Save the Day, Turn Away
The Hero has defeated the villains who Cursed Him With Awesome — saved his loved ones in the process, turned some cynics into optimists, and used the only antidote for his mutation to selflessly cure the Littlest Cancer Patient. His love interest still wants to be with him, even with his transformation and new powers... but he don't exist any more. He's a freak. He tells her the man she loved is gone, he's something else now, and he leaves. She cries his name as he walk away into the night - to save the innocent and help the helpless. Type 1: The protagonist either is a newly-minted superhero or has transformed into a hideous yet benevolent creature. He must abandon his initial goals and romance to either walk the hero's path alone or find a means to counteract his current transformation (good luck with that). The hero must tell his love interest that the man she loved is gone; only the heroic persona or hideous yet benevolent creature remains. The hero must abandon his love interest because his very presence will deprive her of the normal life the love interest deserves. In the more optimistic and less creature-related examples, he must also leave because their love interest will never be safe from villains if he stays. Type 2: The hero purposefully denies or is denied acknowledgment of his actions for the greater good of society. Whatever type is invoked, it's helpful if it is followed by an emotionally resonant and important monologue. Compare But Now I Must Go (the hero is incapable of settling down and must move on to the next place he's needed) and No Place for Me There (the hero feels that his continued presence is undesirable or undeserved). It's sometimes coupled with That Man Is Dead.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- The OVA Guyver: Out of Control features Sho Fukamachbi playing a variant on type one. After rescuing his childhood friend Mizuki, he brings her to a small overlook where she awakens to see him, in Guyver form, and almost instantly manages to deduce who's behind that odd alien mask. (and bear in mind in Guyver form the guy is at least seven feet tall, not counting the horn on the head of the armor from all we can see) He stands up and looks into the sunset, then turns around, and walks off not saying a thing to her as she desperately screams/pleads for him to come back. The epilogue says Mizuki went back to school and was fine after that, but Sho himself is never seen again. Presumably he and Guyver III continue their war against Chronos in secret but nobody knows it.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, with Simon in type two. He's just leaving his more responsible friend in control of the government because he's a wandering hero type or he doesn't want to break his word not to use Spiral Energy and thus avoid accelerate the death of the universe.
- Aya in Weiß Kreuz walks away from his beloved little sister and the girl who has a crush on him at the finale of the first series, after saving both of them from the Ancient Conspiracy and their Psychos For Hire, because it's the only way he can protect them from the life he leads as an assassin.
- Inverted with Ben Grimm/The Thing of the Fantastic Four. He constantly deals with the fear, rejection and scorn of the world at large because of his rocky exterior, bur he found love after the transformation into the Thing with blind sculptress Alicia Masters. Though he is very protective of her, as a Super Villain's daughter her odds of an uneventful life are already low. Also, in at least a few stories, he's less likely to terrify passersby than he is to be mobbed by people wanting his autograph; being a member of one of Marvel's most prominent superhero teams for a couple decades does that to a person. Ben Grimm is often known as "The Idol of Millions", and is one of the most popular heroes in the Marvel Universe. His fear of rejection mostly stems from self-loathing due to his appearance, and early encounters before his fame took off.
- Batman: At the conclusion of Batman: Year One, Batman (who is unmasked) saves Jim Gordon's baby. Jim Gordon has suspected Bruce Wayne of being Batman throughout the whole arc. Gordon tells Batman that he's blind without his glasses, and that Batman should leave him before the police arrive. Batman leaves. Whether Gordon was lying is unknown, although other stories hint that he might know.
- The original eight-page Swamp Thing story features Alex Olsen, turned into a shambling plant monster by his traitorous lab partner. Alex kills his partner before he can murder Alex's beloved, but she's terrified of him and he can't speak to explain himself; he sadly turns away and returns to the swamp.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Swamp Thing: Dr. Holland saved Alice and Jude, even killed Dr. Anton Arcane, but due to his botanical transformation Dr. Holland can never continue his work or be with Alice.
- The Toxic Avenger subverts it optimistically, Melvin's transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength has improved his social life, his standing in the community, and is generally beloved and worshipped as the first superhero from New Jersey.
- RoboCop 2: The movie begins with OCP's legal team forcing Murphy to turn away from his wife and kid. Murphy doesn't want to give up on trying to connect with them, but his family are freaked out by his visits to their home — and are threatening to sue OCP — so Murphy lies to his wife and convinces them that he isn't really her husband reborn as a warrior of living steel, but a robot built in honor of Murphy's memory.
- In the original film, Darkman leaves Julie because he isn't Peyton anymore, he's Darkman now.
- Happens again at the end of Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, where Darkman leaves after helping a child in the hospital.
- Fluke: The hero having saved his child, he lets his ex-wife know that he was her husband. But he must leave his family because he is no longer Tom; he is a dog now.
- Blade: The Daywalker kills Deacon Frost and saves the girl. He refuses to take the serum to cure his special blend of vampirism because there are more vampires that need killing, and he's going to be the one to do it.
- Spider-Man: Peter kisses Mary Jane and leaves her because he is Spider-Man now. As the sequels demonstrate, she loves Spiderman too. The third film involves their marriage.
- The Dark Knight Saga:
- Batman Begins: Inverted. Rachel leaves instead, because she realized that Bruce Wayne never came back to Gotham, only Batman.
- The Dark Knight: Batman saves Gordon's family from Two-Face in a massive homage to Batman: Year One . Batman decides to take the blame for Two-Face's crimes as a means to maintain Dent's legacy. Gordon and his son plea with Batman not to take the blame but Batman flees into the night while Gordon's son calls Batman's name. Gordon helps cement the trope by delivering a heroic monologue on behalf of Batman.
- The Dark Knight Rises: Batman/Bruce Wayne fakes his death in a spectacular fashion, because in order for Bruce Wayne to start a new life Batman would have to die a hero.
- Speed Racer: To assume the Racer X identity, Rex Racer faked his death and underwent plastic surgery. Now, to keep his family safe, he decides not to reveal his identity.
- Superman Returns: The Man of Steel realizes that his continued presence in Lois Lane's life would be problematic and confusing to their son.
- Ghost Rider: Johnny defeated Blackheart, but realizes that he can never have a normal life with the woman he loves. He use the spirit of vengeance to fight evil and walk the hero's path.
- Watchmen: If there is to be peace, Dr. Manhattan must let the world think he is their enemy.
- The Searchers: A more subtle example, but after spending years searching for his niece and saving her from the Indian tribe that kidnapped her, protagonist Ethan Edwards lingers in the doorway of his family's house and then leaves, rather than join his family in the house to celebrate the girl's return. Even the shot composition illustrates that Ethan's dark Anti-Hero tendencies (not to mention the undercurrent of racism that drove his quest) won't allow him to live a normal, happy life.
- Hancock: The entire movie is based on this trope. He had to do it prior to the movie, and has to do it again at the end.
- In The Dresden Files, Harry's girlfriend Susan decides to leave after becoming a vampire, joining a band of other Friendly Neighborhood Vampires who are fighting their hunger as well as evil vampires. (Since Our Vampires Are Different, a person who has been turned doesn't become a full vampire until they feed for the first time. Until then, they're still themselves, and though the hunger is felt, they don't have to feed to survive.)
- Harry Potter himself attempts this with Ginny Weasley when he chooses to leave her to finish the job of destroying Voldemort, even doing the walk-away. However, Ginny is Genre Savvy enough to know what he's doing and why, and more or less pledges to wait until he's finished with what he needs to do.
- The end of Wind And Sparks by Alexey Pehov. The surviving heroes know too much of the secrets that were buried for centuries and can use Dark powers banned in their homeland.note They decide not to take any credit for their actions, pretend they were killed in the war and emigrate. At least the Gray magicians live so long, they can wait until current leaders of Light die and hope the next ones would be more reasonable.
- 24: It could be argued that the entire series has a form of this. In the first season, not long after he's gotten back together with his wife, Teri Bauer, she is kidnapped and almost murdered several times before Nina Myers coldly shoots her in the stomach in the first-season finale. From that point on, Jack deliberately pushes his romantic interests away to save them from his enemies, including Kate Warner (between seasons 2 and 3), Dianne Huxley (after hints of attraction between her and Jack) and Audrey Raines (who he realizes has been severely hurt by his actions over the last season, even though he saved her again). The series ends with Jack Bauer having to leave the woman he loves after he saves her, because she will always be in danger if he stays... That woman is America.
- Robocop The Series: At the end of the pilot episode, Murphy saves the city and comes to the conclusion that his wife and son must never know that he is Robocop. He knows that he can never act as a husband and a father to them, but he can be their savior.
- In Exalted, this is often the story for newly-exalted solars that lived in a culture steeped in the Immaculate doctrine.
- In Splinter Cell: Conviction, Sam pulls one on Anna after saving the president, though only if he refuses to kill the Big Bad. If he follows through, the scene immediately ends.
- Ryu does this at the end of Street Fighter II.
- An interesting example, in that it's not for the greater good or anything...he's just anxious to get to the next fight. He's ALMOST True Neutral, if he didn't stick to fighting bad guys.
- The ending of Fallout 1. The journeys changed Vault Dweller so much, he is no longer accepted in his home vault, even if he looks the same on the surface.
- Fallout 3 also had this when the player returns to Vault 101, which is basically in a state of civil war. Whether you kill the new dictatorial overseer or resolve the situation peacefully, you still have to leave.
- Spawn: Spawn saved his widow Wanda's daughter Cyan from the clutches of pedophillic serial killer Billy Kincade, and defeated him without killing him. Spawn realizes Wanda is happy with her new husband and their daughter and that his dream of being present in Wanda's life would largely be a downer. So he lets go, but not before he hands Cyan his wedding ring, and tells her she should go to her mother. Wanda is reunited with Cyan who simply tells her that she was saved by "the sad man". Wanda finds that Cyan is holding onto the wedding ring, she realizes that somehow the "sad man" is her dead husband. Spawn watches Wanda's reaction from afar, and then executes a textbook example of turning away.
- Parodied in American Dad!, when Steve takes up a secret identity in order to impress his dad by doing something heroic. After saving a mother's baby, puppy and bird in a car from colliding with a tanker, Steve walks off pleased knowing he was brave, even as the scene behind him explodes due to the mother tossing a cigarette to the ground.