Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea, comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.
A Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
is pulled together on emergency to accomplish some grand goal
. They succeed.
And then realize that they are not exactly held together by much anymore, and the team falls apart, with each member now free to pursue their personal endeavors.
If this happens during the Time Skip
between two installments of a series, it can become rather uncomfortable for the fans, who must suddenly start seeing The Protagonist
's former siblings-in-arms, to whom they've become attached, as semi-strangers again. In Real Life
, groups of people grow close to each other and part ways again all the time, but this is always a gradual, continuous process, while in fiction, it is often fast-forwarded to save narrative space, coming across as abrupt and forcing the fandom to adjust on the fly.
If the team falls apart because the single member who held them together is gone, it's We Were Your Team
instead. That said, to qualify for this trope, most of the team must survive the ending (see Everybody's Dead, Dave
for when most don't). If the sequel rolls along, this may be followed by Putting the Band Back Together
(to which this is a counter-trope of sorts). Compare Let's Split Up, Gang
and Breaking the Fellowship
, which are temporary split-ups, either on purpose or because of external circumstances.
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Anime & Manga
- Riot Force 6 in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, which unites pretty much every top combat mage in the TSAB, is disbanded after the JS Incident is taken care of and the rookies' training is complete. This is followed by Putting the Band Back Together under the name "Special Duty Section 6" in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force.
- While not really a specific team or organization, this is how the cast of Dragon Ball treat each other. In between story arcs, they don't visit each other at all. Even when several years pass, they don't even drop in to say "hi" until the next tournament starts or the next baddie shows up.
- Heck, they don't even seem to write or call, as no one knew Goku and ChiChi had a 4 year old son until the beginning of Dragon Ball Z's Saiyan Saga.
- Samurai Champloo ends with Fuu, Mugen, and Jin going their separate ways.
- The original crew of the White Base from Mobile Suit Gundam disbands after the war and moves on with their lives, with most of them never returning to active duty again.
- In the end of The Slayers Try Lina and Goury and the only ones who stay together.
- At the end of Rurouni Kenshin most of the characters leave Tokyo to go on with their lives. Misao and Aoshi return to Kyoto. Sanosuke is forced to flee from Japan and become The Drifter. Megumi leaves to search for her family and only characters remaining are Kenshin, Kaoru and Yahiko.
- A example that seems strange in its simplicity is Daitarn3: In the final chapter, After The Hero Banjō defeats the enemy on Mars, the next scene is at his Mansion: Action Girl Reika Sanjo and Tag Along Kid Toppo say goodbye to Battle Butler Garrison and Spoiled Sweet Beautiful "Beauty" Tachibana, who takes her limo to her parent’s mansion. Garrison closes the mansion and takes the bus to an unknown destiny. There is only a light in one solitary window at Banjo’s mansion. The End.
- An interesting case in Tenchi Universe. After Tenchi kills Kagato and rescues Ayeka, the gang goes their separate ways: Ayeka and Sasami go back to Jurai, Washu returns to being part of a high group of scientists (only to be kicked out soon after), Mihoshi and Kiyone return to the Galaxy Police and become detectives, Ryoko's missing in action and presumed dead and Tenchi, Noboyuki and Katsuhito return to Earth. However, when Ryoko returns, she tells Tenchi that the others are coming back. And sure enough, they do - Washu reconnects to the stairway closet, Mihoshi and Kiyone return to their apartment and Sasami discovers Ayeka's already left and she races after her, wanting to return there, too.
- The conclusion to each main saga in the Pokemon anime plays as this. Neither the fact that Brock got back on the team later the first time and stayed on the second time nor The instances when The Bus Came Back notwithstanding.
- In Fallen King, at the end of the story, Joey decides that he, Tristan, and Tea can't be friends and must stay away from each other to save the world.
- In The World's End, the five protagonist part ways after finishing school. They get together to repeat a failed pub crawl from their youth and go their separate ways again.
- The Trope Namer, of course, is Lord of the Rings. While physically separated for much of the actual story, the Fellowship breaks apart after the Ring is destroyed and the members go about the rest of their lives. Aragorn rules Gondor as King Elessar with Arwen as his wife, Faramir and Éowyn get hitched in Rohan, Legolas and Gimli go Walking the Earth, the four Hobbits return to and take back the Shire from Saruman and Gríma Wormtongue, and then Frodo and Bilbo leave with Gandalf, Gimli and the Elves for the Undying Lands.
- After the whole Queen-and-Buckingham incident in The Three Musketeers is resolved, the eponymous heroes and D'Artagnan each go their own way (but come back together in the sequels).
- In The Dark Tower series, after Eddie's death, the ka-tet, and the closeness inherent in it is broken. The remaining members of the group still pursue their quest, but it's not the same.
- Stephen King: after the seven children have successfully defeated It for the first time, they never meet again as a complete group of seven — not even when they relive history 28 years later.
- The end of The Belgariad is interesting, as the fellowship ends well before the climax. The main goal of the series is to reclaim the Orb of Aldur and return it; this done, the fellowship's purpose has ended, but the purpose of the Orb itself remains to be fulfilled: Garion has to take two of his companions to go meet and kill the Big Bad. Some of the original team get back together for the Malloreon, and break up again at the end of that series; however, because most of the party members are people of some political power, they have good reason to keep in contact and there's every indication that they still visit one another from time to time.
- The Animorphs provide a particular bittersweet example in the last book, considering that what's left of the team in question is only sixteen years old when they all end up drifting apart. K.A. Applegate stated she deliberately used this trope for two reasons. The first was to show that war can bring people together, then make them split afterward. The other was that to subvert the usual happy ending teenage heroes get where they suffer no consequences from their actions.
- Happens in the first Kiki Strike book. Ananka, Kiki, Luz, Betty and Oona solve a drug smuggling ring in the Shadow City under Manhattan's streets. After selling the patent to an invention they use to explore the city, they split the profits and (for the most part) go their separate ways. Later on Kiki Strike reunites them to stop the Evil Princess Sidonia.
- Band of Brothers ends with a narration of how the surviving soldiers went home and led separate lives. A few stayed in touch but most only met up again at reunions.
- Done visually in Spiritual Successor The Pacific, as Sledgehammer's friends all depart the train to Mobile at various stops along the way. Most heartbreaking is Snafu, when you later learn that he didn't speak to any of his war buddies for nearly forty years.
- The Freaks of Freaks and Geeks have all joined a new group by the end of the series. Lindsay and Kim are following the Grateful Dead, Daniel has joined the Geeks, and Nick has started dancing disco, leaving only Ken.
- With the exception of the very last episode (a Distant Finale), the last few episodes of Babylon 5 are all about the cast splitting up and going their separate ways.
- BIONICLE: after defeating the Bahrag and the Bohrok swarms, the Toa Nuva decide to split off and defend their own regions. Considering this is a franchise that promotes the power of teamwork, it doesn't last long.
- In the Dutch song "Fanfare van Honger en Dorst" (Orchestra of Hunger and Thirst) Jan De Wilde sings about 6 college friends and how they always got back together, but eventually they all went their own way - 'exchanging freedom for a job in the bank, a car, a kid'.
- This happened in Dino Attack RPG after the Final Battle, with the dissolving of Dino Attack Team. Most noticeable in Greybeard's goodbyes to Sam Race and Frozeen, and the goodbyes between Zachary, Minerva, Holly, and Zelda.
- In the Dragon Age series:
- In the end of Dragon Age: Origins, all surviving party members leave to pursue their own business, with the possible exception of the Warden's love interests and Morrigan, who leaves even before that. The most you get is making Alistair king and staying in Denerim, where Wynne remains as an advisor and Leliana has business with the Grand Cleric.
- Happens again after Dragon Age II. Varric tells Cassandra that Hawke's party drifted apart for various reasons, again with the exception of the love interest. It's vaguely implied that the fact this happened to both protagonists (neither of whom have been seen since) is not a coincidence.
- A staple in the Star Wars Old Republic series:
- Of the (surviving) party members from the first Knights of the Old Republic: T3-M4 stayed with the ship, HK-47 is found in pieces, Canderous fools absolutely no one who played the first game even though he's under a helmet and has taken the name/title of Mandalore, Carth is an Admiral patrolling the Telos sector if you say Revan was light-sided. Bastila is hiding with Carth if you say Revan was light-side male, has vanished into the unknown in search of Revan if you say Revan was dark-sided (either gender), or conspicuously absent. The fates of Mission, Zaalbar, Jolee, and Juhani is "unknown" mostly because a Dark-sided Revan would have to kill them.
- In the sequel, Kreia's final speech to the player character reveals that this will be the case of the Exile's crew. Provided you trained them in the ways of the Force, the Exile's companions become the Jedi masters that rebuild the order.
- Revan elaborates on this. Mission and Zaalbar run an import-export business (knowing Mission, it's probably a cover for smuggling). Canderous went back to his people and became Mandalore. Bastila was left knocked up when Revan skipped town, resulting in a line that results in Satele Shan (fandom's also laying odds on Kyle Katarn). Carth steps in to hide Bastila and help raise the kid. Juhani and Jolee went back to the Order (fates still unknown in the KOTOR 2 era). The Exile's crew go on to rebuild the Order. Meanwhile, Exile and Revan, T3-M4 and HK-47 try to take on the Emperor alone, ending up dead, worse than dead, vaporized, and reprogrammed - and the Sith come in and curb-stomp the Republic anyway.
- The end of Vandal Hearts combines this with a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. After you defeat the Big Bad, each character moves on to something new, whether it's more adventuring the land, rebuilding the nation or collecting stamps.
- Happens in several endings of Chrono Trigger. Since most of the characters come from different time periods, this is only natural.
- Seems to happen somewhere between Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
- Grandia II ends with a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue to drive the point home. Roan now rules Cyrum Kingdom and occasionally goes out to travel incognito. Tio works as a nurse, also in Cyrum. Millenia, now separate from Elena, is a grade school teacher in Lilique City (where Tongue of Valmar used to be) and faithfully waits for Ryudo's return. Skye lives with her. Mareg has been dead since the battle on Valmar's Moon; Roan places Tio's pendant upon the monument erected in his village. Elena joined a performer troupe and tours as a singer, likewise waiting for Ryudo, who is currently Walking the Earth, looking for a safe place to bury the Granasaber and finally end the Granas-Valmar war.
- Most Tales Series games end with the party members going their own way after finishing the journey, though most of the time they still keep in touch somehow.
- Tales of Innocence and Tales of Xillia are such example.
- At the end of Tales of Symphonia, all of the player characters separate in order to focus on rebuilding the new world in their own way.
- Similarly, midway through Tales of the Abyss, the world appears to be saved, so every party member parts ways. After it becomes apparent that their work was unfinished, so your party ends up rejoining.
- The epilogue of The Legend of Dragoon has this with only two of the final party members sticking together. Obviously justified in that most of them had non-quest-related business to get back to, including running two countries and rebuilding the Doomed Hometown.
- Happens at the end of every Fire Emblem game, usually shown in the form of a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, but the ones in the eight and ninth games stand out, as every character personally says what they intend to do now before venturing off.
- In the Mass Effect series:
- Happens in the beginning of Mass Effect 2, with an appropriate justification: The Normandy is curb-stomped by the Collectors and Shepard is killed in action. And then again between 2 and 3, while Shepard is being held planetside because of the events of the Arrival DLC mission. Status at the start of Mass Effect 2: Kaiden/Ashley is given a different assignment, as he/she is still an Alliance soldier; Garrus leaves for Omega to become a vigilante known as the Archangel; Tali goes back to her people, having fulfilled her Pilgrimage; Wrex (if he lives) goes back to lead his people from their self-destructive ways; Liara (in a comic) helps recover Shepard's body from the Collectors and becomes an information broker in order to take down the Shadow Broker.
- Before Mass Effect 3: Garrus goes back to Palaven to try to prepare his people for the Reaper invasion; Grunt goes to Tuchanka and is given command of the Aralakh Company; Jack becomes a biotic teacher at the Grissom Academy; Jacob meets a female scientist and helps her and a group of others escape Cerberus; Kasumi goes back to her outlaw ways, but occasionally helps out with anonymous tips; Legion goes back to the geth; Miranda leaves Cerberus and goes to ground; Mordin returns to Sur'Kesh to help find a way to neutralize the Genophage; Samara goes back to being a Justicar; Morinth slips away unseen; Tali once again return to the fleet; Thane, now in advanced stages of Kepral's Syndrome, has given up being an assassin and spends his remaining days in hospitals; Zaeed never stops being a mercenary but starts taking on jobs that hinder Cerberus.
- Destiny's Edge, the Five-Man Band of famous heroes from Guild Wars 2 wound up splitting up five years before the start of the game when Logan ran off on his own to save the queen from the dragon's minions, resulting in Zojja's mentor Snaff and another member being killed. Caithe later tries to reunite them in the character's personal story, but it ends explosively, only Caith and Eir seem to have gotten over the mistakes of the past and Destiny's edge fails to pull together again.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 reveals that the ex-fal'Cie from Final Fantasy XIII (at least the ones who weren't trapped in crystal stasis and/or at the end of time) drifted apart after the Cocoon crisis.
- Monaco: What's Yours is Mine contains an evil example, with the characters ( deciding they don't want to split the take from all their larceny, resulting in a Pv P only throw down in a what was originally a co-op game.)
- The Order of the Scribble from The Order of the Stick's back-story fell apart after securing the rifts to the Snarl's prison. It doesn't help that tensions had been strong the entire journey, and one of their number had died in the final battle. You Should Have Died Instead ended up being a huge reason this trope happened.
- It also threatened the Order itself — since their contracts said it was unti Xykon's defeat, and they thought they did it.
- Eight Bit Theater's epilogue shows that this has happened to the protagonists- Thief went back to Elfland, Red Mage tried to start up his own group (of people who are the last surviving members of an ordernote ), and Fighter and Black Mage are still Walking the Earth looking for work.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the Union tries to assemble the special task force called the Dresdens once more from a ragtag group of heroes and send them on a new mission to thwart the Union's enemies only for it to fall apart when several members choose not to associate themselves with the group anymore or have left on missions of their own as their priorities have changed.
- World War II. The allies were united against a common Obviously Evil villain, the Nazis. When the Nazis were defeated, each of them pursued their own interests and sometimes turned on each other during the Cold War. Shows that sometimes a great evil is necessary to make the good guys act good.
- They never really broke apart, though; instead they went from The Alliance to The Federation (the United Nations). Which did little to stop them from plotting against and threatening each other with Bigger Sticks.
- It was as much a case of Enemy Mine as anything else.
- The battle lines shifted rather significantly between World War I and World War II as well.
- Chris Hedges (and others cited in his work) have written that soldiers in combat form an intense bond, but once the war ends they go back to being strangers.
- It's called going off to college. Depending on where you live, it may happen several other times before then.
- Graduating from college as well.
- And now with the weak world economy, many in America find themselves back in their hometowns, along with the people they grew up with, ergo Putting the Band Back Together.