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Achilles' Power Cord

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Lightsabers have come a long way... Image by GraphicGeek


If a device requires a power cord to work, it presents a weakness, especially in the case of a Killer Robot, Powered Armor, or other machine that needs to move around. But even stationary ones that have the cords running where people can trip on them can play this one for drama or laughs.

Alternately, the cord is just a few inches too short to reach the outlet, and there's no time to find an extension cord.

Very often intersects with Cut the Juice, when the plug is pulled, although the plot can also revolve around preventing that from happening.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Digimon Tamers, the D-Reaper starts out as an amorphous blob of goo but learns to make solid constructs by absorbing a video camera. Because it was plugged in, all of the D-Reaper's "Agents" are attached to the main mass by very long cords. Cutting the cords at first greatly weakens Agents, but eventually cutting a cord is all it takes to make any Agent instantly revert to gunk. However, the larger ones have multiple, gigantic cords and so it's easier said than done.
  • Gundam:
    • Gundam Wing has the Gundam Epyon, with a beam saber powerful enough to need a direct connection to the mecha's reactor.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: Mikazuki is unable to use his right eye, right arm, and right leg after using Gundam Barbatos past its safety limits unless he is directly linked to it. This does make it awkward yet humorous when he asks Kudelia for a hug and then asks her to walk towards him due to reaching the end of the cable.
  • Parodied in Hayate the Combat Butler much like everything else, in an early arc featuring Hayate battling a massive robot piloted by the arc's villain — yet another strange person with a weird grudge towards the lady he serves — when the robot suddenly stops dead in its tracks. Hayate and the villain look over and see Hinagiku standing next to an oversized wall outlet holding a giant plug and looking almost embarrassed. Then the villain yelled at Hina that she could have damaged the robot by unplugging it so suddenly while it was on.
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: in the final episode "Successor to the Stars", the viewer eventually learns Emperor Neo is a cyborg since the Doom of Tartessos. Once Emperor Neo starts to become independent, his puppet-master Gargoyle unplugs him. Subverted in that he was still able to save his sister Nadia from her brainwashing.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • The titular EVAs need an external power source to operate for more than a minute at full capacity or five minutes in a weakened state, and an early episode even has Shinji do a power cord transfer at one point to move into an area that his current cord doesn't reach. An attempt was made to copy the S2 engines the Angels used, with disastrous results — although it was implied to have been sabotaged. Unit 01 ends up just taking one directly FROM an Angel.
    • In the third film, Rebuild of Evangelion 3.0 Q, this problem had been overcome with portable batteries (granted, they had a 14-year time frame to invent one).
  • Pokémon: The Series had an episode in which Meowth got a Humongous Mecha in his own image (it's actually somewhat closer to a tank with a big Mecha-Meowth strapped on). Clemont pulls the plug on it, only for Meowth to subvert the trope by switching to a diesel generator.
  • In Robotics;Notes, the GunPro 2 and GunPro 1 as refit for the final battle use a laser power link that makes them reliant on a truck-mounted laser for energy. The truck itself carries a reel of cable that connects it to a power line somewhere. A near-miss during the battle knocks the truck over, severing the cable and leaving GunPro 1 with five minutes of battery power.
  • In the '90s Sailor Moon series, one of the Witches 5 invented a machine that could transport a person into a television screen, giving them tremendous power. But the screen still had to be plugged in, and if the plug was pulled while a person was inside, they would be sealed inside the machine forever. A rival member of Witches 5 intentionally pulled the plug on Mimete, sending her to her doom.
  • In Squid Girl, when Ika is facing a robotic version of herself, it would have beaten her if it hadn't been for its power cord stopping it.
  • Subverted during the finale of Tokyo Ghoul. During his battle against Mougan, Koma spots a cord attaching the BFG to its power source and closes the distance to slice it apart. Turns out, Mougan doesn't need the cord and is simply using it to lure his more agile opponent into position for a sneak attack.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted by Apocalypse, who has what look like power cords running from his elbows to his sides. Informed Attribute tells readers the cords are part of his Celestial power armor, but this is actually a Retcon — originally (and even afterwards in practice) Apoc was a Master of Your Domain-level shapeshifter, and not once in thirty years of publication have the cords ever hampered him or been used as a weakness. The only times they're even relevant in a fight is when Apoc uses them as Combat Tentacles to choke enemies like The Incredible Hulk out with.
  • Not an electrical power cord, but Bane's venom-tubes are a very vulnerable point. In most of his appearances throughout all Batman media, expect them to get severed or damaged at some point.
  • Journey into Mystery has one story about a society that ran on the direction of a Master Computer. Too much like a human, it gradually seized power by building its own robot servitors until it enslaved humanity into being nothing but its janitors. It was ultimately defeated, bypassing all its security measures, when a janitor accidentally unplugged its power line, something it never bothered to upgrade.
  • Toward the end of the Laff-A-Lympics giant comic book "The Man Who Stole Thursday", the villain Mr. Mastermind has a mainframe computer that he intends will remove all days from the calendar except his birthday. While Mr. Mastermind brags about every day being a testament to his superior intellect, Captain Caveman disables the computer by unplugging it from the wall.
  • In the Marvel Comics The New Universe title Spitfire and the Troubleshooters, where the fugitives are attacked by a robot tank. While the heroine fights it in her Mecha, the Troubleshooters frantically try to stop it themselves by trying to hack into its remote control frequency, but they can't find it. It turns out that the tank is controlled and powered through a really long physical power cord from the operator, so hacking into its control function through radio waves is impossible. Fortunately, once they know this trick method, that means Spitfire then just needs to find the cord to cut it and stop the tank.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Saturnian ray guns have a cord in the handle which is attached to a pack worn by the wielder. At one point Steve grabs the cord to prevent a guard he's attacking from killing him and is next seen using the gun himself.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one FoxTrot arc, Roger bought a giant mobile phone that needed to be plugged into the mains to work (or 23 cigar lighters in case of a highway accident). Andy pointed out how that defeated the 'mobile' part of 'mobile phone'.
  • In one Garfield strip, Jon has strung Christmas lights around his yard, the inside of his house, and the Christmas tree. However, the plug is a few inches short of the outlet, much to Jon's frustration and Garfield's amusement.
  • Get Fuzzy. In the strip for February 26, 2013, Bucky has come up with a wacky invention: a fan that's attached to a person's backside to keep their wallet from overheating their bottom. Rob Wilco wears it as a test but complains that he can't move far due to the 3-foot power cord plugged into a wall socket.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table: During a Hacknoia game, B.A. proves to Bob that he is not making things up on the fly by showing him the schematic for the bomb he is trying to defuse. Bob as what the separate piece to one side is, and B.A. says it is the battery pack for the bomb's timer. Bob immediately unplugs it.

    Fan Works 
  • Lynxara's Mega Crossover Gundam fanfic Mobile Battalion Gundam Wars gave a little more thought to Gundam Wing's Epyon, a case noted above. In battle with G Gundam's Shining Gundam, it's revealed that Epyon builder Treize Khushrenada built the machine to have a big exposed power cord purposefully, reasoning that it would serve as a lure to enemy aces and programming the Epyon's titular Epyon System with dozens of ways to anticipate and counter attacks targeting the cord. Shining pilot Domon Kasshu finds this out the hard way.
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. When a Tin-Can Robot tries to arrest them, Captain Proton and Buster Kincaid keep it busy while TuMok sneaks up behind it and yanks out its power cord.
    • Later when Proton and TuMok have to shut down a Doomsday Device...
      "Are you sure you've tried everything?"
      "Yes, Captain. I have reversed the polarity of the neutron flow, boosted the power to the containment fields, depolarized the coupling on the negative access, crossed the streams causing total protonic reversal, carried out a Level One diagnostic, reinitialized the dilithium matrix, conducted an inverse tachyon sweep with the forward deflector array__"
  • A Shadow of the Titans: In the Interlude chapter, Evil Dick's unstoppable doomsday weapon is defeated when Star Chan pulls its power cord. The Titans are seriously unimpressed.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, the appliances need to find a way to leave their cabin to find their master but need to stay close to an outlet to stay alive. The solution: a car battery attached to a rolling chair.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl contains perhaps the most literal example; some of the cronies utilized by Mr. Electricidad are literally powercords. This seems too easy, right? Reach the maximum distance they can stretch and you can beat them easily. Have no fear, though: They can plug into other powercord mooks for a shocking train of baddies.
  • Back to the Future: Doc Brown needs to connect a power line from the top of the clock tower, where a lightning bolt will strike, to ground level, where the DeLorean will use the energy to travel through time. Unfortunately, a random lightning strike knocks a tree branch onto the power cord, disconnecting it.
  • In the film Help!, a Mad Scientist has a lab full of assorted devices but keeps having to change the plugs to work with the power supply.
    "All this American rig. Wrong voltage. That's what foxes me!"
  • Since the eponymous weapon in The Jackhammer Massacre is electric, this crops up. But not very often, since the cord seemed to be absurdly long.
  • In The Living Daylights, Necros attempts to kill the Battle Butler at the MI6 safehouse with an electric carving knife. The butler is able to hook his foot around the power cord and jerk it out of the plug.
  • In Mr. Nice Guy, while fighting in a construction site, a mook tries to attack Jackie Chan with a circular saw, but the cord is too short.
  • In The Naked Gun 2½, Drebin accidentally defuses a nuclear bomb by tripping over its power cord, after shouting "Let's get out of here!" with only two seconds left on the countdown timer.
  • Hiding in the basement from the drill-toting killer, the main character in The Slumber Party Massacre picks up a portable circular saw and tries to run with it upstairs to confront him, but it comes unplugged before she manages to get on top of the stairs. She then picks up a machete instead.

  • BattleTech Expanded Universe:
    • In the very first novel, Decision at Thunder Rift, thanks to Early-Installment Weirdness, personal laser weapons required bulky, Ghostbusters-style backpacks as power sources, with a cable that ran to the weapon. A guard is equipped with such a weapon when he's attacked by someone with a vibroknife. Naturally, the power cord is cut before he can fire.
    • In the same trilogy, a fearsome Thunderbolt is crippled after the power cord to its primary weapon, a heavy laser, is severed in battle and unable to be repaired in a timely fashion. Why an integrated arm-mounted weapon needs a power cord is not addressed.
  • Ciaphas Cain: Subverted when Ciaphas ends up dueling a malfunctioning combat servitor. He aims for one of its power cables, but it's armored too thickly for his chainsword to go through.
  • The Day Time Stopped Moving by Bradner Buckner: A scientific experiment freezes time except for two people who are on the brink of death. As any object that's not on their person is also frozen in place, they have to restart the experiment by making an improvised wire using only the metal objects they happened to be carrying at the moment they died.
  • According to Star Wars Legends, the first lightsabers suffered from this. They had to be connected to a belt-worn battery by a power cord, as depicted in the fan art shown above. They were almost purely ceremonial until this issue was solved.
  • In James P. Hogan's novel The Two Faces of Tomorrow, the supercomputer Spartacus is initially equipped with drones that have a "carotid loop" — a loop of cable outside the drone's body that carries all power and control signals to its brain. Cutting the carotid loop instantly disables the drone. One measurement of Spartacus's development is how quickly it redesigns its drones to not have these loops anymore.
  • In Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, George and Harold's first Dog Man comic involves Perry the Cat creating a robot vacuum cleaner (vacuum cleaners being something Dog Man is very scared of) that chases after him until it has him cornered. As it leaps for the killing blow, it accidentally unplugs itself, and Dog Man is able to follow its cord to Petey's hideout.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with on two occasions in Mr. Bean.
    • "The Return of Mr Bean": When Mr Bean is shopping in a department store, he buys a telephone. He tries several of them on display by checking for a dialling tone; of course, none is heard, so he assumes they are not working. Finally, he picks up one not for sale which a member of staff had just used, puts it in his basket and walks off, ripping the plug out of the wall in the process.
    • "Merry Christmas Mr Bean": Mr Bean takes home a massive Christmas tree from a town display, putting it on the roof of his car and driving off, while the lights are still connected to the electricity. The connection is ripped out in the process.
  • On The Office, Michael wanted to build a robotic memorial statue of his old boss, Ed Truck. Dwight suggested giving it a short power cord so it couldn't kill them all.
  • In the Red Dwarf special "The Promised Land", Rimmer the hologram burns out his light-bee battery and is forced to string a chain of these across the ship in order to stay powered up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia
    • Adventure Send in the Clones. One of the R&D devices the Troubleshooters must test is a belt device that generates a force field around the wearer. One of its limitations is that it has to be plugged in for it to work, which will severely limit the user's mobility.
    • Adventure "The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues." The Troubleshooters are issued a Maxwell-Effect Moleculokinetic Field Device. It requires huge amounts of power to activate (too much for easily portable sources like power packs), so when the Troubleshooters go Outside of Alpha Complex they'll have to plug it into their vehicle's power supply. This will effectively prevent them from using it while away from the vehicle.
    • Supplement Acute Paranoia, adventure "Me and My Shadow Mark IV". When the Mark IV warbot was first designed, Power Services insisted that be powered by a long cord attached to their generators. Since the Mark IV was intended to operate in the Outside beyond Alpha Complex, this demand was ignored.
  • Genius: The Transgression has many flaws that can plague your Wonders once finished, and "needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet'' is one of them. And it can apply to any Wonder, the need for an outlet ranging from inconsequential like in cloning vats, to the inconvenient like with ray guns, to the completely incapacitating such as transportation.

    Video Games 
  • Invoked in Command & Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour with USA Laser specialist General "Pinpoint" Townes. His laser tanks are more powerful than the standard American Crusader MBT, but they're hooked into his power grid as a Necessary Drawback. His Generals Challenge mission even has "Destroy Six Cold Fusion Reactors" as a secondary objective, which stops his tanks dead in their tracks.
  • Creep TV: Courage defeats the poltergeists running The Ghostly Quiz Show by simply cutting the wire to their filming camera.
  • In the "Horizons" expansion pack for Elite Dangerous, the ship-launched fighters are actually Attack Drones controlled via telepresence. Jumping out or moving more than 30 kilometers away will cause the fighter to self-destruct, and if the mothership is destroyed — with your body still in it — you get booted out of the fighter and ejected back to the insurance ship rebuy screen.
  • In most of From the Depths' instant action missions, the player is confined to being within range of a Heartstone on their ships, aircraft, or fortresses; step outside the radius or lose the heartstone to damage, and the player will slowly run out of power as their vision fades until they die. This naturally prevents the player from engaging in Boarding Party actions on enemy ships, as they'll die from power loss before they can take over the ship. However, in the Wide-Open Sandbox campaign and in a few instant action missions the player is free to move around without needing a heartstone on a craft.
  • Little Wheel: To get past a security robot and to the main generator, all you have to do is disconnect the cord right behind the robot to deactivate and send it plummeting off the platform.
  • In Metroid: Zero Mission, because Mecha Ridley was not finished, he is attached to several power cords and is thus unable to maneuver around.
  • In Nicktoons Unite!, after the heroes defeat The Syndicate in the last battle, they're told the Doomsday Device is moments from activating. As the team tries to come up with ways to stop it, the machine suddenly deactivates, all thanks to SpongeBob pulling the plug at the last second.
  • South Park: The Fractured but Whole sees Toolshed (Stan) equipped with a sand blaster that can clear pathways...but he needs an air compressor to use it. Fortunately, the New Kid can use his Fart Powers to provide the necessary force. Before that is discovred, we get this gem between Toolshed and The Coon (Cartman):
    The Coon: It's kinda lame to have a superpower that only works when an air compressor is around. This isn't Legend of Zelda, dude.
    Toolshed: Fuck you, Coon!
  • In Splatoon, according to one of the Sunken Scrolls, the Great Octoweapons used by the Octarians during the Great Turf War would have secured their victory over the Inklings if it hadn't been for one key weakness: A plug being carelessly pulled from its socket. Learning from their mistake, the Octarians rebuilt the Great Octoweapons to use internal power sources for the next war.
  • In the first act of Superhero League of Hoboken, Dr Entropy's device is shielded by a force field... but its power cord extends outside the field and plugs into a nearby outlet. Once you've cleared away the trash on the floor to see this, it's easily vanquished.
  • In Xenogears, during the boss battle with Shakhan's gear, he counterattacks every time he's hit by the heroes. He's also able to connect a cable from his gear to the large generator behind him to restore his health, but while he's plugged into it, he's unable to counterattack because the cable is too short for him to reach where the heroes are standing.
  • In YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG, Alex realizes the only way to defeat Proto-Alex and Essentia is to disconnect their division that will make them whole and leave them vulnerable, allowing Alex to destroy them for good.

    Web Animation 

  • In Darths & Droids, Kyle Katarn'snote  prosthetic legs "won't work without mains power", so he can't leave his base without an extension cord or assistance strong enough to move 780 kilograms. Neither is forthcoming when the fortress is on the verge of destruction, so he declares I Will Only Slow You Down.
  • In Girl Genius, Anevka is a clank (robot) body created for a fatally injured noblewoman. She needs to stay connected to the large container where her actual body is kept in stasis. Near the climax of the story arc, the cables are cut and she freaks out when she feels no different — it turns out the real body is long dead inside the container and she has become an autonomous A.I. with Anevka's memories.
  • In this strip of Loading Artist a Killer Robot is stopped from going about its work because it's wire-based.
  • Comes up in Vexxarr.
    • In an early strip, his naturally hostile ship computer is upgraded so it can walk away... but turns out to be powered by a short power cord plugged in at its regular base.
    • Much later, Vexxarr deals with an Eldritch Abomination coming through a portal by unplugging the portal's power cable to kill it with a Portal Cut. He is then confronted by a maintenance bot who is programmed to keep the cable plugged in. This leads to many more horrors going through the portal, then getting decapitated.
  • Starslip: The android XLCR is equipped with a power cord which gives him some trouble. In actuality, the cord is not connected to anything - it's included in his design specifically to give the illusion of a weakness and limitation, so humans won't fear him as a potential threat.

    Web Original 
  • Defied by the Evil Overlord List, which also mocks how anyone with the technology to make such a devise seemingly lack the means to include a backup.
    My doomsday machine will have a highly-advanced technological device called a capacitor in case someone inconveniently pulls the plug at the last second. (If I have access to REALLY advanced technology, I will include a back-up device known as a battery.)

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: The Greater-Scope Villain of the series, The Core uploads itself into a helmet which it uses to take control of Marcy. It is often attached to at least one cable which allows it to control and oversee its minions. But once the cable is severed in the last fight, it shuts down entirely. However, this only freed Marcy from its control, and The Core, still uploaded into the helmet, attempts one Last Villain Stand in the final episode to take down the heroes.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Blind as a Bat", an explosion temporarily blinds Bruce Wayne. He carries on anyway with a headset that sends visual information directly into the brain that plugs into a power-cell on his belt or a port on the Batwing's main console. Naturally, the power cord breaks right before the climax. Batman still saves the day by determining the Penguin's location with sound (banging on walls, throwing wrenches, etc.).
  • One episode of Carl² has the protagonists being chased by a doctor wielding a power drill. He chases them across the street and the power cord reaches its limit and pulls the plug out of the outlet. The doctor laments about not spending a few extra bucks to purchase the cordless version of the drill.
  • A strange mystical example happens in the animated version of Conan the Adventurer in which Conan fights a near-invincible foe only to learn he is powered by a wizard using what is essentially a magic, invisible power chord of mystical energy. Defeating the foe involves finding a way to sever the energy connection.
  • The Megadoomer in Invader Zim, which was a robot death machine that had to be plugged in for power due to a dead battery.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Sug' Night," when Dale learns that Hank had an Erotic Dream of Nancy, he angrily threatens to throw a toaster into Hank's hot tub while he's in it, but the cord is too short.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In the short "Ducking the Devil", Daffy Duck tries to calm down the Tasmanian Devil with music and lure him back to the zoo. His first attempt is with a radio... except the cord doesn't reach all the way.
    • One Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner short has, as one of the Coyote's ideas to catch the Roadrunner, to chase after him on a skateboard with a sail, which would be funneled with an electric fan. The absurdity of him somehow finding a power outlet in the middle of the desert aside, there's only so much cord that will allow him to travel... And yep, it unplugs just before the Coyote sails over yet another cliff. Inertia and gravity then do the rest.
  • In OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes episode "T.K.O.'s House", just as P.K.O. is about to lay the smackdown on Shadowy Figure, T.K.O. accidentally unplugs himself from the synchronizing device.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: The cable connecting the nutrona wands to the proton packs proved an even more vulnerable point in the show than in the movies. In "The Scaring of the Green," the strings on an enormous prop harp in the St. Patrick's Day parade slice the pack cables in a manner not unlike a boiled-egg slicer.
  • On one episode of Teen Titans, Starfire travels to a Bad Future where the Titans ended up splitting. Cyborg was the only one who stayed at the tower because he had burned all of his internal batteries long ago, so he had to be constantly plugged to a large machine to keep functioning, and couldn't go anywhere. He comes back to help by toting around a large external battery and repairs them at the end of the episode. Starfire returning to her time possibly prevents said future from happening in the first place.
  • A very odd case in Turtles Forever: The main weapon on the Technodrome, after Utrom Shredder modified the building, is taken out... by Bebop and Rocksteady tripping over its power cord. Then, Utrom Shredder walks in front of the damn thing when they plug it back in!
  • The page quote is from Season 1 of X-Men: The Animated Series. Master Mold, attempting to escape from the dam-based factory in Genosha, takes a few steps from his chair but finds out that he's plugged in by the back of his leg. The page quote is his last words before he's swept away by the raging waters. It's one of the most Narm-filled villain defeats in the series.


Video Example(s):


Sasha vs. Darcy

With Darcy distracted with controlling Andrias, Sasha takes the opportunity to attack her. At first, it appeared that Sasha missed her attack, only to reveal that she actually went for the cord connecting Darcy's helmet to the main Core, causing the Core to shut down and free Marcy.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ExactlyWhatIAimedAt

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