken Base over the Hush arc, it did a very good job of pointing out that for a supposed loner Batman has a huge surrogate family (from Alfred to the Robins to the JLA to random people from the Silver Age)
    • And now he's formed Batman Inc., following a moment of self-realisation:
    "The first truth of Batman. It had to be one I don't like to admit. The gunshots left me alone. For years I was alone in the echoing dark of that wait. But something else defined the exact moment Batman was born. The first truth of Batman. The saving grace. I was never alone. I had help."
  • In the former page quote, Spider-Man and Daredevil are open to the occasional team-up but do work pretty exclusively alone, and attempts to change that generally don't work out. But Wolverine was created for a team book, and therefore almost always works in groups. He doesn't seem to have noticed. In fact, he is currently a member of four different teams.
    • Though these days, Spider-Man is a regular with The Avengers, having proved his worth as a member of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
    • Spider-Man may claim to be a loner, but he was the lead team up hero of the Marvel Team Up comics for almost every comic for over a decade, which as the name implies involves two superheroes getting together to fight off some menace. It gets to the point that future volumes and following comics after that are outright named after him.

    Film 
  • Pee Wee Herman in Pee-wee's Big Adventure: "I'm a loner, Dottie. A Rebel."
  • Every single buddy cop movie that starts with them not being buddies.
    • Pretty much every action adventure cop movie really
  • Used (word for word) in The Incredibles.
  • Eraser. Kruger refuses to work with other agents in the Witness Protection program to prevent the possibility of a leak. (It turns out his caution is more than justified).
    Kruger: "I work alone. If anyone comes to you and claims that I sent them... (hands witness a revolver)...use this."
  • Black Hawk Down: At the end of the movie, Hoot tells Eversman "I'm faster on my own" before he goes out again to search for the missing pilot.
  • Lisbeth Salander in the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (movie version of "The Millennium Trilogy")
  • James Bond adopts (and even states) this mentality to Q and Pam in Licence to Kill, in his quest to take down Franz Sanchez and his drug empire. Still, it's implied that he's going solo because he doesn't want their deaths on his hands, as the last person - Bond's ally Felix Leiter - who tried to mess with Sanchez, he ended up brutally mauled and his wife killed.

    Literature 
  • In Prisoner of the Horned Helmet, the main character had his entire tribe destroyed when he was 9 or 10 (he doesn't know which). as a result, he swears to never depend on other people, and will not work with anything that has two legs. He does have a pet wolf, though.
  • In Andre Norton's Catseye, Troy did not make friends easily among the other refugees and is isolated.
  • In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, D'Eyree realizes that she is vulnerable because she's always been solitary.
  • Lisbeth Salander in "The Millennium Trilogy". From the beginning of the first book, it is known that she works as a private investigator, and never comes into the office unless to deliver a report. She talks to people only when necessary and cuts off all contact with Blomkvist in the second book because she has fallen in love with him, then loses contact with the few friends she has when she travels around the world in the second book. When she comes home after more than a year she remembers that she had a casual girlfriend, Miriam Wu, who she didn't say goodbye to.
    • When Blomkvist repeatedly offers her help in the second book when Lisbeth becomes the Prime Suspect of a murder investigation Lisbeth denies him, because she looks out for herself, never trusting anyone to help her. This leads to her taking on Zalachenko and Niedermann by herself, and getting shot in the head. The reason she survives, is because Blomkvist finds her in time to call an ambulance, and duct tapes the wounds on her body, to which she responds "Kalle Fucking Blomkvist"

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wishverse!Buffy isn't big on the teamwork.
  • The Golden Girls: Sophia says this a few times when someone interjects as she's telling a Sicily story.
  • The Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, for a while.
    • After having lost two companions in tragic ways, the Doctor insisted on traveling alone, claiming that he didn't want to have his hearts broken again.
    • Then subverted with End of Time.
    Wilf: Have you got anyone?
    The Doctor: No. Traveling alone. I thought it was better, I thought... but I did some things, they went wrong... I need... [voice breaks]
  • Abby of NCIS. Her bosses occasionally forced her to take on lab assistants, but she drove them away. After one of them tried to stab her, management decided to leave well enough alone.
  • Burn Notice: Jesse has this problem. He used to be out in the field but got put behind a desk mainly because he didn't work well with others.
  • Dexter: Dexter tells Miguel this in season three and Lumen in season five, but it didn't really work out either time.
  • On The X-Files, Mulder is originally portrayed this way. He hates the fact that he's been partnered with Scully and spends most of the first season alternating between annoying the hell out of her and being nice to her. By season two, though, he doesn't work alone...he just works with Scully. And if he can't work with Scully, he wants to work alone. He doesn't like be partnered with anyone else even for a short time. Scully does the same thing in season 8 when partnered with John Doggett.
  • Andros from Power Rangers in Space is portrayed this way, especially when he's introduced. He's not thrilled to run into the former Turbo Rangers, and fully intends to send them back to Earth and out of his way. Part of his Character Development is learning the value of working with a team. He does have Freudian Excuse though - his former partner, Zhane (the Silver Ranger), was severely injured in a fight a few years ago and is now in a coma.
    • Merrick does this as well; he shows up to fight, but the rest of the time he stays as far away from the team as possible. Gradually eases over the series, and by the last few episodes Cole and Alyssa are turning up at his work and he agrees to join a party on the Animarium.
    • Robo Knight is another one that needs to warm up to interacting with others.
  • Sailor Mars pulls this after she receives her powers in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, though she kept getting pulled into battles with the other scouts, and Usagi wasn't about to stop trying to be her friend.
    • Sailor V/Venus pulls this too, when she's pretending to be the Moon Princess the others are supposed to protect.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), Jake initially does not want the help of the other Special Children, but changes his tune after he runs into his first demon.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Bad News Brown's whole gimmick in WWE was a misanthropic loner who hated everybody. This was less so everywhere else, as he was a 3x NWA Americas (Los Angeles) Tag Team Champion and he teamed regularly in Japan.
  • Gorgeous George was in several tag matches over his career, but he wasn't very successful in them.
  • While Survival Tobita, the star of Saitama Pro Wrestling Company, has been in tag matches in other promotions, he's known primarily as a singles wrestler.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's teams actually tended to be pretty successful, they were just infrequent, as he lived by the mantra "trust no one".
  • "Mercedes Martinez needs no one!" has practically become her catch phrase in SHINE. The shuffling of two power stables, couldn't make her stop screaming it at anyone who would listen, the possible emergence of two more likely won't either.

    Roleplay 
  • Destroy The Godmodder uses another variant. In the first game, several different players attempted to assist the godmodder. Each time it resulted in the godmodder stating that he did not want anyone else doing his job, and then pounding them into the ground, or throwing them into the sun.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the history of the enmity between Bahamut and Tiamat dates back to one dragon god named Io, the Creator of Dragonkind. Short version: A wise and noble being, yet very arrogant, Io was too proud to accept help when the other gods formed groups for mutual protection in the ancient war against the primordial. So it was that Io challenged a powerful primordial named Erek-Hus, the King of Terror by himself, and lost, split down the middle by the abominations mighty axe. But then, to Erek-Hus' shock, two young gods sprouted from Io's remains, Bahmut from the left and Tiamat from the right. The two new deities leapt at the primordial, tearing him to pieces. But when they looked upon each other, they hated each other at once. Bahamut embodied Io's desire to protect creation and his fairness, while Tiamat embodied his hubris, arrogance, and greed. As the story goes, even after the gods were victorious over the primordials, one thing that both Bahamut and Tiamat kept from their parent was the desire to work alone. Since that day, Tiamat rarely makes alliances with any other evil being as equals, while Bahamut, while revered by good dragons, can be one of the least approachable of good deities.

    Toys 
  • Kopaka says this, word-for-word to Pohatu in BIONICLE.
    Kopaka: I work alone.
    Pohatu: What, by choice? Or just 'cause nobody else can stand you?
    • Kopaka's mostly gotten over it by the end of the story, however.

    Video Games 
  • Noble Six's rep in Halo: Reach. He's even referred to as a "Lone Wolf".
  • In Final Fantasy IX, Amarant works alone. Naturally he is a "survival of the fittest" kinda player... and eventually learns The Power of Friendship from Zidane, after an object lesson or two.
  • In Command & Conquer: Renegade, Havoc outright states that he left the Dead-6 commando unit because he works better alone, and it turns out that he does.
  • Mass Effect 1:
    • Urdnot Wrex points out that he's never been much of one for working in an organized army, as "things get... messy." He works best alone, or "in very small groups." Fortunately, Shepard's team counts as such.
    • Previous to that, the turian Spectre Nihlus declines to accompany Commander Shepard's ground team on the mission in Eden Prime, claiming that he moves faster on his own. This ends up getting him shot in the back of the head by his colleague Saren.
  • In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Squall works alone. The game manages to look at his attitude from a couple of different angles; although the early parts of Squall's story mode seem to set it up as a problem he needs to get over, and he eventually ends up working with Bartz and Zidane, the latter half of his story mode reveals that his choice to travel alone isn't because he doesn't trust the other heroes, but because he prefers to help them by taking on the villains by himself and eliminating at least some of them before they can cause the others problems.
    • More complicated than that, even. He fights alone because he doesn't want the burden of directly protecting people (it's too stressful, and far too easy to make a mistake and get someone killed), and because he trusts his friends to be able to take care of themselves. He knows they're strong and capable, so he doesn't worry about them unless he has to (such as when he saves Zidane and Bartz). He's not opposed to helping others, and in fact he does it without hesitation (running to rescue Bartz with Zidane, for example), but he just finds it's easier to push his limits when he's on his own.
      • To elaborate, the Warrior of Light confronts Squall half-way through his story and calls him out on his apparent lone wolf attitude, mistaking it as a sign of distrust. After their battle, the Warrior of Light realizes that Squall's intentions aren't as selfish as they appear to be, with the latter providing the above-mentioned explanation for his actions.
    • Funnily enough, the Warrior of Light also has shades of this. Not in his attitude, but in his actions, not entirely unlike Squall (who irritably observes the comparison in his Inner Monologue when the Warrior of Light confronts him about his choice to go it alone). What ultimately subverts this, however, is the Warrior of Light's absolute faith in his fellow comrades and Cosmos, which is probably something the latter counted on.
  • Thief II: The Metal Age: Garrett says it near the end; there's an Aesop present, and it probably sticks, though he backslides furiously throughout most of the sequel.
  • In both Valkyria Chronicles games, anyone with the "Lone Wolf" trait loses combat effectiveness when in the presence of other allies. Exemplified by Nils Daerden from the first game, who also has no other character to list as a "friend".
  • Herschel Biggs in L.A. Noire before he eventually accepts Cole Phelps.
  • Epicly subverted with a big dose of lecture in the beginning of Wild ARMs 3. After the intro sequence and all four character were in a bar, Jet announced that he works alone. Virginia would have none of it, replying directly with "What have you achieved while you were alone?" Make no mistake, it takes a significant chunk of the game for Jet to truly have a meaningful character development, but at least the intent is there.
  • Bill from The Last of Us firmly believes that depending on others is stupid and that you should only count on yourself. He is extremely rude and only seems to work with you to get you out of his holdout, not because you need his help.
    "Let me tell ya a story. Once upon a time, I had somebody that I cared about. It was a partner. Somebody I had to look after, and in this world that sorta shit is only good for one thing: gettin' ya killed! So ya know what I did? I wizened the fuck up! And I realized it's gotta be just me!"
  • Geralt repeatedly says in The Witcher that he prefers to hunt monsters alone, though (depending on the player's choice) he may make an exception for Sigfried—or refuse his help and play this trope completely straight.
  • The Walking Dead has two characters who play this: Molly from Season 1, and with Jane in Season 2. Molly plays this trope fairly conventionally, but in Jane's case, it's a Deconstructed Trope - she's introduced as a cold, pragmatic Badass just like Molly was, but as she stays and works with the group, she thaws out and it becomes apparent that she just holds this trope as her modus operandi because she's scared of losing people close to her, just like her younger sister, Jaime. With that in mind, it explains why she pulls this trope straight-up and leaves the group after Sarah is eaten alive.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In one of Lazy Muffin's flash animations, "James and the Chief," James says, "I work alone, or with my old partner... Which is dead... So this can't be done."
  • Spoofed in Homestar Runner, where Strong Bad's Cowboy Cop alter ego Dangeresque claims "I work alone! 'Cept when I work with Renaldo, which is all the time!"
  • Variant in The Red Panda Adventures: the Red Panda works with a sidekick, but adamantly refuses to work with other superheroes or allow them into his city.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Batman, Batman is actually the one to suggest to Superman that he should join the Justice League, but Superman is the one to say "I work alone": An intentional flip of their usual interaction. Cue that annoying gnawing at the back of your head (there's a special shampoo for that). Less than 24 hours ago Batman saved Superman from another kryptonite-laden disaster and Supes is right back to the notion that friends don't help in no time. Guess what the rest of the episode was about.

    The Batman, Batman: The Animated Series, and Justice League have splurged this line about a million times each. In one memorable Justice League moment, Batman uses the fact that he's not an official Justice League member to conduct his own investigation when the official founding members decide to turn themselves in to defuse a tense situation.

    And in Batman Beyond, Warhawk (a member of the future Justice League) told Terry that his mentor had "never been more than a part-timer". Terry seemed to reflect that, turning down an offer for full-time membership.

    Bats has the most extended crime-fighting family in The DCU, save possibly the Teen Titans. Nightwing, Robin, Oracle, Batgirl, Spoiler, Huntress, Alfred, the Outsiders, etc. And yet he's constantly trying to sell himself as a lone-wolf-type. At least sometimes he says, "I work best alone."
  • Darkwing Duck in the pilot and the "Just Us Justice Ducks" two-parter.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Parodied by Tommy Gilligan, after he quits the organization.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Parodied by Buttercup, after she adopts a Spawn-like alter ego (she's also hampered by the "only works at night" thing).
  • In Teen Titans Aqualad and Beast Boy exchange this before Aqualad points out Beast Boy is part of a team and Beast Boy retorts that Aqualad "hangs out with a fish dude".
    • Robin had an "I work alone now" period in the flashback episode "Go!" It lasted approximately four minutes.
  • Transformers Animated: "Me Grimlock go with you... but me Grimlock go with you — alone!"
  • Iron Man expresses this attitude at the start of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, when he fights crime out of a personal ambition to keep his weapons out of enemy hands. Soon, four other superheroes help him defeat Graviton. Iron Man subsequently proposes the formation of a full-time superhero team, to combat threats one hero can not overcome alone.
    • Black Panther enlists five Avengers' assistance in helping him get over the Wakandan border, but insists that he must fight his father's murderer, Man-Ape, by himself. Captain America tags along with Panther anyway, defending Panther from Man-Ape's warriors, while still allowing him to fight Man-Ape alone.
    • Hawkeye became betrayed by his crimefighting partner, Black Widow, and arrested by SHIELD early on into the series. After he breaks out of jail and clears his name, he decides to chase down Black Widow alone, until The Hulk makes him join the Avengers. Even then, he expresses an initial preference for the other Avengers not to join his personal pursuit.
  • The title character of Ultimate Spider-Man doesn't initially warm up to the thought of assisting four rookie superheroes as part of his SHIELD training. Unlike most examples though... he has legitimate reasons not to trust them.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle had this attitude in the pilot, with a pretty good justification, but mostly worked through it thanks to Character Development.
    • In "Daring Don't", Daring Do initially refuses Rainbow Dash's aid due to her reclusive nature, but later needs her to help stop Ahuizotl from using the Rings of Scorchero.
  • In Lego The Adventures Of Clutch Powers, the titular character is The Ace who is used to and good enough to work alone on missions, even when offered help. Naturally, he's given a team after a private adventure in the beginning, and quite a few problems occur because they can't coordinate their abilities.
  • In Star Wars: Rebels: Spark of Rebellion, Ezra Bridger says this to Agent Kallus when he accuses him of being a Jedi Padawan training under Kanan Jarrus. Not long after, however, the accusation ends up becoming true.

HikikomoriIntroversion TropesIce Queen
It's Up to YouSolitary TropesJungle Princess
I Reject Your RealityRejection IndexKeep the Reward
I Won't Say I'm GuiltyStock PhrasesJ'accuse
I Will Punish Your Friend for Your FailureExample as a ThesisIdiosyncratic Cover Art
Irrational HatredCharacter Flaw IndexKids Are Cruel

alternative title(s): Fly Home Buddy I Work Alone
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