A Benched Hero is a heroic or lead character who steps back from the limelight in an "exit" that alters the plot's development. Something takes the hero out of action (sometimes forcibly) and the team's focus is not just continuing on their way but getting him back in the game. While this sort of exit is akin to Deus Exit Machina, it need not apply only to powerful (or overpowering) characters; a Benched Hero could be one who is more modestly talented (like a Guile Hero or a Science Hero) who is temporarily removed to keep things interesting, rather than to alter the dynamics of conflict. Unlike putting someone on a bus, the absence isn't really much of an absence at all, and is usually of brief duration.
Some reasons for benching a hero are more "meta" than others, and the specific situation may arise from the nature of the medium involved. In media that use recognizable human actors (such as radio serials and episodic live-action television), this may be done as a means of covering for a star performer who is actually ill or injured or otherwise briefly unavailable. On the other hand, artistic choices may prompt the writers to give other characters their moment in the sun; in order for that to reasonably happen, the hero will have to sit one out, and the plot must be designed to make that happen.
Not to be confused with The Benchwarmer, a character in sports stories who's relegated to the bench for various reasons.
Subtropes to this include:
- Achilles in His Tent - The hero is out of action because of arguments with the team.
- Hero on Hiatus - The hero is removed from the action against his will, usually through injury, illness, captivity, or death.
- 10-Minute Retirement - The hero is out because they crossed the Despair Event Horizon.
Occasional subtropes (depending on how they are handled) include:
- Deus Exit Machina - A high-powered or overpowered heroic character is taken out of action to make the story longer and more interesting. Could fall under the Benched Hero trope if the Deus re-enters (say for a final battle) and particularly if a subplot seeks to find or bring back the Deus character.
- Prodigal Hero - A protagonist living well is forced to leave his good life and is later summoned home to play the hero. If a subplot focuses on bringing the Prodigal back, and/or the POV keeps the Prodigal somewhat in the story (rather than utterly absent), it would fall under the Benched Hero trope.