This is when characters are accompanied by some allies, but the plot requires that they are somehow forced to fight without those allies. This is typically done by somehow physically preventing the allies from doing anything.
There are lots of methods for achieving this. A door which the hero walks through could suddenly slam shut and lock itself
before the allies can follow, leaving the hero alone. The roof can collapse, with the hero being the only one who ends up on the dangerous side of the rubble. The hero can nobly tell the allies to swing across a deep ravine first, only to have the rope break before the hero gets a turn, just as the pursuing villain shows up. Everybody could be caught in an explosion, with only the hero and the villain remaining conscious. It's frequently some sort of Plot-Driven Breakdown
. Or whatever - the point is that although the hero brought help, a Contrived Coincidence
has removed that help from the fight. The allies may be able to see the fight, and may be able to shout encouragement, and may even be able to do small things that assist the protagonist, but they're unable to actually take part directly.
This is done when writers want their main character to be accompanied through the plot by some friends and allies, but also want their main character to fight a bad guy one-on-one, without being helped. For one thing, it increases the sense of danger, especially if the method of incapacitating the allies leaves them in trouble if the protagonist loses. It also allows a protagonist to demonstrate toughness and skill more effectively than if it's a team effort - defeating the villain can seem a bit less heroic if you gang up on him in a six-to-one fight. And sometimes, it's just thematically or narratively appropriate that the protagonist defeats the villain alone. Locking characters out of the fight an option which allows this.
There are several related tropes which can be used instead of this one. Instead of a using contrived coincidence, you can make it deliberate by saying that This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself
, having the villain order his mooks to Leave Him to Me
, or having everybody agree to Combat by Champion
. Or instead of locking the support staff out of the fight, make them just plain useless in it
or establish a a reason why the hero is the only one capable of victory
. And of course, if there's an extremely powerful supporting character who needs to be kept well away, you may be forced to kick them out of the story for a while
, which may or may not take the form of an extended invocation of this trope. You can also avoid the issue altogether by having the character deliberately not bring allies at all, because I Work Alone
In Video Games
, this may be combined with a Duel Boss
See also In the End, You Are on Your Own
, Deus Exit Machina
, and Rear Window Witness
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- During one battle of the Dark Tournament in YuYu Hakusho, some finagling by those in charge locked Hiei and Genkai out of one round, leaving Team Urameshi with three people (one critically wounded). They still won, in part due to Kuwabara earning a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- In Unlimited Blade Works, during the battle at Kotomine Church, Tohsaka Rin and Saber are kept from participating in the battle between Shirou and Archer due to Archer summoning oversized swords which prevent them from moving.
- In End of Evangelion, Asuka fights the Mass Production Evangelions alone, as Shinji is kept from participating as Unit 01 is covered in the cement-like substance bakelite. This does not end well for Asuka, and when Unit 01 finally goes into berserk mode, Shinji arrives just in time to see Asuka being eaten, causing him to snap and trigger The End of the World as We Know It. Of course Fan Dumb has Shinji just moping around during the battle.
- In the finale of the first Record of Lodoss War OVA, Parn's allies are forced to hold off monsters one by one, leaving him to fight the Big Bad one-on-one.
- In Digimon Adventure 02, the season one gang has been back in action for a while, but The Powers That Be wanted the new kids to fight their own battle in the Grand Finale. This is achieved by having the dimension gate everyone is charging to close after the season two kids are through but the season one kids aren't. The old guard must watch from the sidelines.
- Villainous example in Girls und Panzer: Miho's final plan negates Kuromorimine's numerical superiority by having a heavy tank block the entrance to a closed courtyard after she and Maho's flag-tank have entered (knocking out the opposing flag-tank is an Instant-Win Condition). It buys her enough time to decide the match one-on-one rather than being overwhelmed by multiple opponents and knocked out.
- At the climax of the Inferno storyline in X-Men, the mansion blows up, leaving only Longshot conscious to face Sinister and Polaris. A bit of an aversion though, as Longshot was not the main focus of the story arc; though it was a natural extension of his luck-based powers he would be standing after an explosion. The other X-Men wake up one by one during the battle and join in, leading to a This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself showdown between Cyclops and Sinister.
- This happens twice near the end of the Reign of the Supermen part of the Death And Return Of Superman storyline. The first instance traps Superman and Steel separated from the Matrix Supergirl and forced to face Mongul alone. The second, Superman purposely seals himself, Eradicator and the Cyborg Superman in the Engine Room of Engine City to protect Supergirl, Superboy, Steel and Hal Jordan from Kryptonite Poisoning.
- As the climactic battle of Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow approaches, several of Superman's fellow heroes arrive to help, but are kept away by a Force Field until it's all over.
- In the final fight of Star Wars: Episode I, Obi-Wan is cut off from the fight between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul by some ominously glowing force-fields, and as such, can't help.
- Obi-Wan gets locked out again in Episode III when Dooku knocks him out and crushes him under a platform.
- Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons movie, after Ridley and Snails enter the castle to fight Damodar, Marrina tries to enter but a force field stops her. Norda tells her "This task they must complete alone."
- In Conan the Destroyer, the heroes infiltrate an evil wizard's tower to steal a Plot Coupon. When Conan enters a room with full-length mirrors covering each segment of the wall, a pane of one-way glass slams down behind him (naturally, it appears identical to the other mirrors when viewed from inside the room), allowing the wizard to summon a monstrous brute which Conan must defeat alone (fortunately, Conan is able to figure out that the mirrors are the monster's Achilles' Heel).
- In The Karate Kid Part II, Daniel is trapped on a platform with the villain, separated from Mr. Miyagi and the rest of the village by a moat that's only a few feet deep (seriously). Because of this, he has to fight the enemy himself rather than letting Mr. Miyagi do it like he does in every other fight in the movie.
- One got the feeling, through Mr. Miyagi's actions during the fight, that he didn't step in because he felt Daniel could handle it, not that he was incapable of finding a way across the gap. The notable question about it is why nobody else in the area deigned to find a way to help Daniel, even to the point of throwing things at Chozen.
- In Labyrinth Sarah turns down help from her friends when she goes to face the Goblin King.
- In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the challenges require both Ron and Hermione to stay behind, leaving only Harry to actually reach the stone and fight for it.
- Similarly in Chamber of Secrets, Ron is left behind Harry when the cave they are in, which leads to the chamber, collapses and separates them.
- And in book 4, where Harry has to go it alone as the contestant in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
- Harry himself gets locked out near the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Dumbledore uses a silent spell to immobilize Harry while the face-off with the Death Eaters occurs. Harry realizes the Dumbledore really is dead when he finds he can move again, meaning that the person who cast the spell is dead.
- This is kind of what happened during the big battle in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is described from the perspective of Susan and Lucy who did not take part in it like their brothers did.
- For a stretch at the end of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novel Fool Moon.
- In Nick Kyme's Warhammer 40,000 novel Salamander, at the climax, Dak'ir fights Ghor'gan alone, his comrades having been cut off. When Pyriel could come to his aid, he sends him after Nihilan, and thus they, also, are trapped alone in their fight.
Live Action TV
- Self-Imposed and then averted on Firefly. Wash (yes, Wash!) is about to shoot the guy who's beating Mal to a pulp, when Zoe stops him with, "This is something he needs to do for himself." Mal objects: "No it isn't!" "Oh." They shoot the bad guy.
- Star Trek (TOS) episode "Arena".
- In "The Prodigal" episode of Angel (series 1, ep 15) the titular character arrives to warn a friend's father that the people in his apartment are vampires. He begs the father to let him in, but he refuses. The vampires attack the man, leaving Angel vainly banging against the force-field which prevents vampires from entering a private residence uninvited. He watches as the man is murdered, only gaining entry upon his death.
- In Origins Cyvus Vail erects a magical barrier to keep Angel from intervening while Connor fights Sahjhan.
- Cage and Hell In A Cell matches, although sometimes people still manage to find ways to interfere in those.
- In Kingdom Hearts 1: When Sora is rushing up the stairs to fight Riku/Ansem in Hollow Bastion, he passes the top of the stairs safely but Goofy (and shortly afterwards, Donald) are blocked out from the arena by an invisible wall. The same thing happens when he fights some of the end-game bosses. What the hell, this trope is used every time Sora fights alone in the series
- Also in KH2 in the cutscene against Roxas, the card fight against Luxord, the one-on-one match with Xehanort's Nobody, etc., etc.
- The final boss battle in Xenosaga 2
- Betrayal at Krondor: Despite having a mixed team of at least one spellcaster and warrior as your protagonists almost without exception during the rest of the game, in the final battle you face the end boss - a powerful magician - with just two magicians, Owyn and Pug. Gorath is left behind because he'd be less helpful and more of a burden in a straight-up magician-vs-magician fight if it comes to that, and hurt their chances of reasoning with him if it doesn't.
- Baldur's Gate does this a couple of times, too. Although most of the time you can circumvent the rule somewhat by buffing the protagonist up before the encounter in question begins.
- An interesting variant is exemplified by the quicksand scene in Time Crisis 4, where the players are sucked into the pit and have to fight terror bites while NPC Captain Rush is bothered by more traditional foes at the top.
- Used in Sa Ga Frontier when you fight Rouge as Blue: It's supposed to be a 1 on 1 magician battle.
- Repeatedly abused in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Not only with doors and things, but even a special Cut Scene Power To The Max force power that some bosses use to literally paralyze everyone in the party other than you.
- Shadow Hearts does this during the Man Tower and He-Man Sushi sidequests in Covenant and From The New World, respectively. During the last segment, each member of the party holds off one of the challengers, leaving Joachim/Hilde (depending on the game) to go on ahead.
- The final battle in Planescape: Torment begins this way with the Nameless One being separated from his entire party upon entering the Fortress of Regrets and eventually arriving to find the Big Bad standing over the bodies of the party members that he had slain in the meantime. You can choose to face him alone or trick him into leaving for just long enough for you to resurrect the entire party!. Or just talk him down.
- In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, Agatio and Karst make use of one of Jupiter Lighthouse's traps to separate Mia (who they believed would be their most dangerous opponent, due to her healing magic and Mercury Psynergy) from the rest of the group. Garet ends up falling in as well, leaving Isaac and Ivan to fight Agatio and Karst two-on-two.
- They try to pull it again immediately after by having the group send Felix alone to the top of the tower to meet them and light the lighthouse. Piers decides to accompany Felix anyway, again leading to a two-on-two situation when Agatio and Karst predictably try to backstab Felix. Ends up getting subverted as the battle drags on, with additional party members joining in after every turn until all eight protagonists get to the roof and scare the duo away.
- A version of this happens in Dragon Age: Origins, twice! Once during the fight with the Werewolves, where the Elven elder paralyses all the powerful Werewolves and forces you to fight him with just your team, and again at the Anvil of the Void where only hostile golems can move. Subverted if you have Cleanse Area, which will free the paralyzed friendlies.
- And played straight during an optional encounter in the Wood Elf forest where you find a campsite which knocks out all but one of your characters who then has to fight the demon causing it by themselves. Easily subverted if you have an ability to freeze the opponent, or you're spirit healer who can revive the dead members.
- Also played straight during a sequence when you are attacked by a Sloth Demon and your party is locked in the Fade, usually in an And I Must Scream or Lotus-Eater Machine situation.
- In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, one of the last missions separates your party's leader and the enemy's party's leader from their armies via a magical barrier for a one on one duel. On the other side of the barrier, the rest of the characters still fight, but both sides are incapable of interfering with the duel.
- This is also done on Chapter 23 in Fire Emblem Awakening. Chrom and Robin fight Validar while the rest of the party is fighting a bunch of mooks, with a barrier in between them. For half the fight, anyway. After "defeating" Validar, the barrier goes away and anyone can fight him.
- This is stock fare in World of Warcraft, barriers generally go up once a raid boss is engaged, sealing players in so they can't run, and sealing people out if they weren't ready.
- In Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3 notably, Zero will arrive in the last level, declare he is 'Going ahead to destroy the core.' and will 'catch up to you later.' Also mentioned in the Mega Man X5 intro stage and after the final battle.
- Arguably, Mega Man Zero does this as well when the three Guardians only show up after Zero has beaten the three forms of Omega.
- In Cave Story, on two separate occasions, Curly Brace gets knocked out just before a boss fight. (On the second occasion, after a short while she does get up and help you.)
- StarCraft the Arbiter's Stasis ability (and the Mothership's Vortex in the sequel) will disable a group of enemies for a time, preventing them from attacking or being attacked. This lets you lock half the enemies out of the fight while you kill the other half.
- Shows up a few times in the Mass Effect games.
- The first time is in the Mass Effect 2 DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker, where the final confrontation starts with the titular character hurling a big chunk of furniture at the group. Shepard pushes Liara (who's a special party member for that DLC only) out of the way, but the other party member will be struck by it and is conveniently knocked unconscious for the duration of the fight. Justified if the third party member is one of the squishier characters like Tali, Mordin, or Jack, less justified when used against tougher party members like Jacob or Garrus, and flat out silly if the third party member is Grunt.
- It also shows up in Mass Effect 3 when fighting the Reaper on Rannoch, as Shepard is stuck on a ledge away from the other party members. Here it's much more justified and given that infantry weapons are completely useless against a Reaper to begin with (Shepard is using a targeting laser to call fire from orbiting ships), the other teammates wouldn't have been any help to begin with.
- Major game mechanics in a lot of multiplayer team-based titles revolve around invoking this.
- League of Legends has different types of crowd-control abilities, designed to disable certain members of the enemy team to stop them fighting back. Veigar has one move that drops a ring near him, stunning anyone who walks into the sides. This doesn't stop ranged attacks.
- Having your Spies disable enemy teleporters can invoke this in Team Fortress 2. The extra 20-30 seconds it takes to walk to the frontline rather than teleport there can guarantee the opposition control over a contested point.
- There's a bit in Dominic Deegan where the party is rushing toward the main villain of the arc, but various lesser villains pop out to stop them, with the effect of slowly reducing the party's members ("You guys keep going - I'll hold him off!") until only two people made it to the center ring.
- Done in several different ways in "Boston Brawl" in the Whateley Universe. Phase is the only one who ends up in the sewers (not by choice, either) and so has to face the zombie army by herself. At the same time, Bladedancer insists on facing Vamp alone, locking Carmilla out of the fight... but this get subverted when Bladedancer gets her ass kicked and Carmilla has to step in anyway.
- Inverted in Grandmaster of Theft. Cassidy Cain uses this as a strategy to isolate Narcissa Richmond away from her bodyguards.
- In the ReBoot episode, "Game Over", AndrAIa and Frisket trapped behind stained-glass while Enzo fights against the user in a Mortal Kombat parody.