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- Most versions of A Certain Magical Index start with Touma attempting to rescue Mikoto from a group of thugs. Mikoto is probably capable of soloing small armies. The anime version subverted this, having Touma try to rescue the thugs from Mikoto. Aureolus Izzard devoted three years of his life to try to find a way to save Index's life. Then he finally comes out of his seclusion and tries to implement his plan only to find that Touma had already saved her. He got really upset and tried to kill Touma.
- How Kazuki was pulled into the story at the beginning of Busou Renkin. One night while at an abandoned factory, he spots a girl being followed by a monster, so he rushes in to try and save her... only to end up DEAD. Luckily, Tokiko, the girl in question, is able to revive Kazuki and tries to pass the event off has a nightmare in order to give him a chance at a normal life (which, of course, does not happen). A little later into the story, when the two become comrades, Tokiko reveals to Kazuki that she was actually luring the monster out of hiding so she could kill it - meaning that Kazuki died for nothing.
- In Slayers, Gourry first meets Lina by leaping in to save her from a gang of bandits. Said bandits were seeking revenge on Lina for burning their camp to ash for the loot inside, and they would have been toast in a few seconds, but she's happy to play damsel in the interest of meeting a handsome knight.
- The second season of the Magic Knight Rayearth anime has Ferio break into Fahren's ship to rescue Fuu, who has just defeated Aska's archery skills and an army of ninja with little effort. Ferio insists on giving her a Bridal Carry out of the place anyhow, since that's what he showed up to do.
- In Captain America vol. 6, issue one, "American Dreamers, part one", Cap uses his mighty shield to knock out a Hydra Mook that Sharon Carter, badass Action Girl, was fighting. Her response is a slightly annoyed "No fair, I had this one..."
- A rare villain example is purposefully invoked in a Spider-Man story from the eighties. Spidey was confronted by the villain-couple: Absorbing Man and Titania. Titania had previously been defeated by Spider-Man during the Secret Wars, which left her with a crippling fear of Spider-Man. In order to help her get over her fears, the Absorbing Man fought Spider-Man and took a fall, making it seem as though the hero were moments from killing him. Titania quickly got over her fear and rescued her lover. Keep in mind that the Absorbing Man is normally a Thor villain (and occasionally a Hulk villain) and thus, far more powerful than both Titania and Spider-Man.
- In Carl Barks' final story Horsing Around With History, Scrooge confidently brings the Trojan Horse into his money bin right before Donald and the boys, back outside, realize the Beagle Boys have been spying on them and must have been hiding inside the Horse. They hurry to warn Uncle Scrooge...only to find him holding the Beagle Boys at cannon-point, having realized something was up because finding the Horse was too easy.
- In Watchmen, Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II arrive to break Rorschach out of prison just as he breaks himself out, more violently. Silk Spectre complains that he doesn't even seem to appreciate their effort.
- In The Legend of Spyro: A New Dawn, Ember gets captured by the Gargoyles and taken to their slave mines. Spyro and Cynder mount a rescue, sending Sparx ahead to warn her. When they arrive, they're greeted to the Warden being blasted through a wall. Turns out Ember Took a Level in Badass (getting upgraded from Badass Normal to Empowered Badass Normal) and had been waiting to get word they were coming and escaped, took on the Warden herself, freed the slaves with Sparx's help, and was just wrapping up her boss fight.
- In Tiberium Wars, the GDI forces sent to liberate the White House find themselves a bit late to the party, as the Nod troops around the White House were already cleared out by the (retired) Colonel Nick "Havoc" Parker and his ragtag resistance force.
- With Strings Attached has a moment near the climax where the other three are steathily coming to rescue the mind-controlled Paul, only to find him free and happy, having wrapped his captor up in her own robes. Turns out that Paul had shaken off the mind control almost immediately and had spent the last day and a half only pretending to be her slave so he could bugger up the baddies' plans.
- In Make a Wish a mad scientist friend of Harry's was kidnapped by Egyptian bandits. Harry and the rest of his friends arrived only to discover that the kidnapee had built and used a simple device to release himself and the other prisoners from the bandits' cage.
Film - Animated
Film - Live-Action
- In Watchmen, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre go to free Rorschach from prison, who ends up breaking out of his cell just fine before they get there, taking out at least a few people along the way. That said, they actually knew all along he would get out, and just wanted to keep him from killing everyone.
- In Hudson Hawk, Eddie and Tommy go to a castle to rescue Anna Baragli, but by the time they find her, she has already escaped the villains' custody and was on her way out of the castle.
Eddie: Anna! We're supposed to be saving you!Anna: I'm sorry. I got bored, so I saved myself.
- This trope was Rigg's final test in Saw IV . He failed.
- Small Soldiers has a type A being played for comedic effect (it's a type A internally, but clearly a type B to the audience). The main character tries to free the Love Interest, however she's already got herself free and they're both attacked by the "Zomb-Gwendies" guarding her.
Love Interest: I HATE THESE THINGS! *smashes several foes with a golf club before speaking to Alan* You rescued me!Alan: ...yeah I guess I did...
- In Mongol, Temujin rescues his wife from the Merkits, one of whom had taken her as a wife. When he finds her, she's already murdered her new husband and is ready to go.
- Happens in Police Academy 5...sort of. It turns out that the kidnapped policeman thought it was an exercise, so he played along. The moment the would be Big Damn Heroes explained that it wasn't, he immediately KO'ed all his captors.
- At the end of Ever After, Prince Henry shows up to save Danielle, but she's already freed herself.
- Used in Space Mutiny, and probably the only genuinely amusing part of the original film.
- In Tais Toi!, smart criminal Ruby plots an elaborate escape from a mental institution, only to be sprung involuntarily by Quentin, an incredibly dumb bank robber.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy, after Quill and Gamora are captured by Yondu, Quill manages to talk them out of executing them. Cue Rocket, Drax and Groot attacking the ship to rescue the two.
- In Terminator Genisys, Kyle Reese travels back in time to save Sarah Connor from the Terminator sent to kill her as per the first film. He gets very shocked when he arrives and finds that due to changes in the timeline, she's become an Action Girl who's been dealing with Terminators her whole life.
- Played with in A Brother's Price: Jerin has already rescued himself, and tells his would-be rescuer so, but she offers to help him anyway. It's not entirely clear whether Jerin would have been worse off without her, as the kidnappers catch up with them, and one person might be easier to hide than two. On the other hand, he was an unchaperoned young man, and could have gotten in trouble even without kidnappers following him. As she was there while he saved himself, she could have had some part in distracting the kidnappers, but you never know how things could have been.
- Mack Bolan charges into a house full of terrorists, only to find his girlfriend April Rose is holding them all at gunpoint. She quips that it's just like a man to leave the cleaning up to a woman.
- Played straight in The Otherworld novel Stolen, but from the captive's point of view. Elena escapes from the compound where she's been held prisoner and stumbles across her lover Clay just outside. Clay had shaken off the drugs, slipped his babysitter, located the compound, and was trying to figure out a way inside when she came out. He is allowed to provide the getaway car, at least.
- Used dramatically/tragically in The Wheel of Time. Faile is captured, leading to Perrin going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to bring her back. Her own escape attempts do not go well, but some of the people that took her believe her treatment, and the direction the clan takes, is dishonorable, so they come to set her free. Just then Perrin comes along, and fights Faile's real rescuers, forcing Faile to Back Stab the man who just saved her life. Faile doesn't let Perrin know, but holds a service with the other captive woman to honor their memory.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Sam Vimes takes some of his most badass buddies to rescue his wife Sybil from captivity at the hands/paws of a werewolf clan - only to find when he gets there that Sybil has effected her own escape and incapacitated a werewolf or two in the process…
- In other novels, such as Feet of Clay, attempts to rescue Angua, the Watch's werewolf, are nearly always taken as redundant, with Vimes even thinking that you might end up needing to rescue the kidnapper from Angua.
- In the Seventh Tower novel The Violet Keystone, Crow is sent to rescue Tal from the nighmare chamber, the inworld version of an interrogation room in which the interrogator Fashneck (Who is a deformed, sadistic bastard) mind rapes his victims to obtain whathever information he desires with the use of a prision-like device that keeps the prisioner within an spherical prison. By the time Crow reaches the chamber, he finds Fashneck dead, the sphere-prison cell wide open, and bits and pieces of the shadowlike creatures that once served as prison guards. He even mentions to Tal then that he "rescued himself"
- In the Sci-Fi Flash Gordon, Flash insists on finding and rescuing Dale from becoming Ming's latest courtesan as soon as he is sprung from jail. He is met, halfway there, by Dale who had escaped to rescue him.
- The main character of Chuck kicks down a hotel door in in order to help Sarah in a fight with another agent, only to find that she's already got her opponent at gunpoint and literally under her (spike) heel. Morgan does a Type B in one episode when he carries Anna out of the Buy More during an evacuation. The entire time he's carrying her, Anna keeps telling him to put her down, and when he gets outside, all the other employees point out that there's no reason she couldn't have just walked out of the store.
- Abby of NCIS manages to do this twice.
Abby: I'll be with you in a minute Gibbs!*she repeatedly tases the hitman while brandishing brass knuckles*Abby: And don't look up my skirt!
- At one point, her new assistant turned out to be the murderer in one case. When he finally reveals himself to Abby, he's alone with her, he has a knife, and Abby is unarmed. Gibbs and the others figure it out about thirty seconds later, and rush to Abby's lab. The guy is bound and gagged on the floor, and Abby is REALLY peeved. She simply walks up to Gibbs, and says "NOW can I work alone?"
- The latter time, her driver to the courtroom turns out to be a hired goon who wants her not to get there. By the time Gibbs and co. get there to rescue her, the van's pulled over, and when they open the door the goon falls out, with Abby tasering him multiple times.
- In one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the one with where the whole town turns into Moral Guardians), the episode ends with Oz and Xander crashing through the ceiling after Buffy has dealt with the Monster of the Week.
Xander: We're...uh...here to rescue you.
- Angel. Team Angel discover that Cordelia's old school friend Harmony is a vampire. They charge over to her apartment and kick down the door, only to find Harmony painting Cordy's toenails.
Wesley: Get away from her...foot!
- In the Smallville episode "Exposed", Lois is knocked unconscious and kidnapped by the bad guys (as she is prone to be) who attempt to escape by helicopter. Clark pulls the helicopter out of the sky and rips open the door only to discover that Lois has come to and is the process of beating the snot out of the bad guys. To add insult, she didn't even notice the helicopter being pulled out of the sky.
Lois: "Hey, 007. Nice of you to show up."Clark: "I'll start assuming that means 'thank you'."
- The Robin Hood episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation featured just such a subversion. Given the character stuck in the Maid Marian role, Picard really should have seen it coming.
Spock: I presumed you needed help. I can see that I am in error.
- Happened in the Original Series, too. Kirk is being held in the council room of a hostile race, and Spock hurries to the rescue with backup. When he gets there he finds Kirk holding the entire council and all the guards at gunpoint.
- In the Haven episode "Roots", Nathan shows up at the end, heroically burning through the animated tree roots, only to find that the others were already in the process of neutralizing them.
- Supergirl (2015): In "World's Finest", Barry Allen from The Flash (2014) arrives from a portal to Supergirl's universe. Right as he does this, Kara Danvers gets knocked out a window by Siobhan Smythe/Silver Banshee. Thinking she's an ordinary citizen in danger, Barry catches her. Kara tells him she is invulnerable and was in no danger. It did benefit her that it allowed her to be saved without revealing her secret identity.
- Traveller Classic Book 0 has a brief description of a standard RPG adventure. Two PCs enter a castle to rescue a princess, but the princess (another PC) pretends she's sick, lures the guard into her cell and knocks him out. She runs out of the cell and meets the other PCs, and they fight their way out together.
- In the last act of Matthew Lewis' classic Gothic play The Castle Spectre, the heroine Angela's boyfriend and his troops storm the castle to rescue her... and show up after she's stabbed the villain Osmond, saving herself and her father. Granted, Percy did stop Osmond from raping her in Act I, but she took a level in badass between then and now, turning from a traditional Gothic Damsel in Distress into an Action Girl. Here's to Lewis, Hidden Depths, and defiance of then-standard gender roles!
- In Battlefield: Bad Company, player character Preston Marlow goes through great lengths to find and rescue his squad after a helicopter crash. However, when he finds them, they are nonchalantly killing the enemy and react to Preston's arrival with equal indifference.
- In The Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush goes to great lengths to rescue Governor Marley, only for it to be revealed that she'd escaped just fine without him, and his involvement ended up screwing her plan.
- In Suikoden II, the Hero goes to rescue his sister-figure Nanami from captivity, and gets there in time to see her dashing through the complex and tossing soldiers aside left and right (and if you've recruited him, she's got a flying squirrel Cute Animal Mascot with her, for added ass-kicking adorability.)
- Depending on how you play it, Chrono Trigger can feature either Lucca rescuing Crono from prison or meeting up with Crono after he's pretty much rescued himself. Helps that the prison guards were so incompetent that they didn't even confiscate Crono's sword.
- Your first real objective in Knights of the Old Republic is to rescue Bastila, but when you finally find her she escapes her cage without your help.
- Final Fantasy
- In Final Fantasy X, when Tidus, Lulu and Kimahri go to rescue Yuna from the Al-Bhed Psyches, after beating the machina boss Oblitzerator, the hatch on the ship opens... and out walks Yuna, completely unharmed, while a would-be captor slides to the ground. The only comments? Lulu: "I hope you hurt them." Yuna: "A little."
- In Final Fantasy XIII, Sazh and Vanille are captured and awaiting public execution aboard a flying battlecruiser. Naturally, the remainder of the party decides to storm it and rescue them. The two prisoners make use of the distraction provided by their allies to escape and meet up with the party roughly halfway.
- At one point in Dragon Age: Origins, your character is thrown into a prison, and if you choose to escape, you arrive at the prison's exit right at the same time as your companions come busting through to rescue you.
- In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, at the end of Sequence 5, Ezio returns to the Rosa In Fiore to find that the Templar guards followed the courtesans back after the assassination. He rushes inside, prepared to fight them off and save the day... only to find his sister Claudia standing over the dead Templars, a knife in hand. At Ezio's surprised expression, she shrugs and says "What?" Ezio quite proudly remarks afterward that "My sister knows how to wield a knife."
- The first mission in Deus Ex is to go to Liberty Island and rescue Gunther from terrorists. Gunther is much more powerful than the player character JC Denton at this point and can make his own way out if the player gives him any weapon, even a knife, and the only reason he was captured is because he was ordered to suspend an assault at the last minute. If the player refuses to give him a weapon (or doesn't have one, which Gunther won't believe), Gunther will tell him that he realises he was ordered to hold back so that Unatco could show off its new "toy", Denton, and will dislike Denton from that point on.
- In one part of Pool of Radiance, you come across a runaway barbarian princess NPC as she's strangling a kobold. Close behind her are a cell with six more dead kobolds and the remains of her bindings. She offers to join your party, presumably for protection. (Yours, as it turns out.)
- Fire Emblem Awakening:
- One chapter has an unarmed Chrom getting ambushed by a risen, but Lucina sweeps in at the last moment and blocks it. It's pretty dramatic unless Chrom's level is high enough, in which case the Risen might not have been able to deal any damage at all (you can see how much damage the attack would deal on the lower screen, a form of Gameplay and Story Segregation.
- The Double Guard mechanic, where one unit will jump in to block an attack on an adjacent ally, occasionally results in this when the unit being protected has sufficiently high stats that the attack wouldn't have done any damage anyway.
- In Darken, Casper and his partner, Jade, are caught during a break-in in the laboratory of an Evil Overlord wannabe. After breaking out of a truly classic Death Trap, Casper rushes to save Jade...and finds her choking the life out of her guard with her chains. Of course, that's not how he tells the story, but that's another trope.
- How I Killed Your Master: Liu Wong previously escaped from another fight with the help of Action Girl Fang Lin; she stayed behind to hold them off. Later, having bumped into one of the friendlier factions in the city and gotten their help, they and Wong are about to rescue her when someone gets punched through the brick wall in front of them. Three guesses who was on the other side.
- Taken to an absolute extreme in Adventurers! with Karashi. She is kidnapped twice, and both times manages to free herself. One time she does it so quickly that she makes it back to the party's campsite before they even notice she was gone.
- In Freefall, Sam is captured by police and Florence by the mayor. They escape and set out to free each other, meeting on the sidewalk. Sam proposes they go get captured again, so that the rescue plans don't go to waste. Florence overrules him — they are on a deadline after all.
- The Type B version takes place in Bob and George. At one point, the eponymous George is captured, and is imprisoned for six months. When his brother (the equally eponymous Bob) rescues him, he points out that George could've used his powers to break out himself. George, not having realized this, promptly has a Freak Out and blows up the fortress.
- In Cucumber Quest, Almond swoops in with her Evil-Vanquishing Almond Slicer! to get the Roselings that have wrapped up her formerly wimpy brother Cucumber... only to see that he's freed himself with his own magic.
- In a Danny Phantom episode, Perky Goth Sam Manson gets kidnapped by a ghost who is King of a Medi-evil realm to become his bride. Danny and Tucker rush off to save her...but intervene when she was about 20 seconds from making her escape, and pretty much ruin her plan.
- In a DuckTales dream sequence, Goldie is kidnapped by the Beagle Boys, and manages to beat most of them and rescue herself. However, when she realizes Scrooge is coming to save her, she ups and pretends to still be in danger just for a Rescue Romance. Well...this is Scrooge's fantasy...
- In the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode "Glamor Girls", several women, mostly models but including Cover Girl, Lady Jaye, Zarana, and Low Light's sister get kidnapped by a vain old woman who wanted to drain their youth to restore her own. The Joes storm the base but find that the girls have already beaten up the mooks and just need a ride home. Duke awkwardly says, "I'm glad you're on our side." The Joes still needed to save Low Light's sister, who was strapped to a chair and directly in the villain's clutches.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "A Dog And Pony Show", the group comes to rescue Rarity from the Diamond Dogs that kidnapped her. By the time they make it to her, she's already subdued the Diamond Dogs by purposefully being as whiny as possible and was just leaving when they arrive.
- An episode of The Venture Bros. features Brock, Orpheus and The Alchemist racing to stop Venture from selling his soul to Henry Killinger; when they bust in, they discover Venture has fired Killinger, and he and his henchmen leave peacefully. It's not only this but also a case of Venture stabbing the scorpion; we see Venture signing what we believe to be his contract essentially become a supervillain while Brock and company run through the building. They get there moments too late...only for us to then find out it was Killinger's severance pay for his services.
- In episode 4 of The Legend of Prince Valiant, Rowanne gets kidnapped. The episode alternates between Rowanne fighting off her captor and Valiant and Arn trying to find and rescue her. By the time the boys arrive, Rowanne has defeated her captor and a guy who wanted to murder them. She does ask the boys to help her out of a hole she had gotten stuck in.
- Lampooned six ways from Sunday in The Dover Boys - Dan Backslide is getting the everloving tar kicked out of him by Dora even while she screams for help from Tom, Dick, and Larry, eventually yelling for them himself.