Follow TV Tropes


Authority Equals Asskicking / Live-Action TV

Go To

  • Power Rangers: Starting after Lord Zedd was introduced, the Big Bad of the season always seems to be the best fighter of them all.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The title character, Buffy Summers. She's the most combat-capable of the Scoobies. When she left at the end of season 2, the Scoobies picked up the slack without her, and got curb-stomped by common vampires. It got to the point that, after Buffy's death in season 5, the Scoobies actually had to reactivate and reprogram the Buffybot to make any dent in Sunnydale's demon population.
    • Advertisement:
    • The Watcher Council has inverted this. Apparently, it was a very long tradition that the Council, which consists only of ordinary humans, commands the slayer in each generation, which is a young girl with "super powers".
    • Also in the series Angel, it does at first straight. Angel himself a vampire and over two hundred years old, and thus the strongest fighter, and at the same time the leader. In the first season, it is even so that he goes into battle, while the others do only "office work". But from the fifth season and in the comics it is inverted because others join him, which are just as strong as he, or even more, such as Spike, Groo, Illyria, Connor and Faith.
    • Because demons are often stronger than vampires, it is also common that a demon has several vampires as followers.
    • Apparently it is for vampires so that the strongest (and usually oldest) leading the whole group. The Master and Kakistos, two really ancient vampires had, rallied and led several young vampires around. Just as Spike and Drusilla did in the second season.
    • Advertisement:
    • Russell Winters, an ancient and powerful vampire has ordinary humans as subordinates, thereby playing very straight.
    • However, there is also an exception. In the comics Drusilla leads a group of "new vampires". The breed of the new vampires is much more powerful than the race of ancient vampires, so the subordinates of Drusilla are stronger than she.
      • However Drusilla is far from being weak, because she could keep fighting strong opponents, and kill two slayers.
    • The mayor in the third season inverts it. He is (initially) an ordinary human, but he has many vampires as subordinates. Previously, he was also the only major villain who took care seriously about the welfare of his subordinates.
    • The human-demon-machine hybrid Adam leads also put a lot of vampires and demons, and let it come to a big fight with the soldiers of the initiative. And he was by far the strongest among them, even significantly stronger than a slayer.
    • Advertisement:
    • Even with "Wolfram & Hart" it is playing straight. Because the staff are mostly humans (in the fifth Season also vampires and demons), but their bosses, the senior-partners, are powerful demons.
    • In the comics the half-demon Whistler leads two other half-demon named Nash and Pearl. Each of them is already alone very strong, but Whistler is significantly stronger than Nash and Pearl (perhaps because he is half demon and half "angel", the other two, however, half demon and half human are).
    • But the crime lord Mal Fraser is an unknown case. At first it seems as if he would invert it, for he is a half-demon who leads a group of demons. But it may also be that it is playing straight, because the strength of a demon (or half-demon) depends both to what demon species it belongs, as well as individual reasons.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • There are several examples of men in power due to their birth who are (or were) still fearsome fighters, such as Jaime Lannister and Robert Baratheon.
    • King Stannis Baratheon takes the cake.
      • After his navy is destroyed, he personally leads the assault over the wall of King's Landing in "Blackwater", and fights like a One-Man Army, killing several Lannister soldiers with ease. His men actually have to drag him kicking and screaming off the battlefield once it becomes clear that they have lost the battle.
      • Prior to Robert's death and the War of the Five Kings, Stannis was the Master of Ships on the King's Small Council. Under his command, the Royal Fleet soundly smashed the Ironborn fleet during the Greyjoy Rebellion.
    • Tyrion Lannister gives a justification for this trope when he notes that the social elite get much better equipment and are trained from birth in combat. Jon Snow, who was raised by his father with a highborn upbringing and was trained by a castle master-at-arms alongside his brother Robb since the time they could hold a sword, finds this out when he joins the Watch, learns that his fellow recruits are lowborn and, as a result, they barely know which end of a sword to hold. After a period of tension with these recruits, wherein Jon is made to recognize his advantages by Tyrion and his uncle Benjen Stark, he befriends these recruits and trains them himself.
    • Ned (a Lord Paramount) chooses to be modest about it, but he can match the prodigious and much younger Jaime Lannister and even Living Legend Barristan Selmy speaks highly of him.
    • Greatjon Umber initially doubts Robb has this trait, but becomes one of his staunchest supports and the first to acclaim him king after he proves his mettle (in addition to having a direwolf). This is followed quickly by the other Northern houses.
    • Discussed Trope when King Robert fears a Dothraki invasion lead by a rival claimant to the Iron Throne. His queen points out the Dothraki don't have the patience or technology to besiege castles, but Robert says they'd still have to come out and fight or risk appearing cowardly, causing the people to change their allegiance to his rival.
    • During the Battle of Castle Black, Jon Snow is left in charge, and takes a small force down to ground level. He jumps out of the elevator, and proceeds to kill three Wildlings before the elevator even hits the floor. The Northern lords crown Jon as the King in the North partly because he has direct experience with the oncoming threat of the their true enemy, the White Walkers. As D.B. Weiss and David Benioff explain in a 2016 interview with Deadline, "The lords of the north named (Jon) King in the North because they realized he was their last, best chance to survive the wars to come."
    • Tywin is a two-time Hand of the King, and the Warden of the West (a position only equal to three others and only inferior to the King himself and his Hand). Hand in hand with his titles, Tywin is a ruthless yet highly effective commander who struck the killing blow to King's Landing and the Targaryen royal family in Robert's Rebellion.
    • Grey Worm was chosen by the notoriously badass Unsullied to lead them and is easily the best fighter among them.
    • Similar to his book counterpart, Euron Greyjoy is known to be the most dangerous figure in the Iron Islands and gives the Ironborn real menace, showing intelligence, cunning, ambition, combat prowess, and competence. This is further established in the show where Euron is credited with the raid on Lannisport in the first rebellion, then he further cements on this during his assault on Yara's Iron Fleet by killing two of the Sand Snakes, capturing Yara himself, and overall taking out half of Danaerys' alliance in one fell swoop.
  • This seems to be the case in Star Trek:
    • The high-ranking main characters (who, more often than not, are officers in the virtually pacifist Federation Starfleet) all seem pretty handy in a punch-up. Kirk's martial arts "skills" are legendary, and at various times he takes on big lizard guys and genetically engineered supermen. It's very noticeable in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where the crew of the eponymous space station regularly kick the asses of Klingons and Jem'Hadar when it comes to a hand-to-hand brawl (Sisko's Q-punch has to rank pretty far up, too). Justified for Dax and Worf, maybe (who at least have the martial arts credentials to back up what we see on screen), and Kira as well (she spent fourteen years fighting for her life in the Bajoran Resistance, what did you think would happen?) and Starfleet training is pretty well-rounded, but where did Sisko learn to use a bat'leth? (Probably from Curzon Dax, the Federation ambassador to the Klingons.)
    • Speaking of Klingons, there's the Next Generation episode where Worf is trying to defend his family honor, and his second is taken out. As a replacement he chooses not a seasoned Klingon warrior, not a fellow security officer, not the clearly able-bodied Riker, but old, bald Captain Picard. When he gets jumped by two Klingons later he fatally stabs one of them before help arrives. This may partially be because Patrick Stewart is no slouch himself. Go rent Excalibur, which was a break out film role for both him and Liam Neeson, and check him out in the armor. Or I, Claudius for that matter. The man may have gotten older but he he looks like he could take Riker in a fist fight. Pragmatic Adaptation of the actor, perhaps.
    • Especially egregious in the two-part episode "Chain of Command," where Picard, Crusher, and Worf covertly infiltrate a Cardassian facility. This would be like asking a naval O-6 skipper to do a job normally performed by Navy Seals.
    • In his younger years (and again when he's sent back in time), Picard gets into a Bar Brawl with some Nausicans. Bear in mind that this is a Made of Iron race of guys who like to throw knives at each other for fun.
    • One could argue that all Star Fleet officers would be likely to have a myriad of skills because, in Roddenberry's future, you don't "need" to do anything and do what you do in order to improve yourself as a person. If you were given full freedom to do anything, especially with a holodeck, you'd probably be in great shape and know some very exotic martial arts. Sulu was into fencing, Riker was into "Anbo-jitsu" (that blind stick fighting thing he did with his dad), and we see several other officers playing difficult sports. Things like that would make you pretty handy in a fight. Also, in Starfleet, there seems to be a philosophy of fighting in a way that is effective, but avoids killing, something that takes even more skill and discipline.
    • Also consider that self-defense was pretty much required training at the Academy. In one of the novels, a class is taught covering not only human but Klingon and Vulcan martial arts (pacifists they may be, but any culture that thought up the Nerve Pinch is pretty dangerous).
    • The Vulcans became pacifists only relatively recently in their history. Keep in mind this is the same race that earlier split with one faction becoming the Romulans, who are a close-second to the Klingons in their level of aggression. The whole "logic used to suppress emotions" schtick is outright stated to be a (mostly) constructive response by the Vulcans to their inherently violent nature. In the TOS episode "Amok Time" Kirk and Spock are manipulated into the kal-if-fee, a duel with traditional Vulcan weapons that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Middle Ages on Earth. Such duels are provided for as part of the Vulcan marriage ritual when the prospective bride wants to back out... meaning that not only can Starfleet officers generally (and Kirk in particular) kick ass hand-to-hand, but every Vulcan male has trained with these weapons in the event such a duel is called by their prospective consorts!
    • We also see T'pol teaching Vulcan martial arts to a group of miners to defend themselves against Klingons, specifically focusing on moves to counter the Klingons' preference for oddly-shaped blades.
    • In the Deep Space Nine episode "Blood Oath", for all the guards protecting The Albino, he himself was the only one who put up a fight.
  • Played straight in an episode of CSI: New York. A company had training sessions for its higher ups. Two of them beat each other, two of them got into a fight at a pool hall so heated they were running on the ceiling, and one of them assassinated a man by hanging from a tree and doing an upside down Diagonal Cut through the man's neck. The head stayed on until the cops came.
  • On Heroes, the 12 founders of The Company are described as having been very powerful superhumans, although the show has been very vague as to what the exact power of many of them were.
  • Rear Admiral AJ Chegwidden from JAG was, before he became the Navy's top uniformed lawyer, a Navy SEAL who earned a Navy Cross in The Vietnam War, and he's had more than one occasion to showcase his credentials in badass...including one or two Papa Wolf moments. And one incident involving an actual wolf...
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • Colonel Jack O'Neill came out of retirement and promptly went to Abydos and picked up where he left off in personally f'ing up Jaffa.
      • Teal'c was the First Prime, a.k.a. the Head Jaffa in Charge for Apophis. Thus it makes sense when as the series progresses he's laying waste to hordes of Jaffa all by himself. And his kills include other First Primes as well as System Lords.

      • Colonel Samantha Carter may very well be the Baddest Chick in two galaxies. She did blow up a star that one time.
      • The few times General Hammond ends up in a fight of some kind, he shows exactly why he's in command of the SGC.
    • In Stargate Atlantis, the basic Wraith Mook troopers go down just like any human after a burst of P90 fire. The "officer"-type Wraith can take a handful of pistol rounds and keep on coming. The Wraith "General" from "Sateda" was strong enough to effortlessly toss Proud Warrior Race Guy Ronan around like a rag doll, and the Wraith "Uber Queen" from "Submerged" ate a full clip of P90 fire and kept on coming. Part of that has to be due to the fact that Wraith regenerative abilities are directly dependent on how much and how recently they fed. A higher-ranking Wraith would have first dibs on any prisoner to feed on.
    • Colonel Young from Stargate Universe, who starts the series with a limp but recovers and ends up kicking a lot of ass.
  • Ben from Lost seems to have elevated to this status during season 4. Added to the fact he's the Magnificent Bastard he was in Seasons 2 and 3, in Season 4 he is the one who takes out Keamy, that season's Big Bad.
  • In 24 the villains get deadlier the higher up the villain authority ladder you go.
  • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger/Power Rangers S.P.D.: Deka Master/Shadow Ranger. Leader of the Space Police on Earth, he's easily the most badass Ranger on the planet...or, given what we see of his higher-ups, the whole organization. Seriously. The core five actually start slacking off when he becomes Sixth Ranger, and he has to remind his own troops he's not going to bail them out of every fight. As an example, the character once deflected machine gun fire. Using a sword.
  • Alias plays this trope fairly straight. While the mooks Sydney/Vaughn/other agent fights are easily deterred, usually the Big Bad/episode mini-Bad has some freaking sweet skills. And in the later seasons, when Jack became head of APO, the trope took effect. Check out the episode "Nightingale".
  • Battlestar Galactica. Both Admiral Adama and Colonel Tigh are capable of some serious butt-kicking, as seen in The Mutiny episodes. President Roslin on the other hand, while quite ruthless, only handles a weapon on one occasion. And she manages to miss at point-blank range.
  • On Ultimate Force, Colonel Aidan Dempsey reliably kicks a lot of arse when called upon, most notably in the episodes "Dead Is Forever", "Never Go Back" and - particularly - "Charlie Bravo". In the latter, he strides through a gunfight, casually taking one-handed potshots at rebels, while exhorting his local counterpart to "Pretend you're an officer and get your men in order!"
  • WWE chairman Vince McMahon is frequently booked as a fairly strong wrestler, and is usually the favorite in matches featuring him against anyone below main-event level. Partially justified by the fact that McMahon is actually a very muscular person in real life. Though, it's ultimately inverted in most of Vince's matches with main eventers, as he ends up getting the worse of the beating against them. Keep in mind, that Vince is still the boss of said main event wrestlers, even after getting his ass kicked. When he does win, it's usually through outside interference or dirty tricks, not through McMahon himself winning it on his own.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Sandbaggers where the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Neil Burnside, "James bloody Bond" — is mugged by some hoods while walking about late at night.
  • Just about every ruler from the 1998 Merlin series, including Uther, Arthur, and most impressively, Vortigern, who is aging and past his prime but still a force on the battlefield.
  • And in the other Merlin, we have King Uther, getting up there but still able to kick butt in the tournaments. Even if Arthur did let him win. Arthur kinda fits this too.
  • True Blood plays it straight with Godric, Eric, and Russell Edgington, but totally subverts it with Sophie-Anne LeClerq, who apparently relies on luck more than anything. In the third season Eric points out that he only lets her kick him around because of his respect for her rank; when he switches sides, Sophie-Anne is screwed. She is shown to be much stronger than Bill, though, until he is revealed to have brought a SWAT team armed with wooden bullets. Averted with Bill himself, after he is crowned King of Louisiana.
  • In Castle, Captain Roy Montgomery is usually seen in his office calling the shots, but in the season 3 finale, he kicks all kinds of ass. He manages to kill three hitmen with precision before they can even get their weapons out. Although Lockwood manages to fatally wound him, Montgomery is still able to kill the last hitman with a hidden gun in his sleeve.
  • Darken Rahl in Legend of the Seeker is a skilled swordsman and a sorcerer. He is also the ruler of the most poweful empire in the world (as far as he knows, at least; the series was cancelled before the discovery of the Imperium) Admittedly, he is not as skilled in magic as Zedd, but he is able to beat Richard the first time they meet in battle. In another episode, he effortlessly kills several Sisters of the Dark, despite them being Elite Mooks (in the books, at least). Averted with most other rulers.
  • The Headmaster from Tower Prep is quite capable of kicking ass.
  • In The Sopranos, all of the capos and bosses in the mob are either capable fighters and killers, or they used to be in their younger days before they rose so high that they no longer need to get their hands dirty.
  • This is how the leader of werewolf society is determined in Bitten along with a hefty dose of Klingon Promotion.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Often seen in Roman leaders. Glaber is a strong fighter, while Crassus and Caesar are both outstanding. Even Batiatus manages to kill a gladiator, though he's a Non-Action Guy. The gladiators, on the other hand, follow Asskicking Equals Authority.
  • The short lived tv series Space Rangers featured a race of Proud Warrior Race Guy aliens whose society ran on this trope. The heroes insulted one of their princes which led to a ritual fight to the death and the human diplomat handling contact explains that among the aliens government positions are handled by mortal combat rather than by birthright so the fact that the alien they insulted is a prince means he must be one of the best fighters from his planet.
  • Black Sails- In the third season, the new governor of Nassau, Woodes Rogers, is shown to be well-dressed, polite, considerate of others, and well spoken- and if need be, in combat, is quite ready to throw down on more-or-less equal footing with the likes of Charles Vane. Of course, being a war veteran and former privateer himself doesn't hurt...
  • In Supernatural are the archangels the rulers of the sky, at least Michael and Raphael. And archangels are obviously much stronger than ordinary angels.
    • Even with the demons the strongest seem also to be the leader among them. Demons with black eyes are rather weak (compared with demons, they are still more than humans), demons with red eyes are significantly stronger, yet really powerful demons which very often lead the lesser demons, have mostly yellow or white eyes.
    • Even the monsters like vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters have their "Alphas". In addition, smaller groups are usually lead by the strongest member.
  • Nobu Yoshioka, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Netflix-borne Daredevil series, is a leading criminal in Hell's Kitchen, and is revealed in the second season to have been the acting leader of the organization known as "The Hand". He is also an inescapably badass ninja, proficient with multiple melee weapons, who was winning his duel with The Hero until the nascent Daredevil got clever about it. (Considering what the audience learns about The Hand in the second season, this may circle back to a case of Asskicking Equals Authority, as their earliest incarnation as a group reportedly began with them killing their original master.)
  • In Arrow, businessman and mobster Konstantin Kovar is a very efficient fighter, capable of beating and subduing Oliver in hand-to-hand combat without any of his men needing to interfere.
  • Zorro: The various evil commandantes, starting with Commander Monastario, are the only members of the army who can last more than a minute in a swordfight against Zorro. Not that they ever win, of course, but at least they can give him a workout, unlike the rank-and-file soldiers (including Sergeant García), who just get humiliated even when outnumbering the masked outlaw.
  • Banshee:
    • Lucas Hood is the sheriff and the most competent fighter in the entire department.
    • Proctor also falls under this as he gives Hood a run for his money.
    • Chayton is probably the king of this trope.
    • Rabbit is the one exception to this rule. While he does not have physical prowess, his ruthlessness allows him to maintain his power.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: