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Untouchable Until Tagged
"The more that hit you, the more that will."
Callista Ming, Star Wars: Children of the Jedi

This is when a hero, or a top-billed friend of theirs, seems to be doing absolutely great in a fight — no enemy even so much as grazes them— only to suddenly get an unlucky stab/shot get through their seemingly impregnable defenses. And just like a Dutch dam, one little leak (of blood) is all it takes for their whole defense to come down hard and let every enemy Mook land dozens more attacks. Before long they're overwhelmed and either captured, KO'd or killed.

Normally the defense-breaking attack was already lethal and everything else was just icing on the cake. Sometimes it's a lucky hit that trips them up. Usually they still manage to kill a few dozen more enemies before being felled by injuries. This can be caused by enemies (either intentionally or through luck) exploiting the character's Achilles' Heel (whether Attack Its Weak Point, Kryptonite Factor or other things).

A couple of subversions are to have the character survive the onslaught and show up some time later, have the lucky hit cause a Minor Injury Overreaction, or become akin to a wrecking ball pin-cushion that's more destructive for having been put so close to death (without actually dying). An aversion is to merely have them take grazing damage throughout, or have lethal attacks kill instantly or post battle.

A side wide version of this trope that replaces the lone hero with a Mook Maker structure is a common occurrence in Real-Time Strategy games, especially in mods similar to DOTA or AOS. Units can keep slaughtering each other for all eternity, but losing a single unit-producing structure almost guarantees that side's doom as their defenses are swamped (unless they manage to balance out the numbers).

Very much Truth in Television, as injuries can be debilitating or crippling even without inflicting significant damage otherwise. For example, some sword arts involve shallow slices to the arms or hands which might not sever the limb, but cutting the muscle or tendon will prevent it from properly flexing, thus reducing its functionality and making a more lethal follow-up much easier to land.

See also Keystone Army. See also/compare Dog Pile of Doom, where the mooks simply jump on the hero. Contrast Minor Injury Overreaction. Compare One-Hit-Point Wonder. Compare Injured Vulnerability, Lowered Monster Difficulty, and Not So Invincible After All.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • At the end of the Marvel Comics' Onslaught crisis the Hulk hits Onslaught so hard there's a tiny crack in his armor, which is more than anyone else could do. This is all the other heroes need to finally get through to defeat him.

Film
  • The Matrix Reloaded. For most of the "Burly Brawl" fight between Neo and Agent Smith Neo does quite well, not defeating the Smiths but holding his own. Near the end, as Neo is jumping from one Smith to the other, a Smith jumps out of nowhere and takes him down, allowing all of the other Smiths to dogpile on him. Because he's the One he throws them off and escapes, but it's a near thing.
  • When Boromir is fending off the Uruk-Hai in The Lord of the Rings he is killing them non-stop with nary a lucky hit, until their leader manages to snipe him from afar.
  • Mars Attacks! Near the end Byron Williams faces off against a horde of Martians in hand to hand combat so the others can escape. He repeatedly punches the Martians until one of them jumps on his back and prevents him from defending himself, whereupon the rest swarm over him and take him down. Watch it here.
  • District 9. The Prawn Mini-Mecha appears to be Immune to Bullets until it gets hit with a BFG (specifically, a South African 30mm anti-tank rifle), and from that point onwards it gets more and more easily damaged until it gets shut down by a simple 9mm pistol. Wikus still gets his fair amount of mileage out of it, though.
  • As the page quote bears out, the Jedi can easily deflect blaster bolts up to a certain point, which is what Palpatine uses to wipe them out with Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith; the Jedi not taken completely by surprise in the first place are unable to ward off such contentrated blaster fire and are quickly felled once a single bolt gets through their defense.

Literature
  • Discussed in Barbara Hambly's Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Children of the Jedi. As Jedi-turned-computer entity Callista notes to Luke, a Jedi may be able to fend off blasterfire for a while, but once one mook gets lucky, more mooks will get lucky. That's how Callista died the first time around.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novel "The Last Ditch" has a big Tyranid monster able to shrug off lasgun and bolt pistol fire until an air-to-surface missile breaches its carapace, allowing the squad to aim for the breach and bring it down.
    • The second time Cain fights a Chaos Marine in The Traitor's Hand, he takes advantage of prior battle damage to the Marine's armor, and shoves his chainsword through the breach to incapacitate the Marine.
  • In The War of the Ancients, Sargeras is pretty much unstoppable until Broxigar scratches him with his enchanted axe. That very slight injury was all the heroes needed to stop Sargeras.


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