In the End, You Are on Your Own

Angelus: That's everything. No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what's left?
Buffy: [Barehanded Blade Block] Me.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Becoming, part 2"

As a Stock Aesop, believing in The Power of Friendship over isolationist self-reliance is pretty standard and true. There's a lot a group can accomplish that the individual(s) acting on their own can't. In fiction, Friendship even brings tangible benefits like The Team developing an Attack Pattern Alpha which uses All Your Colors Combined. Some shows go the extra length to crush the message into a viewer by having a Sixth Ranger fail miserably and join the team. Once the Season Finale rolls around however, The Hero can't depend on his weaker friends to keep up, and will have to fight the Big Bad Final Boss on their own.

Many shows will switch gears abruptly to have the hero fight the last battle on their own. Be it due to a Climactic Battle Resurrection waylaying all their allies, killing them all, or because the enemy is so strong anyone trying to help the hero would become a meat shield at best and a dangerous distraction at worst. This limits the rest of the cast to cheering from the bleachers (maybe slapping some sense into a hero woozy from a Breaking Speech) or acting as fuel a Combined Energy Attack or Super Mode.

Some stories work this into a narrative organically. The Big Bad may cleverly isolate the hero from his friends via framing him or capturing them (and force them to watch him kill their leader). Sometimes the villain is not involved and This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself. In these cases the value of friends isn't in their tangible help fighting but by placing their trust in the hero's success and motivating them to do their best. Trust is a powerful force like that.

Compare Duel Boss (who is not necessarily the Final Boss, as per this trope). Contrast I Can't Do This by Myself. See also What You Are in the Dark. If just one person manages to remain with the Hero, see Loser Has Your Back. Not to be confused with Dying Alone. Sub-Trope of Solo Sequence.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z basically slowly killed the cast (again) throughout the approach to each Big Bad (Frieza, Cell and Buu). By the time Goku fought Frieza and (almost) killed him, they were the only two people on Namek, the rest being dead or on Earth. A larger cast lived until Gohan beat Cell, but they were just on the sidelines by then. For Buu, literally everyone that wasn't a Kai, Goku, Fat Buu or Mr. Satan (or the puppy) was dead. Including one of the combatants (Vegeta). Dragon Ball GT didn't kill the cast as much, but the Big Bads were so powerful by then that nobody that wasn't Goku or SS4 Gogeta was pretty much helpless (besides for Trunks during the Black Star Dragon Balls part and Pan every once in a while).
  • Sailor Moon; the first season finale. One by one, everyone dies, leaving the main character the only one left to have the final battle, which she resolves by using a MacGuffin whose powers are Cast from Hit Points, dying herself. However, she manages to use said MacGuffin to revive herself and her friends. However, it happens again in Stars (the final season) where, one by one, everyone dies and in the end, it's just Sailor Moon... Until she revives everyone again.
  • Digimon Frontier. By the end of the series only the lead and lancer could fight the Big Bad since their ultimate Super Modes required all the other members of the band to give them their spirits (ability to transform). Though this may have later become a subversion considering that the actual final battle was Big Bad v. all five of the (surviving) heroes combined into a single god-like digital entity.
  • Saint Seiya sometimes used this trope, sometimes not. Frequently Seiya would be the last Saint standing against the season's Big Bad, and (if any of the others were conscious/alive) they'd boost his Cosmo with theirs. A few times though they would gang up on enemies, but by and large one-on-one battles were the norm.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, however, the team often gets their day in the limelight, but they get hurt so often it's a wonder that Yugi lets them come along at all. Given that Duel Monsters is for the vast majority of the time a one on one card game, this is true pretty much every episode.
  • Somewhat justified in Zettai Karen Children... while Za Children generally work as a team, Kaoru is always their heavy hitter, possessing the most in-your-face offensive power - Telekinesis. When fighting Mooks or generally low-level foes, the other two will join in with creative use of their 'utility' powers (Teleportation and Psychometry, respectively). But when the big hitters show up and it's time for a boss-fight, they know that it's better to stand back and let Kaoru do what she does best - sometimes providing intel or a quick escape to aid. In the later season, it's taken to its natural conclusion, with a special device that basically saps Aoi and Shiho of their Psychic Powers to pool it all in Kaoru, giving her access to her Bad Ass, Power Gives You Wings Queen Of Catastrophe form, which makes her basically unstoppable, and able to do several things that are otherwise considered theoretically impossible...
  • At the end of the Soul Eater anime, everyone except Maka gets knocked out by the Kishin. She doesn't even have her weapon, Soul.
    • An ending which departs from what the manga and most of the anime emphasised as necessary, as well as strength, for victory - teamwork and mutual understanding.
      • Their combined efforts did significantly weakened Kishin however. Death the Kid pretty much annihilated his body. Too bad he regenerated a new one.
  • In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the FFVII crew decide to let Cloud battle Kadaj on his own.
    • Not that any of them had much choice, with Cloud chasing Kadaj across half the continent trying to stop him from using the Jenova cells no one else really had any hope of keeping up. And of course by the time any one else might have been able to finally track them down, Kadaj had already used the Jenova cells and taken on the Memory of Sephiroth. Anyone in their right mind takes one look at that brawl and promptly says fuuuuuck that.
      • Not entirely so, they were able to catch up to Cloud using their air ship, and Yuffie even brought Materia along to power Cloud and themselves up. It's just that the one on one fight mirrors the end of Final Fantasy VII as a personal struggle so they didn't want to interfere. It was also mentioned while the others had given up fighting and thus their drive during the two years of peace, Cloud still held onto that mind state to give it everything he's got.
  • Macross Frontier: The Wings of Goodbye leaves Alto to square off alone against Brera's FAST equipped VF-27, a squadron of V-9 Ghosts, and Vajra-infested Battle Frontier while everyone else just watches (or sings).
  • Massively subverted in the finale of Inuyasha - though Naraku does his best to split up the group and kill each one individually, they all manage to reunite and take him down.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the battle against Father starts off as a major affair, with everyone getting in their shots. But after Father disables many of the fighters and Al sacrifices himself, it comes down to Ed pounding on a Physical God with his bare fists while everyone else cheers him on. Notably, however, this isn't because the rest of the cast is unable to help, considering there are still numerous armed soldiers and physically capable fighters around. It's just that Ed doesn't need the help.
    • It should also be noted that all the damage the rest of the cast did to Father HAD been effective, even tough it looked like it wasn't due to his enormous supply of power. Ed just finished the job.
  • The end of the Sorcerer Hunters anime had Carrot fight the big bad all on his own. He manages to revive his friends to win.
  • Slayers NEXT ends with Lina's friends knocked out one by one, after each plan fails. Plus, she has to use her Giga Slave to defeat the baddie.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has this for its third part. At the end, Jotaro is the only one left to face Dio, as everyone else was either killed or incapacitated.
    • It also happens again in Part Six, but in a twist it's not the protagonist who faces the Big Bad, but rather one of her sidekicks.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Three timelines worth of discovering the Awful Truth and playing The Cassandra - always ending in the death of all of her friends - leads Homura to utter the line "I won't depend on anyone anymore" during her Adrenaline Makeover, invoking this trope and signalling a drastic change in her personality. True to form, she spends the very next episode fighting the Big Bad alone... and losing, leading to Madoka contracting once again.

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • In The Avengers, as tensions rose, Captain America called out Tony Stark as talking a big game, but being nothing without his Iron Man armor, and not being a team player besides.
  • Villainous example. In the Daredevil movie, Kingpin sends his guards home so he can face Daredevil alone.
  • In Delgo, Delgo's dying father tells him "You're on your own, kid."
  • At the climax of Labyrinth, where Sarah must face Jareth alone, "because that is the way it is done."
  • At the climax of Return of the Jedi Luke deliberately goes without the aid of his comrades to confront Darth Vader and the Emperor.
  • In Serenity, Mal must fight the Operative alone because the crew is buying him time by holding the line against the Reavers. And at the end of that fight, River has to fight against the Reavers by herself.

    Literature 
  • In the Deryni works, whatever assistance Kelson and Liam get from their friends, at some point, they each find they must cope with some things by themselves:
    • In one step of his empowerment ritual, Kelson has to pierce his own hand with the clasp of a large Haldane brooch. As they're preparing for this, Morgan and Duncan have this exchange:
    Morgan: What about me? Is there anything I'm supposed to do besides watch?
    Duncan (shakes his head): No. And whatever happens, you mustn't touch him or attempt to aid him in any way until the reaction has run its course. We're dealing with fantastic amounts of power here, and if you interfere, it could kill him.
  • Harry Potter generally ends up in one-on-one fights with Voldemort. In the first book it's because only one person could make it through to the Philosopher's Stone, but in The Movie Hermione purposely leaves him because This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself. In later books, events continue to conspire to cut him off from any allies who set out with him. In fact, Ron and Hermione don't even see Voldemort in person until the last book. (In the fifth film, they at least get a glimpse of him, but that part wasn't in the book.)
    • In Book one, Ron is incapacitated by a chess piece and Harry sends Hermione to summon Dumbledore, reasoning that the two of them don't stand a chance of winning—the only hope is to hold them off long enough for reinforcements.
    • In book two, Hermione is petrified, while Ron is unarmed (his wand is broken) and on the wrong side of a massive cave in.
    • In book four, he's whisked out of a maze and his only backup is killed instantly.
    • In book five, Hermione is critically wounded and Ron is loopy (and Harry rushed off in a revenge-maddened attack).
    • Despite his track record for getting out of these scrapes using pure nerve and instinct (and a dose of luck), Voldemort continues to see Harry as a coward who hides behind stronger guardians. This arrogance results in his getting curb-stomped in their final meeting in the last book.
  • In Thursday Next quite often, very much the final battle with Adornis Hades.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy features Nathanael and Bartimaeus. Considering they end up in one body and Nathanael dismisses his daemon in the last possible moment this is also a Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • This is practically Tiffany Aching's motto, but she chooses to be fiercely self-reliant. As she puts it, "A witch deals with things."
  • Averted in A Wolf In The Soul. Though the story seems to be moving in this direction as Greg is forced to leave his friends first at Columbia and then in Israel, the climax of the book has him defeating the wolf with the help of Joey and Holmes, the latter behind the scenes.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena ends with Annabeth fighting Arachne, along with other puzzles on her own.

    Live Action TV 
  • Yuusuke/Red Falcon from Choujuu Sentai Liveman is the only human left unaffected by Bias' Mass Hypnosis, leaving him to defeat Bias alone, in a sense. Though someone comes to give him last minute help: Kemp, reduced to a Brain in A Jar, who strips Bias of his youth.
  • Came up several times on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Season One: The Scoobies end up retreating to the Library while fighting the horde of vampires converging on the high school, or rather The Hellmouth, which happens to be located directly beneath the library. Buffy fights the Master on the roof.
    • Season Two: The Scoobies are attacked at the library, leaving Kendra dead, Willow in a coma, and Giles captured. After mounting a rescue mission, Xander takes Giles to safety while Buffy is left to fight Angelus alone.
    • Season Six: In the end, it's Xander who saves the day, talking Willow down from destroying the world after Buffy fails to stop her.
    • The First Slayer is a firm believer in this, to the point where, in season 4 when Buffy does a Fusion Dance with the Scoobies to beat Adam, she's so offended that she returns from the afterlife to try and kill them all.
  • Seems to be a reoccurring theme with Person of Interest, where many of the characters seem to fully believe this. However it also seems to show these characters time and time again that there is always someone to help.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Tournament of the Dragon Adventure for the 3rd edition of the Champions RPG involved a martial arts Tournament Arc that culminated in a solo battle against an entity known as the Dark Dragon. The mystic nature of the Dark Dragon made him grow stronger with every foe attacking him at once, making him a horror to battle with an army, but when faced by a single opponent, he was at his lowest power levels, thus justifying the creation of an tournament to find a worthy warrior to battle him one-on-one.

    Theatre 
  • In Pokémon Live!, since Giovanni told Jessie and James to only capture Ash, none of his friends and family follow him to the final battle.

    Video Games 
  • The trope namer is The Longest Journey, where April IS on her own in the end, though not in the Final Battle kind of sense.
  • Both Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords allow you to have your party fighting alongside yourself for most of the game, then render them unable to join your for the final boss.
    • The second game is particularly cruel, since it abruptly drops you on Malachor V. Your character wakes up and has to spend the entire level on their own, even though it is made perfectly clear that the rest of your crew survived and got out. At least in the first game you could have two party members with you for most of the Star Forge until your fight with Bastilla.
      • This might be due to early plans for the game, in which a few scenes on Malachor V focused on the other characters, depending on the choices made by the player over the course of the game, such as a fight between Atton and Darth Sion which could end either with him surviving and reuniting with the Exile, or losing and dying in her arms, or if the player was a dark side female and fell in love with the Disciple Atton was supposed to kill him.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, if you're playing with both Sonic and Tails, Tails will be unplayable during the last two levels.
    • Similarly, In Sonic 3, Tails will disappear after the first of the three final bosses is defeated, leaving Sonic to fight the last two on his own. Tails actually falls into water when you take Eggman's vehicle and DIES. He doesn't come back after this, so if you didn't know there was a sequel, it would seem like he was Killed Off for Real. Sorry, Tails, the hovercar only seats one!
    • And finally, in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Tails won't be able to accompany Sonic into the Doomsday Zone, the final level.
    • This trend takes up in the later games as well. In Sonic Adventure Super Sonic has to take on Perfect Chaos on his own.
    • In Shadow the Hedgehog Shadow is forced to fight Devil Doom on his own, due the poison gas the latter released into the atmosphere paralyzing everyone else, Shadow being immune because he was created from the villain's blood.
  • Subverted in Portal 2: Before you can confront GLaDOS, poor Wheatley gets whisked in the wrong direction by the Pneumatic Diversity vents, but before the actual fight begins, GLaDOS tries to kill you with deadly neurotoxin which she has actually run out of thanks to you, and the only thing that comes out of the tubes is your Wheatley.
  • In the arcade TMNT, teamwork doesn't work on most of the bosses. You're actually better off taking one player, running a pattern on the boss (usually hit, walk back, up, or down), and keeping everyone else back. Done correctly you can beat most bosses without losing even one bar of energy. If more than one player attacks a boss, the boss will just spam attacks that knock everyone out.
  • The final area of Super Paper Mario has each of your companions having to leave one by one to allow you to continue, leaving you alone when you fight the boss. You get them back for the real boss, though.
  • In The World Ends with You Neku attempts to invoke this by leaving Shiki and Beat behind unconcious and confronting the final boss but it becomes subverted when they catch up with him and tell him off for running off on his own just before the fight starts.
  • Mother 3 handles this is a different way for the end Duel Boss battle, in that the Masked Man uses a lightning attack that will always knock out anyone on your team still standing besides Lucas, who's carrying a Deflector Shield.
  • So long as you are nice to your companions in Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer, they stick with you until the bitter end. Except that during the final Battle in the Center of the Mind you are forced to face the Betrayer alone, or with your Love Interest if you have one on your team.
  • Jade Empire lets you have a teammate with you during most of the game, but forces you to take on Sun Hai and Sun Li on your own.
  • Age of Pirates 2: The City of Abandoned Ships plays this one extremely jarringly. The game allows the player to have up to three hired blades follow them around, but in scripted quest-related fights they are often inexplicably absent, leaving the player to face often overwhelming odds on their own, even though that's precisely why he or she hired the thugs in the first place.
  • In the end of Breath of Fire IV when you get to the Emperor's Fou-Lu Throne room he simply knock off every party member leaving only Ruy to face him in a Duel Boss. They ultimately recover, eventually, for the real Final Boss, the literal dragon Tyrant and, obviously, Fou-Lu himself as Astral.
    • Subverted in Breath of Fire II for the final boss. You show up, he kills your entire team while giving them a short epitaph, and then fight him solo until you use the Power of Friendship to return your friends to you.
  • In Star Fox, Fox has to fight Andross alone during the final battle. In the secret Out of This Dimension path, Fox pretty much shoots down paper aiplanes, destroys a Slot Machine, and corrects THE END for all eternity alone, then do it over again.
    • However, in Star Fox 64 Fox chooses to fight Andross alone, there was no real need for him to do so.
  • The final battle of Persona 3 is the main character against Nyx. Nobody can come with him. In a moderate subversion, however, his weapon against the final opponent is the hopes of everyone he met on the way to the confrontation.
  • In the Turai Ossa mission of the Guild Wars Bonus Mission Pack, you leave your followers to fight Palawa Joko one-on-one.
  • Averted big time in Baldur's Gate 2 where The Hero gives each party member a chance to leave the party while they can before the "final" confrontation with the Big Bad. Not even the biggest bastard from hell leaves his (or her) side.
  • Invoked in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Ezio decides to go after Cesare alone, saying that he built the Brotherhood to last without him. Accordingly, you cannot call on the Recruits' assistance in Sequence Nine.
  • The Final Battle of Ace Combat Zero is fought without a wingman or any allied aircraft support (except AWACS) at all, because your wingman dies Taking the Bullet for you, while other allied planes simply cannot make it to the battle airspace. Ditto the fight against the True Final Boss in the Bonus Level.
  • Mass Effect 2 kinda has this with the Arrival, its final DLC mission, which has to be completed by Shepard alone (except a few Escort Mission-esque levels with a Guest Star Party Member). Though, of course, true to its Wide Open Sand Box gameplay, you can complete the assignment at any time, even before the Suicide Mission (which kinda misses its entire point).
    • The Overlord DLC plays this perfectly straight by unexpectedly trapping both your squadmates just before the Final Boss, so Shepard has to take on him/it alone.
    • Likewise, Mass Effect 3 plays this perfectly straight for the first time in the series proper.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, Sora is eventually separated from his party members Donald and Goofy during the confrontation with the Big Bad, Ansem. However, this is a series emphasizing The Power of Friendship, so Sora eventually recovers his friends before taking down Ansem's One-Winged Angel form.
  • Very much averted in Overlord. When the Big Bad emerges and you lose control of your Minions, it's only moments before you start regaining them and lead your horde to victory.
  • At the end of Diablo III, you have to face Diablo on your own because the angels have been depowered and are unable to fight, and your companion gets trapped in a bone cage on your way to Diablo.
  • After fighting the final boss in Final Fantasy VII for several stages, Cloud engages in a final one-on-one clash of wills with Sephiroth. He destroys him with a single strike.
  • Planescape: Torment zigzags this trope. The final dungeon splits up the party, forcing The Nameless One to go through it alone. Throughout the dungeon, each party member is seen being killed off (except Ignus or Vhailor, who the hero kills himself, and Morte, who plays dead when he realizes that he has no chance of even inconveniencing the Big Bad on his own). At the end, if you wish to fight the Final Boss, you have the option to revive the party members to fight by your side.
  • Wild ARMs 3 has the demon Siegfried removing all of Maya Schrodinger's magic powered personas (that she gains by reading books) by forcing her to read a book called "The True Self". Her "true self" is a nerd girl happens to know how his technology works and shuts it down.
  • The Super Nintendo game Arcana has this Zig-zagged. IN the end, Rooks is all on his own against the final boss. Zig-zagged in that he always has a spirit with him.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity follows this, with not even the hero's partner (Who's been with them for almost the entire game) able to help. Because the Big Bad is an Eldritch Abomination born from the negative emotions of Pokemonkind, no Pokemon can come close to it without suffocating. Being a human in Pokemon form, the hero is a loophole.
  • It is zig-zagged in The Night Of The Rabbit. The hero Jerry Hazelnut states this trope verbatim right before entering the portal to Big Bad's place, but some of his friends appears to lend him a hand. After entering the portal they disappear, but they are found some time later. Then they help the Jerry to rescue the people imprisoned by the Big Bad, however Jerry has to fight him alone.
  • Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals ends with Maxim on his own, though there's only a short sequence with no actual battles left. The remake averts this.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang must eventually face the Firelord alone, while the rest of the Gaang works on addressing the rest of the Fire Nation assault on the Earth Kingdom.
  • There were numerous moments in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic where Twilight had to save Equestria alone.
    • In Crystal Empire Part Two, Twilight had to recover the Crystal Heart alone to defeat King Sombra, even though Spike saved the day in her stead.
    • In Equestria Girls, Twilight could not bring her friends to the human world without disturbing its natural balance, even though she gains help from her friends' human counterparts.
    • In Twilight's Kingdom Part Two, she had to hide the other three princesses' alicorn magic from not only Tirek, but also her friends as well, right up until she solo'd the giant centaur to avenge the destruction of her library.
      • Granted, in the Season Four finale, she did trade her alicorn magic to save her friends, even Discord, and received her final key that allowed her and her friends to unlock the Rainbow Power. Then, they use the Rainbow Power to defeat Tirek, restore everypony's magic, and even build themselves a new castle to replace Twilight's library.