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Deus Exit Machina

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"Some advice, Prince, for the future... Next time, why don't you remember your place like the rest of them, and wait for Goku."
Perfect Cell alluding to this trope following a Curb-Stomp Battle to Vegeta, Dragon Ball Z Abridged

Taking the most powerful character and writing them out of the story or arc, to preserve the drama and make things tougher for the main cast.

So you've got a villain running amok, and a designated plucky underdog hero who's been set up to save the day. Looks like time for some heroic derring-do, but wait — there's a supporting character who's way, way, way more powerful than the hero, to the point where if he decided to take on the villain, the whole climactic struggle would be over in two seconds.

Well, obviously we can't have that, and if the character in question is any kind of good guy it would strain belief to have them just sit out the fight for no reason. Sure, you could kill them off or write them out of the story completely, but they don't have to leave forever, just long enough for the hero to have to face the menace du jour on his or her own. The solution: take the bruiser and put them on a bus for a while. Maybe some other responsibility came up, maybe there's another villain rampaging around somewhere else, maybe they had the bad luck to break a leg and got stuck in the hospital, maybe they were arrested and are showing Self-Restraint. However it's done, the Deus ex Machina is temporarily out of commission, and the weaker heroes have to win the fight on their own.

If the villain is smart enough, they will find a way to invoke this by luring the character out of the way before setting the plan in motion, but the character can come off as rather feeble-minded if they were easily called away by some paper-thin ruse, leaving in jeopardy whatever the villain was after. Alternatively, this may come into play when the main hero is much more powerful than the supporting cast; in order to give them A Day in the Limelight, the all-powerful hero needs to be depowered, incapacitated, or distracted.

An alternative approach is to have an immensely powerful character actually join the plucky underdog's team for the big epic battle. He could easily save the day with a snap of his fingers...and then that character is immediately knocked out or otherwise disabled so that the story can actually be interesting. (This can also have the side effect of making the villain that much more threatening.)

On rare occasions, it may be a villain far higher up the Sorting Algorithm of Evil who drops by for a Final Boss Preview to foreshadow the difficulty of future encounters before giving the weaker villain back his Worf Effect. Such a villain may be Too Powerful to Live. Don't expect to see him again outside his lair. If it's a Stealth Hi/Bye then you have a simple case of Villain Teleportation by a Mobile Menace. Contrast Villain: Exit, Stage Left, But Now I Must Go.

Any given Deus Exit Machina may or may not end with the character returning in the nick of time to save the day.

An especially common way to deal with Reality Warpers or an overly-large cast (especially if they Can't Catch Up).

Holding Back the Phlebotinum is a Sister Trope which is about powers/weapons/MacGuffins instead of the characters themselves. Superman Stays Out of Gotham is a preemptive Crossover variant (when a Bat Family Crossover would be a Story-Breaker Team-Up). Ways to accomplish this include Achilles in His Tent, Put on a Bus, Trapped by Mountain Lions, and Wacky Wayside Tribe.

For more on this topic, see How to Stop the Deus ex Machina.


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  • During the Assassination Island arc of Assassination Classroom, the students force Koro-sensei into his ultimate defense mode, in which he is rendered immobile for 24 hours. When Takaoka and his hitmen attack the class, the remaining 15 students and the other two teachers have to handle the situation by themselves. The other teachers are incapacitated early in the operation, Irina due to having to distract a lobby full of people and Karasuma due to breathing in a face full of poison gas that he doesn't recover from until the climax, meaning that it's more or less all up to the remaining students.
  • Attack on Titan: The Founding Titan's power can control the mindless Titans and most Eldians. It can easily resolve several problems the protagonists currently face within the story. Unfortunately, a) It requires the contact of royal blood and b) King Fritz has restrained the Founding Titan's power so much that none of his successors can utilize its full potential. It required the Yeager brothers to bypass Fritz's restriction but afterwards they began to fight amongst themselves.
  • Claire Stanfield of Baccano! isn't quite written out of the light novels, so much as Word of God has stated he'll never get his own story arc or book since he'd just solo the entire cast in under thirty pages.
  • Invoked in Black Clover when the Black Bulls attempt the Underwater Temple. The Water Priest excludes Yami from his challenges, and flat out tells him he's too powerful for this stage, and if he competes then the challenges won't be any fun. That said, it's subverted when the Eye of the Midnight Sun interrupts, elevates the threat level, and he's allowed to intervene.
    • Julius Novachrono, The Wizard King, is the good guys biggest gun far surpassing even the strenght of a Captain, like Yami, with the help of his time magic. So whenever the Clover Kingdom is facing a crisis you can bet he busy somewhere else so that Asta and company have to handle things.
  • Bleach has done this with Ichigo, who usually is undergoing training or otherwise distracted while Uryu, Orhime, and Chad fight minor characters.
    • An anime filler arc has the main villain freeing the spirits of the Zanpakuto to fight against the Shinigami. When Yamamoto's Ryuujin Jakka refused to rebel, the Big Bad seals Yamamoto in some sort of barrier, leaving him MIA thus far.Turns out, Yamamoto sealed himself in there in order to keep Muramasa from accessing his memories. Making this a subversion of sorts.
    • Small fry. Every single major event in the series relies upon single combat, usually involving Ichigo, however much/little sense this makes. The lengths the story goes to in order to justify things such as the three strongest Captains (including Yamamoto, naturally) all being out of play when the Big Bad first appears, or a group of only five people (out of the twenty or so at the right power level) going into Hueco Mundo are generally amusing, but eventually, the show stops even giving explanations (why, exactly, did Urahara's group wait so long to join the False Karrakura Town battle?) and calls it a day.
  • In Captain Tsubasa, According to Word of God, this is the reason Genzo "SGGK" Wakabayashi is Put on a Bus: Because he's one of the strongest goal keepers in the world and there is only a couple of players who can score a goal on him. So he was removed from half of the manga and went in Germany to train, leaving Yuzo Morizaki in his place.
  • Happens repeatedly during Coffin Princess Chaika. Because Fredrica, in her dragoon form, is capable of tearing apart any threat facing the heroes in five seconds flat, the plot has to invent reasons for her to be incapable of joining any fight the heroes find themselves in.
  • In Digimon Frontier, a new enemy called IceDevimon appears and "freezes" The Hero's and The Lancer's Transformation Trinkets, saying he'll save them for later. "Later" never comes, because while he's got a few flashy tricks for a Champion-stage Digimon the rest of the gang is able to defeat him within that episode instead of after a miniarc. It was the last time any of the supporting characters got to do anything for the rest of the series, and it occurred halfway through, after which the Spotlight-Stealing Squad of Kouji and Takuya literally took away the other's powers to fuel their super modes.
    • Seraphimon also appears within the first ten episodes, the earliest we've ever seen a Mega Digimon. He gets The Worf Effect so that he doesn't wrap up the plot easily.
    • It's done earlier in Digimon Adventure. Patamon is always the last to digivolve to new levels, so that the other Chosen have the chance to fight. When he first becomes Angemon, he one-shots Devimon, (though it requires a Heroic Sacrifice that prevents him from digivolving again until conveniently much later in the series), later Phantomon, and even holds off Piedmon briefly in melee combat. He doesn't get his ultimate stage until the first of the final three episodes, and THAT stage has virtually an instant-ko as an attack.
    • The following season has the previous chosen give up the power to digivolve beyond the Champion level, so that they don't Curb-Stomp Battle all enemies and outshine the new children.
  • This constantly happens to Doraemon, especially in the Darker and Edgier movies where the heroes often go on adventures and face off against serious villains. Doraemon is a Do-Anything Robot with thousands of futuristic gadgets in his Pocket of Holding that cover almost every conceivable power including Reality Warping, so the story usually has him knocked out, too panicked to find a useful gadget, separated from his pocket, or have the appropriate gadgets break down to stop him from resolving the main conflict in five minutes. Also helping with this trope is that despite having the tools to do tremendous damage, Doraemon was designed as a childcarer and not for combat, so he is non-violent by nature, often bringing out only the minimum firepower needed to deter or restrain enemies in self defense.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku, despite being the hero, often plays this role in later story arcs of Dragon Ball and all through Dragon Ball Z. Since he'll almost inevitably win the battle once he joins in and end the saga early, circumstances always conspire to keep Goku on the sidelines just long enough for all the other heroes to get beaten up first. When Vegeta and Nappa arrive on Earth, he's still in the afterlife and is only revived once all the others have been thoroughly defeated. When everyone goes to Namek, his spaceship's the last to arrive, and soon after landing, he's critically injured and spends several more episodes floating in a regenerative tank. When Doctor Gero begins his rampage, Goku's too busy fighting off a heart illness to help. And so on… It really says something when the person who is able to teleport still somehow manages to arrive late. In the timeline Future Trunks came from, Goku got permanently written out by contracting a heart virus that killed him. The Dragon Balls cannot reverse a natural death or one caused by disease. His absence led to the Bad Future. The only filler arc in Dragon Ball Z (The Garlic Jr. Saga) occurs while BOTH Goku and Vegeta are absent, giving Piccolo, Krillin and Gohan a chance to shine.
    • The entirety of the Buu saga is essentially Goku staying on the side-lines pushing for somebody else to take care of the threat this time. When they all fail, Goku steps up and takes care of it. Amusingly, unlike every other arc, Goku's strength at the start of the Buu arc is exactly the same as the end of arc, since at no point does he do any training, meaning it's entirely possibly he could've just solved the arc from the very start. Gotenks and Gohan also get hit with it towards the end of the saga; they are killed by Buu and left on Earth in order to setup Goku defeating Kid Buu by using the energy of the Earthlings, as by this point in time they had already surpassed/equaled Goku in power.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' both Goku and Vegeta were training off-world during Frieza's invasion. By the time they found out what was going on, the other Earth's fighters and Jaco finished stomping Frieza's army into the ground and were facing against the big guy himself. If they were there from the start, Goku by himself would have torn apart Frieza's army, leaving nothing for anyone else to do. In the dub, Krillin lampshades this by saying he wished for once Goku was there at the start of the battle. Buu's Written-In Absence is also a similar case. While he would have been no match for Frieza's golden form, he could have just turned the entire army into candy or conventionally killed them all just as easily. This is lampshaded in Akira Toriyama's original script, where Krillin notes Goku and Vegeta's absence while confronting Frieza but says they'll all be fine as long as Buu's there... only for him to suddenly notice that Buu is absent too.
    • In the Future Trunks Saga of Dragon Ball Super, Zamasu and Goku Black are only able to carry out their plans due to the death of the Gods of Destruction via their life-link to the Supreme Kais, as Zamasu and Goku Black proceeded to kill the enormously weaker Supreme Kais in order to get rid of the Gods of Destruction (who would have likely been the only beings capable of one-shot killing them, as seen when Beerus kills Present Zamasu).
    • In Dragon Ball Super, Beerus and Whis heavily surpass Goku and Vegeta in terms of power and they could end any threat in an instant. However, despite being the God of Destruction and it being his job to help keep balance in his universe, Beerus is a lazy ass who only uses his power to punish those who just piss him off and seeing as Whis is his trainer, he just stays out of everything. Thus, the two constantly stay out of fights and leave it to Goku and Vegeta.
    • By the end of Dragon Ball Z, Majin Buu has joined the heroes... but in both tournament arcs in Super (Universe 6 and Universe Survival) he is rendered unable to participate, because he'd be a complete Game-Breaker for Universe 7 if he did. Instead, they're forced to compete a man short the first time and revive Frieza for the second.
  • Makarov of Fairy Tail has his magic drained at the beginning of the Fairy Tail vs. Phantom conflict when distracted by hearing that they kidnapped Lucy, putting them at a severe disadvantage. Of course, once he gets back it he just takes down what's left of the enemy all at once.
    • Happens again when Laxus and his bodyguards try to take over the guild, and Makarov, Natsu, and Gajeel are prevented from doing anything because a a barrier is keeping them sealed in one area of the plaza.
    • This happens to Erza in both the Laxus story arc (turned into stone, until her magic eye makes the spell run out early) and the Oracion Seis arc (poisoned by Cobra and left disabled until the other members could rescue Wendy who could cure the poison).
    • This actually happens in nearly every major arc, with Erza being the primary target (which makes sense, because given Laxus' lazy/disinterested nature until being exiled and Mystogan and Gildarts' near constant absences she is essentially the strongest member of the guild who's available to help). Lets see here...
      • Phantom Lord Arc: Makarov as stated above, and Erza is KO'd after tanking a shot from the PL massive cannon so nobody else got hurt. Laxus refuses to help, And Gildarts is still off on his 100-year Mission while Mystogan is busy getting Makarov his magic back.
      • Tower of Heaven Arc: Erza is stuck inside a card (meant to protect her, ironically) until the battle with the Big Bad's Dragon Swordmistress and the Big Bad himself.
      • Fighting Festival, see above. Plus, during the Final Battle, Mystogan leads off and appears to have the upper hand, but gets his mask blown away revealing his identity as the Edolas Jellal, which means their faces are identical and he leaves to avoid causing a rupture with Erza and Natsu, THEN Erza leaves the building to lead the counterattack against the Thunder Palace before it wrecked the town, leaving Natsu and Gajeel to handle the arc's Big Bad.
      • Oracion Seis Arc: See above. Also, A resurrected Jellal is taken out of the action early against Midnight and later can only support Natsu by giving him the Flame of Rebuke, as the Midnight battle left him too drained to fight.
      • Edolas Arc: Practically the entire set of heavy hitters in the Guild is taken out of the way by being frozen as a lacrima crystal. However, this is a noticeable aversion for the series, because Erza is NOT among them this time, although much of her time is spent locked in combat with her Edolas counterpart.
      • Grimoire Heart Arc: Makarov is taken out early by Hades, and Gildarts, Fried and Bickslow all left the island before the attack begins. They do return later, however.
      • Juvia is also a frequent victim since unlike most of the guild she's actually friends with most of Natsu's team, and doesn't have her own team to hang with. Despite this she's rarely tagging along with Natsu's group, and when she is she's usually disabled by either stone/taking herself out to free another/frozen in Lacrima. This is because (much like the Logia users in One Piece) she can ignore most attacks by turning her body into water and reforming so most enemies can't hurt her. The two times she did assist them in battle she was brainwashed for most of the first fight until Lucy freed her so they could double team the villain, and the other was against an opponent who could negate her water shifting by causing her pain and damage regardless.
    • Speaking of Laxus, in what sadly appears to be a Redemption Equals Affliction scenario due to him having performed a Heel-Face Turn, at the beginning of the Tartarus arc he and the entire Thunder God Tribe are out of commission after the demon Tempesta pulls a Taking You with Me by releasing a deadly poison into the air with the intention of killing off the entire town of Hargeon, and Laxus himself makes a Heroic Sacrifice by inhaling as much of the poison as possible in a desperate bid to save the town's citizens. He survives, but just barely, and the poison still manages to kill over a hundred Hargeon inhabitants.
    • Natsu himself pretty much had this happen to him in the Alverez arc, because of how powerful he came when after spending a year solely training. While not only Fairy Tail, but the other guilds with them were fighting the Spriggan 12, Natsu and Happy went out on their own to try to take out Zeref early, which ultimately failed because it would have been a Mutual Kill. He then falls into a coma due to the demon seed being inside him, until the only ones left are Zeref and Acnologia.
  • In Fresh Pretty Cure!, you got Chiffon, a Tyke Bomb Mascot with powerful, undefined powers. While a lot of the anime is focused on the child and its destiny, both The Movie and the first Pretty Cure All Stars movie takes Chiffon out extremely early.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang's flame alchemy is broken enough that two of the homunculi who try to fight him are quickly roasted until they can't regenerate anymore. During the climax, he's forced through the Gate of Truth and gets his eyesight taken from him, leaving him unable to properly fight Father or Pride. Pride even points our how Mustang's powers were the most concerning to them after the fact.
  • A minor example in the "Little Army" prequel manga for Girls und Panzer. When Miho is hiding in a tank while burdened with doubts over whether to continue with tankery, just as Emi is set to leave for Germany, Sakuyo, one of the family maids, makes note of her habit of doing this whenever she's troubled, but then thinks to herself that it was always her sister Maho who convinced her to come out. The task of persuading Miho to come out falls to Sakuyo and Miho's friends, Chihiro and Emi.
  • In HeartCatch Pretty Cure!, there's Yuri Tsukikage, alias Cure Moonlight, who's taken out in the very first episode and left powerless for 3/4ths of the series. Once she regains her powers, you can clearly see why she was taken out.
    • There's also the mysterious man who saves Tsubomi from time to time whose actually her grandmother's fairy partner, Coupe. He just shows up to rescue the girls and bails out quickly.
  • Hellsing does this to Alucard, having him trapped on a boat whilst London is attacked. Which was The Major's plan all along.
  • Miroku of Inuyasha has a powerful attack called the Wind Tunnel, which can suck anything into a void. This is anything, so in his debut appearance when he is opposing the eponymous character, he issues a warning to villagers to put some distance from him, leading to his Defeat Means Friendship. In addition, if he sucks in anything poisonous, he gets poisoned, and Naraku has plenty of poisonous wasps to give as support. Also, overuse and even having the ability at all for too long will eventually lead to his death. You can almost sense that the author regrets giving Miroku such a powerful ability in the first place. After a certain point in the series, EVERY battle includes a token scene where Miroku tries to use Wind Tunnel only to have Naraku's poison bees show up out of nowhere, preventing him from using it. This has the ironic side-effect of making him the most powerful character on paper, but the most useless in practice.
  • Retsu from Jewelpet Kira☆Deco! can make quick work of virtually any enemy, plus, he's the only member of his team immune to Coal's depression-inducing clouds. To avoid having an episode's plot resolved too early, he's always gone away to train in some remote location, only showing up near the end of an episode.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Giorno ended Part 5 with the single most powerful Stand ability. Once Part 5 was over, he was immediately Put on a Bus and never seen again unlike the other JoJos, who at least got to make appearances in other parts if they managed to get out of their own stories alive.
    • Weather Report has one of the most powerful Stands in the series. As a result, after being injured by Jumpin’ Jack Flash, he spends the Maximum Security arc in the infirmary. He comes back, but only near the end in time to fight Pucci.
    • Part 4 has Jotaro, Koichi and Rohan constantly kept out of battles since their respective powers are able to trivialize most fights. Rohan in particular only ends up getting involved in fights against opponents that conviently have some sort of immunity to his stand.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen goes out of its way to portray Satoru Gojou as essentially invincible, even calling him so on occasion. He is not only literally untouchable in battle thanks to his abilities but also has great political power, single-handedly keeping the traditionalist higher-ups of Jujutsu society and the Three Great Clans in check. This leads to the villains sealing him away in a pocket dimension inside an artifact during the Shibuya Incident arc in order for them to even be able to put their plans in motion in the first place.
  • Fox Spirit Chizuru is Brought Down to Normal prior to a major battle in Kanokon, giving Ordinary High-School Student Kouta the chance to defeat The Dragon by himself. It's a bit of an unusual example, because normally they work together anyway to defeat their enemies, but Chizuru usually prompts their fusion and she's in control during it, and Kouta still needed her around so he could possess her (usually it's the other way around) during the fight, but he still does the work himself.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • StrikerS Sound Stage X revealed that all the insanely powerful series veterans were too busy with their own missions to help with the current incident, giving the Strikers and reformed Numbers Cyborgs a chance to really strut their stuff and save the day.
    • Previously in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Nanoha, Fate and Hayate, the three most powerful protagonists, attend a press conference where they are not allowed to carry their Intelligent Devices. Unfortunately, Scaglietti's Numbers and other allies attack during the conference, and by the time Nanoha, Fate and Hayate receive their devices, they're too late to make much of a difference.
    • Lately, some fans began suspecting that Signum suffering grievous injuries and a Near-Death Experience in the beginning of Force had a very simple and unsavory Doylist explanation: in the past two seasons (and especially in the supplementary manga), she has been effectively established as equal in power and fighting capacity to the eponymous heroine. So, to avoid the Ensemble Dark Horse from stealing the spotlight, the writer had no choice but to put her out of commission before she received a So Last Season upgrade that would have allowed her to actually fight new villains on equal ground.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, Page sets up Training from Hell for Roji and other magic law practitioners by locking them in a house and sending real haunts after them. Unfortunately, one particularly dangerous haunt, Bellocent of Mist Mountain, sneaks into the test and cuts the power, preventing Page and the other powerful magical law practitioners outside from opening the gates when they realize that the test has become far more dangerous than it should be, and they only get in after Roji has already won.
  • In My Hero Academia, Mirio Togata/Lemillion, a character who could potentially stand in the way of Deku becoming the #1 Hero (which we already know is going to happen), gets shot with a specially-made bullet that permanently removes his Quirk at the end of the same arc that introduces them. A subsequent arc implies that the person whose Quirk was used to craft the bullet may be able to restore Mirio's Quirk in the future, but this has yet to happen. In the meantime, this allows Deku to be the one to take down a powerful Arc Villain, a big step on the way to making a name for himself as a hero and incredibly valuable combat experience for him to catch up to Mirio's skill level.
  • Naruto:
    • In the second Naruto movie, Gaara develops a sudden case of never-there-on-time and thus is constantly busy being late while everyone else fights their last, easily squishable battles.
    • During the Sasuke Retrieval Arc, Shino, who has the best tracking abilities out of all the Konoha 12, is out on a mission with his father, preventing anyone from being able to find Sasuke after his narrow victory over Naruto.
    • It's also done in the main series as well. Team Guy was conveniently out of town when Pain invaded Konoha. Given that Might Guy is able to put Ten-tails jinchuuriki Madara Uchiha against the ropes very late in the story, he would've easily taken down the less powerful Pain.
    • Also, Pain's invasion occurred after Jiraiya's death, and Tsunade was in a coma. Either one of those two aiding Naruto during the fight would have drastically altered the fight's progression. Also, several of the more powerful Jonin were away on missions. Might Guy alone would've probably been able to take out a few of the Paths of Pain had he been present.
    • Possibly invoked when Sasuke announces his plans to take over the world. He's savvy enough to wait until after the resurrected Hokage are returned to the afterlife, so that they can't all team up and fight him. By that point, Kakashi has also lost the power of his Mangekyo Sharingan and the Six Paths Chakra, meaning that he and Sakura are helpless against Sasuke and only Naruto would be able to fight him as the final battle of the series.
  • Done occasionally in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. During the Mahora arc, Negi had to go off and find the Big Bad, leaving everyone else to take care of her army of robots. Later on, during the Gateport incident, Fate incapacitates Negi by impaling him with a chunk of rock, forcing his True Companions to fend for themselves until Negi recovers. Another possible example would be Konoka, who's an unstoppable force of healing with an inextinguishable pool of Mana, but rarely arrives to the battle till she's not needed, leaving her to handle clean-up instead.
    • Another example of this combined with Too Powerful to Live: Jack Rakan, who was essentially invincible, is ultimately defeated due to Fate's newly revealed Reality Warper abilities. Granted, there's a good plot reason for Fate to have that power, but it seems to have been revealed solely to have an excuse to take out Rakan.
    • A third example is Evangeline. A vampire and one of the strongest mages in the manga, she easily wipes the floor with Fate when the two encounter one another. However, due to the fact that she's stuck within Mahora Academy grounds, she can't help Negi and his friends when they need her. When she finally gets a chance to join the final battle, it's over very, very quickly.
  • Near the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Eva Unit 01 had become so powerful (thanks to a Mid Series Upgrade) that it was usually written out of the episodes in order to avoid ending the battles too quickly. In-Universe, this was justified by the NERV staff being unsure if they could still control Unit 01, meaning that they're only willing to deploy it in an extreme emergency.
    • The third Rebuild of Evangelion movie does this as well, since Unit 01 had essentially become a god at the end of the second film. The Eva is used to provide perpetual power for Misato's Cool Airship, the Wunder, and Shinji ends up piloting Eva Unit 13 instead.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Skypiea arc, Luffy spent most of his time inside of a giant snake. He broke out just when every other bad guy was defeated except for Eneru, the villain of the arc. It wasn't that he was overwhelmingly powerful at the time compared to his crewmates, just that due to his rubber body he was completely immune to most of what Eneru could do and was capable of taking him out pretty easily compared to other big bads. Super-Effective indeed.
    • This happens a lot to Luffy. While his True Companions are busy fighting the underlings of the Big Bad, he's usually trapped in a block of concrete or wandering secret passages looking for the Big Bad. A quick rundown: Stuck in a cage, running off in the wrong direction and later hit with a sleeping spell, defending a restaurant (actually a major event), trapped in said block of concrete and underwater, well-fed and sleeping, trapped under a mountain, Not Quite Dead and buried, eaten by a snake, it wasn't his turn yet, trapped between buildings (twice), on a different train, charging in alone, wandering secret passages, lost in a forest, on an adventure with the mermaid princess, trapped in a trash heap at the bottom of a hole, locked in another cage, lured into a colosseum and trapped, disabled by his Hour of Power running out, getting lost in the woods again, getting lost in a whirlpool before he can be rescued, imprisoned, knocked off the island, disabled by a different Hour of Power running out.
    • Red Haired Shanks, during Whitebeard's war on the World Government was busy battling another of the Four Emperors.
    • When Luffy's brother Ace was first introduced, he proved be an extremely powerful combatant, easily destroying a fleet of ships with a single attack and fighting a previous Logia antagonist to a standstill. Said Logia curbstomped Luffy during their first meeting, making him one of the strongest characters in the entire saga. While it's clear that he's much stronger than Luffy, especially with his Logia abilities, he doesn't bother getting involved in the whole Alabasta affair due to his focus on Blackbeard.
    • This happens to the entire crew in the last saga pre-Time Skip so that Luffy can go and try to save his older brother from his execution. Though, this instance was more for their safety than the plot tension's; the enemies Luffy encountered in these arcs were far above their usual weight-class (culminating in what was all likelihood the series' Final Boss Preview), and Luffy himself just barely survived with at least a half-dozen heavyweight allies watching his back.
  • This is the basic plot of nearly every arc of One-Punch Man, whether in its webcomic, manga, or anime form. The underlying premise of the series is that Saitama is so ludicrously powerful he can defeat any opponent with a single punch — which also makes him incredibly bored and apathetic, since nothing is a challenge. Thus, almost every arc involves all of the supporting cast struggling to hold off the latest threat to the existence of humanity until Saitama can be bothered or convinced to intervene, at which point the villain is rapidly defeated (and usually killed outright).
    • The officially licensed game turns this trope into a game mechanic; Saitama is, of course, Purposely Overpowered being able to KO all opponents with any attack and is completely immune to damage and hitstop (except in a Mirror Match of course). The catch though, you're forced to use nerfed versions of other members of the cast before Saitama becomes available to use, so it becomes Race Against the Clock to stall out your opponent until Saitama shows up, at which point the player is "rewarded" with a complete curb stomp in his favor.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, main character Red is frozen in a block of ice so that Yellow can take over in the second story arc.
  • In the Pokémon: The Series anime, an early writing philosophy confirmed by Word of God was that Ash could only own Pokémon that were powerful or competent, not both. This is why he routinely gets rid of particularly powerful species he got his hands on, such as Pidgeot (which only permanently rejoins Ash in his final episode as a protagonist), Primeape, or Lapras, and leaving others such as Muk, Tauros, and Snorlax with Professor Oak. The practice morphed into its current formula when Ash proceeded to retire his current team aside from Pikachu in order to reach Hoenn with a clean slate, and has been utilized in this manner ever since. However, Ash would occasionally bring old Pokémon back every now and then for select circumstances, such as a tournament or a situation that best suited bringing it back, though he phased this out after Sinnoh. Once Ash defeated Leon and became World Monarch, he was finally able to use his old Pokémon left at Professor Oak's lab again, keeping them in rotation.
    • In "The Punchy Pokémon", Ash enters a Fighting-type tournament with the Primeape he caught four episodes ago. It ends with Ash leaving Primeape with another trainer who had entered the tournament so that it can get stronger — never mind that as a Pokémon trainer, helping Pokémon get stronger is supposed to be Ash's job. The episode offers no explanation as to why Ash couldn't adequately train Primeape himselfnote .
    • Charizard, being a very iconic Pokémon, could not be easily written out, so per the initial guidelines of being powerful, but not competent, Ash could not reasonably control his disobedient, power-hungry Charizard for the last portion of his journey in Kanto (and it sleeping on the battlefield in the Indigo League even got Ash eliminated from the tournament). He only finally regained the draconic Pokémon's loyalty late into the Orange Islands saga, and following its loss to Drake's Dragonite in the Orange League, proceeded to make Ash's traveling through Johto much easier (aside from Falkner having a tough Pidgeot solely to make the first gym leader battle fair). Once the Johto starters were finally being introduced and starting to replace mons on Ash's team, "Charizard's Burning Ambitions" has Misty and Brock remark that Charizard has been making it too easy for Ash to win battles, and at the end of the episode, Ash leaves Charizard at the Charicific Valley to train with even stronger individuals of its species. This didn't stop it from making several return appearances alongside other benched species (with its involvement in getting Ash his final gym badge in Johto and appearances in the Johto League and Battle Frontier), even being the only one of these to rejoin Ash in a movie. The process behind Ash using it again was simplified to having it move to Oak's lab, allowing it to rejoin his team for the remainder of his journey through Unova, only for it to continue sitting out alongside other retired Pokémon until Ash defeated Leon and began using all his old mons again in a regular capacity.
    • Goodra had a rather short time on Ash's team for this reason; though before it parted from Ash at its wetland home, it got to have a sizable role in the Gym battle versus Clemont. It returns for the Kalos League and the confrontation with Team Flare before leaving again. And come the end of the XYZ series, Ash-Greninja gets hit with it too, having to stay in the Kalos region to help Squishy and Z2 wipe out the remnants of the disaster caused by Team Flare.
    • Ash's victory in the Alola League, and the rewarded exhibition match against Professor Kukui (plus Tapu Koko) pulled a unique take on his Bag of Spilling: while his Ultra Beast, Naganadel, returned to Ultra Space, Ash chose to leave his remaining Alolan Pokémon, which consisted of Rowlet, Lycanroc, Incineroar, and his first ever Mythical Pokémon, Melmetal, behind in Alola rather than take them back to Kanto as he did his other Pokémon, feeling they would be homesick if he did take them to Kanto. These Pokémon also enter Ash's rotation of all his currently owned species upon his victory over Leon.
    • During the end of the Sword and Shield arc in the Journeys series, Goh catches Eternatus in order to stop the Darkest Day. As it is such a strong Pokémon, he then seals away the Poké Ball to ensure not only that this trope is in effect for him, but for anyone else too. It later returns for Ash's final battle with Leon, but to keep things balanced, both trainers receive its powerup.
    • Goh does this again when he catches yet another Legendary, Suicune. He tries to release it, but its loyalty never broke and it still considers him its Trainer, meaning the only way the trope is in effect is that it roams the whole world rather than being confined at Cerise Laboratory like his other Pokémon.
  • This is the main reason why in Queen's Blade Rebellion Leina, the main heroine, is sidelined for almost the entire story: By the time Rebellion came out, Leina becomes the most powerful living being (only behind the angels and demons) ever existed, being able to wipe out armies by herself. The only way to make Leina not taking part of the plot of Rebellion is by making The Swamp Witch cursing her by making her sleep for many hours and hindering her skills, so Leina could not being able to steal the spotlight from Annelotte and the rest of the new cast.
  • Rave Master's Elie could have easily used her magic to wipe Demon Card off the map, blow Lucia into the next century (maybe even literally given how she blew herself half a century forward) and cream Doryu and Ogre, which would have kept Hardner from ever attempting his fusion gambit. Naturally, she had to go and get amnesia so she wouldn't know how to do all this.
  • The author of Rurouni Kenshin specifically stated that Sejuro Hiko, Kenshin's master was so powerful that he was an unfair advantage for the heroes. His sidelining is mostly due to the character's own disinterest in the heroes' struggles, so he only comes in to help rarely, rather than being plot-deviced out. He's just not that heroic.
  • Saint Seiya: It happens all the time with Ikki. The Phoenix has the "Strength of an army" but is always elsewhere. Mildly applied to Shiryu as well, but...well, he's not as strong.
  • In Slayers, the ridiculously powerful Xellos always seems to disappear at the most inconvenient times...or, even worse, is deliberately unhelpful. This is initially justified by his apparently flighty and unreliable personality, and later even more justified by the revelation that he is actually a very loyal and reliable the other side. Likewise he can only be as helpful as he wishes as long as he doesn't arouse suspicion.
  • Transformers: Super-God Masterforce put Ginrai in hospital for an episode to show that other Autobots were in fact capable of handling the Decepticons.
  • Happens in the second episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!. It seems the author realized that having Yugi beat Kaiba at the end of the first card game arc (pilot episode in the anime) by using Exodia, the only invincible, instant win monster in the entire game, was a problem now that the entire series became about this card game. After all, every conflict would become a preordained conclusion; if Yugi's about to lose he will draw Exodia and get the instant win. So immediately after that (the second damn episode in the anime) they get thrown off a boat by a minor character and never brought up again.
    • They actually do in the alternate form of Exodia Necross and the Rare Hunter who builds an illegal deck around drawing Exodia, and said minor character (Insector Haga/Weevil) is Yugi's first Duelist Kingdom opponent.
    • This also applies in the series whenever Yugi is deprived of having Yami Yugi's persona available to work with him and must go against an opponent all on his own, such as playing Dungeon-Dice Monsters against Duke Devlin/Ryuji Otogi (or a duel against a possessed Bandit Keith in the anime) and his duel with Yami Bakura in the Memory World story. With Yami Yugi's skill, he'd likely be able to figure out a trick to defeat his opponents without too much hassle, while having regular Yugi doing it by himself not only makes it easier to increase the drama but also allows him to grow on his own without having Yami Yugi to fall back on.
    • In the first episode of the Doma arc, the villains steal the Egyptian God Cards from Yugi so that their power can be used to fuel the summoning of their evil god. Yugi only gets them back at the end of the arc, where the combined might of all three manages to defeat the Orichalcos God when everything else had failed.

    Comic Books 
  • Avengers Arena: The series had a lot of this. In particular Mettle, Juston, and Darkhawk are incapacitated or killed within the first three issues. This is pretty much the only way the plot could function; all of them (especially Darkhawk) are powerful or skilled enough that if they actually took part in Arcade's "game" they could just effortlessly charge up to Arcade and smash him to paste and derail his whole plan.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men: Rachel Summers is absent because, as the only Phoenix Force host still alive with actual experience, her presence could have easily prevented the event from getting as bad as it did.
  • Civil War: The series counts as this for virtually every Marvel superhero, when we learn that whilst the many heroes of Earth were bickering over legislation, the rest of the Galaxy was falling into several apocalyptic wars. The cosmic heroes get pretty annoyed at the real reason the normally-reliable Earth heroes didn't help out.
  • ''The DCU: So there were American superheroes in the 1940s, right? But having superheroes involved in World War II would be a Game-Breaker that would disrupt the idea of the DC universe's similarity to the real world. So the Justice Society and their fellow patriotic heroes took a major Deus Exit Machina during World War II. The later retconned explanation is Hitler using The Spear of Destiny to mind-control any superhero who got too close to Europe, and Hideki Tojo using the Holy Grail to do the same thing with Japan; an Elseworlds tale instead had the heroes at the mercy of a Power Nullifier named Parsifal.
  • The Defenders: During the early issues, the writers had trouble coming up with halfway decent reasons why Doctor Strange couldn't just wave his hand and eliminate the problem in one page. Strange also took himself out of the story for forty days during Civil War, claiming it wasn't a matter for the office of Sorcerer Supreme. He later regretted his inaction.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • The team are usually in space or another dimension while The Avengers are on a mission. They really should coordinate this.
    • One FF issue has Johnny Storm explaining why he wasn't in the 1978 Saturday morning cartoon reboot of the team. He was out of the country when the contracts were being signed.
    • Franklin Richards' powers make him one of the most powerful beings in existence... or would, if there wasn't always something holding him back. The various powersets he's had, and will have according to various future stories, are just what little of his omnipotence slips through the Power Limiters. Finally, they had him burn out his powers restoring Galactus (who actually keeps something at bay that's worse than him) and become a normal human. For a while, Time Travel had brought Franklin to adulthood. Naturally, this was conveniently reversed right before the Onslaught Crisis Crossover started, reverting him to childhood so that he could be a power source to Onslaught instead of a threat.
  • Green Lantern: The Blue Lanterns triple the power of a Green Lantern whenever they are nearby, so thanks to the writers, they are never available.
  • The Incredible Hulk: One hero absent from Civil War was The Hulk. The writers knew well that whichever team had a powerhouse like him in their ranks would pretty much decide the war, and thus they chose to get rid of him for the time being. After taking some advice from Maria Hill, The Illuminati decided that The Hulk was too dangerous to be controlled and that he needed to be dealt with accordingly. They put him as an unconscious Bruce inside a spaceship that was meant to send him to a peaceful planet where he would be happy, but instead sent him to Sakaar, a violent planet ruled by a tyrant with an iron fist and a penchant for gladiatorial games. The fans were quick to note that once The Hulk would return, the Illuminati would be very sorry for what they did. And they WERE...for a while, at least.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us: In the prequel comic, Captain Atom and Martian Manhunter are members of La Résistance led by Batman against Superman's Regime and they are among the few superheroes capable of taking him on equal ground. They don't make out alive of Year One, rendering the Insurgency struggle even more difficult since they are reduced to badass normals and street-level superheroes.
  • Johan and Peewit: In the adventure "La Guerre des sept fontaines" the entire motivation of the heroes is to liberate a ghost who has been forced by his forefathers to haunt his old castle every single night until some specific requirements has been met. At one point, the characters actually need his help, but it turns out that the forefathers has unfortunately decided to give him a few nights of respite from his haunting right then.
  • The Mighty Thor: Odin, King of Asgard, is stated at times to be as powerful as all of the thousands or more of other gods in Asgard — including Thor — combined. At his lowest, he is casually manhandling Thor and at his peak, he is remaking galaxies. So of course whenever Asgard is threatened Odin is conveniently in the Odinsleep replenishing his powers, weakened, or missing. The few times he does fight are when it is against a threat that can match him in power...making the rest of Asgard virtually useless. A good example of this is in The Infinity Gauntlet, where Odin gathers gods from other faiths and they all agree that Thanos must be stopped. But, just as they march out to save the day, a massive galaxy-wide quake shatters the Rainbow Bridge, trapping Odin and the other gods on Asgard.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): In the first arc Princess Celestia is unavailable because she is preparing for the comet because if she weren’t the plot would be resolved in five minutes.
  • DC: The New Frontier: The series gets Superman (and Wonder Woman) out of the way with a handy application of The Worf Effect instead... but this trope is played straight for the magic-themed heroes (the Spectre, Dr. Fate, Zatanna, Captain Marvel, and the Phantom Stranger); the latter three deliberately convince the former two to stay out of the battle with the Centre to "help humanity grow" or somesuch.
  • The Sentry: This is practically the raison d'etre for The Sentry. He's a throwback to heroes (well, okay, mostly just Superman) from the Silver Age, with all that entails; he has "the power of a million exploding suns" and is recognized as pretty much hands-down the strongest super in the world. And he could handle pretty much any threat that emerged with one hand tied behind his back... if it weren't for the agoraphobia and super-evil split personality that incapacitates him whenever he'd be most useful.
  • The Spectre: Being the actual embodiment of God's wrath, the Spectre is generally an unstoppable force that could solve nearly any crisis with a thought. Thus, whenever a Crisis Crossover pops up, he tends to be insane, powerless, possessed by the current threat, or just plain not around.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Man has noted that 99 times out of 100, when he goes to ask another hero for help, they will never be there. Doctor Strange's servant, Wong, replied that this was true, but so far, Spidey was good enough to not really need that help.
    • Superior Spider Man has this in spades as Doc Ock knows that one smart person or a powerful telepath is enough to blow his cover.
  • Super Dinosaur: Tricerachops is laid up and The Exile is preoccupied during Maximus' Project X.
  • Superman:
    • This is the reason why minor criminals in Silver Age comics would often have Kryptonite.
    • In the JLA (1997) story arc "The Tenth Circle", Superman is brainwashed in the very first issue, and stays that way pretty much throughout the arc.
    • There was a Superman story published during World War II in which Superman told thousands of cheering GIs: "You fellows don't need my help!" This was of course to explain why Superman didn't end the war in five seconds. And of course, during the Golden Age, Superman's powers were much weaker than they were later on: it's possible that he wasn't even able to fly across the Atlantic.
    • In the early days of the comic, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster actually did do a three-page story called "What If Superman Ended the War?" He flies to Germany, grabs Hitler, then flies to Russia, grabs Stalin, ("Joe, meet Adolph!"), and then, with one tyrant in each hand, flies them both to a war crimes tribunal.
    • In Final Crisis, the Legion of 3 Worlds subplot to stop Superboy-Prime kept Superman from interfering with most of the Crisis until it's too late to save Batman's life.
    • In the 1960s, when Adventure Comics featured the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Legion had several one-off encounters with some guest character (often a stranger applying for Legion membership) who harbored a secret, and who often turned out to be (in disguise) someone whom the Legion already knew. In each of these stories, Saturn Girl was conveniently called away on some separate emergency and wasn't able to participate in the main adventure. Saturn Girl is a telepath: if she had been available to read the stranger's mind, the story would've ended on the first page.
    • Saturn Girl once asked the Legion to admit the masked Sensor Girl solely on her recommendation. Sensor Girl had shared her identity Princess Projectra with Saturn Girl, who agreed to keep her secret.
    • Likewise with its roster of multiple Superman-style Kryptonian powerhouses, especially during the Silver Age. There were very few problems that couldn't believably be solved by Superboy, Supergirl and Mon-El punching it in the face, and they were usually written off on some mission of vague but vital importance to keep things manageable.
    • "The Death of Lightning Lad": Saturn Girl has to abruptly leave the Clubhouse to deal with a sudden emergency on her own, right in the middle of an audition; hence, she is not around to tell their teammates that applicant "Lemon" is Mon-El in disguise, playing a prank on them.
    • "The Unknown Legionnaire": Subverted. As usual, the story starts by finding vague excuses to write off all Kryptonian-level characters minus Superboy (Supergirl cannot take part in the mission because she must return to her own time NOW -and nobody points out she is that not in a hurry because she is a time-traveller-, Mon-El is away on a never-revealed mission, and Ultra Boy is away on space for some unspecified reason). Later, when the mysterious Unknwon Boy shows up, Saturn Girl's telepathy cannot read their mind to discover their identity because it is a blank slate. However, Mon-El eventually shows up, and it is revealed that their unknown ally is an amnesiac Supergirl.
    • Underworld Unleashed: Neron seeks to obtain the purest of souls and immediately everyone assumes Superman. However, he's not there and many people think Superman was captured by Neron already. This wasn't the case: he was captured by off-world aliens and dragged through The Trial of Superman storyline, taking Superboy, Supergirl and Steel with him.
  • Suske en Wiske: This frequently happens to Jerom because his superhuman strength would otherwise make the situations the characters encounter less of a challenge.
  • Transformers: Just about all comic book universes have done this with Optimus Prime at least once. Often the autobots will splinter into groups without their leader. If Megatron is also missing because Prime performed a Heroic Sacrifice and sent them both to another dimension, the Decepticons will be just as lost.
  • Watchmen: Partway through, Ozymandias gives a bunch of people cancer and tricks nigh-omnipotent Dr. Manhattan into thinking he caused it, prompting him to take a vacation on Mars. Doc comes back for the finale, but doesn't arrive until after the villain's plan has been carried out.
  • X-Men:
    • Professor Xavier tends to suffer this fate as, at his full potential, he should be able to just sense and mindwipe any sentient problem that's heading the X-Men's way. Hence, most major threats in the X-Men comic books will begin with Xavier either disappearing, losing his powers, falling into a coma, turning evil, or otherwise being rendered useless for the rest of the story. In the movie trilogy, Xavier spends at least half of each film out of commission, so the other characters will have to fight the battle. You might as well call having this power the Charles Xavier Superpower.
    • The X-Men answer to The Sentry is one Nate Grey. The alternate version of Cable, without the techno-organic infection it takes the constant occupation of the bulk of Cable's powers to repel, is a very powerful telekinetic and telepath. He underwent Power Creep, Power Seep, and returned after an absence even stronger, so for a while was as strong as Jean in full Phoenix mode, all the time, without any of the drawbacks. For a while he had burned out his powers opening a dimensional portal and was down to basic telekinesis, only to later come back partially insane with his powers at Reality Warper levels. He handily bests the entire X-Men roster, only getting defeated in the end by being persuaded to remain in an alternate reality he had created to reflect his ideal world.
    • Happened to the original Cable, too. He got rid of the technovirus, levitated an entire island while battling the Silver Surfer at the same time, burned himself out doing so, and was left with limited powers. Now the technovirus is Not Quite Dead and even those powers are reduced by the need to once again play Sealed Evil in a Duel.
  • Zatanna: Zatanna is one of the most powerful sorceresses in the DC universe who can alter reality with her voice. She also, however, has one of the most obvious and exploitable weaknesses in comics. She is useless in combat if she cannot chant her spells aloud. When her enemies place a gag over her mouth, as they always do, Zatanna is reduced to the damsel in distress.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Mirio inherits One For All from All Might as Sir Nighteye wanted and is sent away to train with his new Quirk. As a result, he's not present for Nighteye's raid on Mysterio's warehouse. The operation is soon complicated by the sheer firepower the Enforcers are packing without Mirio to even the odds.
  • In the Better Bones AU, Fallenleaf (aka Hollyleaf) leaves before the rewritten version of The Broken Code to figure out how the gods' powers work because if she had stayed, she would figure out that Bramblestar was possessed too quickly and her godlike powers would help solve the conflict too easily, drastically altering the plot.
  • In Boys Do Tankary, the boys in their new tank could have easily defeated St. Gloriana, but choose to hold back in order to test Miho and the others' abilities, and ensure that they don't end up relying on them.
  • In Boys und Sensha-do!, as a result of an accident, Miho, the main character is no longer able to serve as team commander at Oarai, forcing Momo, who is her vice captain, in spite of her impulsiveness and short temper, to do it instead.
  • The Bridge:
    • To prevent Discord from interfering with the plot too much, the fic is set during Season 4, where the only being he cares about is Fluttershy and he's mostly apathetic to the exploits and struggles of the others.
    • Harmony would likely be able to end all the conflicts easily, but she cannot leave her realm for long periods of time, though she can communicate with others and influence the outside world in minor ways. Later, Bagan damages the Elements of Harmony, preventing her from influencing or communicating with the outside world at all until the Elements repair themselves.
  • Eiga Sentai Scanranger, like most Sentai examples, keeps its Sixth Ranger separate from the rest of the team but didn't seem to think of coming up with an explanation for where he'd been until the other rangers got in trouble. He's best friends with the rest of the team and takes his orders from the same person, but for some reason he sometimes never shows up for a fight or only in the middle of one when the other Scanrangers need somebody to save them.
  • Yukari Yakumo in Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness. Megas's unexpected teleportation into Gensokyo completely blindsides her, and even after she wakes up she rationalizes the situation to herself before falling asleep again.note 
  • Gray Ghost in Manehattan's Lone Guardian comes down with a cold due to stress and a lack of sleep at one point, putting her out of action and forcing Leviathan to face four of Cocoa Mocha's agents alone.
  • In Marionettes, Fluttershy mentions she tried asking Discord for help with the current situation, but found he had just traveled to another dimension to go fishing with the Smooze. He eventually shows up to help Starlight Glimmer track down and deal with Mindwipe.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku is Kryptonian and gifted with the standard Flying Brick superpowers. When the League of Villains attacks USJ, his sheer Super-Speed would have made it trivial for him to return to U.A. to call in The Cavalry. Unfortunately, Kurogiri sees this coming and warps Izuku into the middle of an anti-gravity zone. Here he's trapped, as his body hasn't acclimated to generating propulsion outside of Earth's gravity, leaving him stuck on the sidelines while his teachers and friends fight off the rest of the League.
  • The Nuptialverse uses Twilight's trip to the human world from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls as an excuse to get her out of the way of the action in Direction, with the bulk of the story being about the rest of the Mane Six having to deal with the issues that arise while she's gone.
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, Midori gets pre-emptively taken out of action by a Stupidity-Inducing Attack, as Bachiko and Meiko, learning that they've been exposed, decide to change tactics and eliminate the Himes.
  • A political variant in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse. While Princess Luna theoretically holds near-total sovereignty over the Court of the Night, in practice she is too terrified of falling into the same madness that took her sister to actually reign in the Court's corruption until it gets so bad she just has to start over from scratch.
  • The Rise of Darth Vulcan: It turns out the power of Darth Vulcan's Alicorn Amulet is perfectly inimical to Discord's magic, so Discord cannot interfere with Vulcan in any way without possibly annihilating himself and everything around him. He decides to hide in a Pocket Dimension for the time being.
  • Truth and Consequences: Since the story is centered around Ladybug making a Face–Heel Turn, Master Fu, being the only one who knows Ladybug's identity (the Kwami's know, but are under a Geas to keep it to themselves) and thus capable of defusing the situation, suffers a heart failure and falls into a coma early on. By the time he wakes up Marinette's identity has already been discovered by the heroes, and events have long, long escalated past the point where that would fix anything anyway.
  • Word of God is that this is why Discord abandons the Equestrian dimension at the end of What's Done in the Dark....

    Films — Animation 
  • In Justice League: The New Frontier, Superman is struck down by the big alien monster and everyone thinks he's dead — so that the rest of the Justice Leaguers and the U.S. government have to put aside their differences to beat the thing without him. Aquaman shows up to bring Big Blue back home once the threat is gone.
  • Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda, who had previously defeated Tai Lung, ascends to a higher plane of existence to keep him from doing so again. The in-universe explanation is that he needed Shifu to take over and help Po become the Dragon Warrior, which he wouldn't have done if he kept relying on Oogway. It also strongly implies that it is simply Oogway's time to die, having lived for over a thousand years.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, Princess Twilight Sparkle doesn't respond to Sunset Shimmer's messages asking for advice and help, forcing her and her friends to solve the problem themselves. At the very end of the movie, Twilight shows up and apologizes, since she was busy dealing with the crisis Starlight Glimmer created in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Cutie Re-Mark", which happens at the same time as the movie.
  • Patlabor: The Movie: Like the rest of the Patlabor franchise, the film focuses on the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits that is Special Vehicles Division 2, rather than Captain Shinobu Nagumo's more by-the-book Division 1. SV1 would have been a major asset at the climax, so they're written out of the action early by establishing that the unit is in the process of upgrading from their converted construction Labors to the purpose-built Type Zero, which is discovered to have been infected with the same Computer Virus sabotage as the civilian Labors that keep going berserk and therefore is not deployable.
  • The dragon in the Shrek sequels. She's off-screen except for a credits scene in the sequel (due to being pregnant, it turns out), and in the third installment, the first thing the villain's group does is throw a net over her, taking her out of the equation for some time. In the fourth movie, she's back to being an enemy because of the alternate timeline.
  • Toy Story: Since Buzz at his most competent would make things a lot easier for the main cast, he tends to get sidelined or pushed out of the way.
    • In Toy Story, he doesn't wise up until the end of the film after coming to terms with being a toy, and by then he's the one that needs saving from Sid.
    • In Toy Story 2, he gets imprisoned at Al's Toy Barn by Utility Belt Buzz, who takes command of the other toys, causing a major chaotic disruption to the plan with his counterpart barely fumbling through the mission.
    • In Toy Story 3, after proving he has the intellect to potentially engineer the group's escape from Sunnyside, he gets brainwashed by Lotso into his loyal enforcer who keeps watch over the imprisoned group. He doesn't quite get better until they arrive at the dump, a point at which every toy is in mortal peril.
    • In Toy Story 4, this is taken to an extreme when he's Demoted to Comic Relief and has also Taken a Level in Dumbass, meaning he can contribute even less the entire film.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Blood on Satan's Claw — the Judge, the only authority in town, leaves for London to investigate matters of witchcraft further. While he's gone, this allows the village children to form a cult and get really out of control. The Judge's return in the third act of course sets things up to stop the cult.
  • Done very nicely in Deliverance, where the macho outdoorsman Lewis suffers a gruesome leg fracture, forcing the more relatable character Ed into the hero role for the climax.
  • The Devil Rides Out — Richleau has to be absent from Marie's house to restock on supplies to fight Mocata when he inevitably tries to come for Simon and Tanith. While he's gone, Mocata does indeed show up at the house and nearly kidnaps the latter two — only being stopped through sheer luck. Had Richleau been there, Mocata probably would have been stopped completely at the half-hour mark.
  • In Dogma, God is unavailable, since he went to play ski ball and was incapacitated while doing so. While this is going on, two angels banned from Heaven find a loophole that allows them to return to Heaven. Doing so would be against God's word and would destroy the universe. So, Deus Exit Machina (or Have You Seen My God?) drives the movie.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Shortly after obtaining the helmet, Xenk leaves the party, as he is far more competent, valorous, and strong than the rest of the party and would probably cut about 30 minutes off the movie had he stayed around and helped. Simon even lampshades how much better an adventurer he is than the rest of them.
  • Superman is dead when Justice League begins, and initially has none of his memories when resurrected. This ensures that he remains out of the fight entirely and Steppenwolf is able to get close to completing his plans until Superman returns at the last second to save the day.
  • This happens several times in The Karate Kid Part II and The Karate Kid Part III. Mr. Miyagi is able to easily defeat any adversary, so of course for Daniel to have fights of his own, Mr. Miyagi must be away or kept out of the fight for some reason. Most notably is probably the final confrontation in the second movie when the main antagonist drops the bridge into the water, leaving him isolated with Daniel and Kumiko while Mr. Miyagi is only able to watch the Fight To The Death that ensues.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor has Odin, who goes to sleep for most of the movie, something he periodically has to do to rejuvenate his powers and has been putting off for too long.
    • The Avengers:
      • Thanks to the destruction of the bifrost, Odin can't come to Earth to clean up after Loki, only having enough dark energy to send Thor.
      • The Hulk is dropped out of the helicarrier before the final battle, so the others can try to fight the alien army without the unstoppable Hulk until he shows up.
    • After The Avengers, many fans have wondered how the Marvel Cinematic Universe will explain why the heroes' teammates did not show up in their solo movies to help. So far, we have these reasons:
      • In Iron Man 3, Tony spends a good deal of time in hiding with many people believing he was dead. Meanwhile, he was tracking down terrorists who had also been hiding so if anyone was coming to look for him, he would be impossible to find. Additionally, War Machine spends much of the time on missions in the Middle East or has his armor stolen, so he couldn't help much, either.
      • Thor: The Dark World, as the name implies, has Thor traveling to the world of the dark elves, so he is not even on Earth.
      • From all indications, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has both Captain America and Black Widow on a secret mission against SHIELD double agents, so secrecy is also a top priority, much like in the Iron Man example.
      • The Incredible Hulk obviously would not be helping out since he spends his time either as a normal scientist or a mindless monster who may cause more harm than good, so it's best for all involved if he lays low.
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Star-Lord's plan to save Xandar from Ronan includes Yondu accompanying the Guardians aboard Ronan's ship, the Dark Aster. During the dogfight against the Kree, Yondu is shot down, telling Quill that he's on his own. The audience is shown exactly why Yondu was taken out of the fight, when he singlehandedly kills a squadron of Sakaarans with only his Yaka Arrow.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor temporarily leaves the Avengers for part of the movie to resolve an issue that only he can deal with. He returns to the fray before the climax of the film.
    • Ant-Man lampshades this by having Scott, having just been told by Hank the gravity of the situation they're in, responding by saying the first thing they should do is call in the Avengers. Hank replies that he won't because of his distrust of the Stark family.
    • Captain America: Civil War features neither Thor nor Hulk, since Thor left at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron to investigate matters regarding the Infinity Stones and the Hulk is later established by Thor: Ragnarok to have been marooned on Sakaar. In-story it is odd that the two most-powerful, least-accountable heroes get only one brief mention apiece in a story which revolves around a political debate regarding overpowered, unaccountable heroes. Out-of-story, it is of course intentional given that either would seriously upset the balance of power if present. Besides, it is unlikely that Thor would want to be involved in Earthly politics and the Hulk is already on bad terms with the US government.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ends with Yondu sacrificing himself. His moments of action in both this film and the previous entry would have made him unfathomably useful against Thanos.
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming: Iron Man ALONE could have probably taken out the Vulture's entire operation. Instead, he shuns doing so, not thinking Vulture is a big enough threat for him or the Avengers. During the climax, when the Vulture tries to rob Stark's plane, Peter gets Ned to call Happy in order to warn him. But because Peter had been texting and calling Happy ad nauseum for two months, Happy immediately gets annoyed and hangs up before Ned can get a word in.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, during the Battle of Wakanda, Scarlet Witch is holed up with Vision in Shuri's lab. When she finally decides enough is enough and joins the fray, she easily takes out multiple threshers and many Outriders.
      • Hulk is sulking for most of the movie due to his fear of Thanos and anger at Banner. As a result, Banner cannot transform and has to borrow Stark's armor instead. Fortunately, said armor is actually the Hulkbuster armor, designed to be Hulk's equal in combat, which enables Banner to simulate Hulk's strength for the battle.
      • In the climax, Vision senses that Thanos is about to arrive and Cap radios every hero to converge on his position. They do...except for Thor, the only one who actually stands a chance against Thanos one-on-one. As Thor nearly kills Thanos *after* he gets all six Infinity Stones, if he'd gotten there sooner he might have ended it all then and there. The reasoning behind this was probably that Thor, having still been in space for the first half of the battle, likely didn't have an earpiece to hear Cap.
    • Avengers: Endgame:
      • Captain Marvel is subjected to this. After the five year timeskip following the Avengers' defeat of a retired Thanos, she spends most of the plot off-planet helping other planets, only returning in time for the final battle with a Thanos from an earlier point in the timeline, where she destroys his giant spaceship, and tries to directly aid Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America when they fight Thanos. She then is hit with The Worf Effect when Thanos pulls the Power Stone out of his Infinity Gauntlet to blast her away from the fight, leaving the other three heroes to deal with him and ensuring Iron Man has to perform his Heroic Sacrifice.
      • Ant-Man as well. He makes an impressive debut with his giant form, punching a leviathan out of the sky and killing Cull Obsidian just by stepping on him. Almost immediately afterward, he's sent to repair the time machine, taking him out of the battle for most of the climax.
      • Similarly to Ant-Man, Dr. Strange spends most of the climactic battle using his powers to hold back a wall of water, which keeps him from directly engaging Thanos' forces.
      • In a non-combat version, most of the MCU's best scientists and engineers, including Shuri, Hank Pym and Selvig are killed in the Snap. This leaves Tony Stark as the only remaining person to invent Time Travel. Had anyone of the other characters have been left, the Avengers would have gone to them and Tony would have remained retired.
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home
      • This time, Nick Fury. Given how paranoid he has been established to be, he would've quickly found out Mysterio to be a fraud, found his real identity, and stymied, maybe even outright stopped his plans long before Peter was involved. As such, the real Fury is out in space working with the Skrulls, while the Fury on Earth who's with Peter and Mysterio is Talos, called upon take Fury's place while he's gone. A combination of Mysterio's false backstory possibly striking a chord with Talos' own backstory and Talos himself only being minimally good at being Nick Fury unintentionally gives Mysterio the leeway to cause so much damage in both the short and long runs.
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home sees Doctor Strange get trapped in the Mirror Dimension midway through the film, leaving only Spider-Man and his alternate selves to stop the alternate universe villains. He later returns for the climax, only to be occupied with holding back the multiversal spell as Green Goblin unleashes it.
  • The Matrix franchise usually need to keep Neo away from the action after becoming the godlike One to maintain enough tension. In The Matrix Reloaded, a backdoor traps Neo hundreds of miles away while Trinity and Morpheus fight the Nigh-Invulnerable Twins, then Agents for the duration of the long highway scene (until Neo can arrive to extract them.) In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo ends up trapped in a train station for most of the beginning.
  • A few films in the Mission: Impossible Film Series see Ethan Hunt cut off from the IMF in varying ways, usually through him being framed for an attack or the IMF being disabled, so he's often running from his own organization or other spy agencies while trying to defeat the main villain.
  • In Sky High, Will Stronghold is forced to handle the Big Bad when his parents, expert super-heroes and saviors of the world, are turned into babies by Royal Pain.
  • Supergirl (1984): A radio news report mentions Superman's departure from Earth on an intergalactic peacekeeping mission, which explains why he isn't around to handle Serena.
  • In true Transformers spirit, Optimus Prime is killed in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen. Things look pretty grim for the autobots, until Prime is brought back to life.
    • In Dark of the Moon Prime is inexplicably elsewhere when all the other Autobots are trying to guard Sentinel from the Cons. So when Sentinel suddenly turns on them, nobody around is capable of stopping him as he rampages through the base. By the time Optimus finally gets there the base is destroyed and Sentinel is long gone taking his space bridge tech with him.
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley has a moment where the Black & Tans attack a defenceless farmhouse and terrorise the women inside. The protagonists witness the attack but they don't have enough ammo to confront the mercenaries — so they have to sit in hiding and watch as the house is burned down.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • In the original trilogy, Professor Xavier is conveniently done away with before he can just use his telepathy to shut down the mind of the Big Bad (which he is more willing to do, unlike his comic book counterpart). Each film tosses him out earlier than the previous one; the 3rd film kills him off outright until he gets better after the end credits and in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he simply isn't present to have any impact on the main plot until the end when he guides the mutant escapees to safety with no explanation for why he's just showing up at that point. X-Men: First Class approaches it differently; Sebastian Shaw has a telepathy-blocking helmet that protects him from Xavier from the start; at the climax, Erik steals the helmet, Xavier freezes Shaw's mind, Erik kills Shaw and declares himself the Big Bad. With Charles helpless to stop him, the two part ways to kick start the X-Men film franchise.
    • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Quicksilver EASILY takes out the guards in Magneto's prison, and is faster than anybody, even two powerful mutants — and one with enhanced senses — can react. Combining him with Xavier in locating either Trask or Mystique would've wrapped the plot up in far shorter time and at least half the damage. So naturally, he's out of the story once the break-out scene is over, save for a cameo near the end. Justified in that he only worked with the Mutants because of the opportunity to pull off the heist of a lifetime (and Charles probably didn't want to drag more young people into this war after what happened to his students). This continues in Dark Phoenix, where Jean injuring Quicksilver takes him out of the plot until the end of the film.

  • A minor example is present in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier. It is the only Sherlock Holmes story centered around a medical matter... and also one of the two not to feature Doctor Watson.
  • The Animorphs get the chance to acquire dinosaur morphs when they go back in time; the ending provides a Snap Back so that they cannot use these morphs in the future; random Techno Babble at the end of the book gives us an explanation why.
    • There's also the Chee, the ageless androids who could obliterate the Yeerk threat with their eyes closed, except for the fact that they're hardwired never to harm anything. Erek does briefly do away with the violence prohibition and he absolutely slaughters a force of Controllers. He kills them all so violently that it reduced Blood Knight Rachel to tears. For bonus points, Erek, being an android, has a perfect memory that never fades or forgets. He's so horrified by what he's done that he rewires the violence prohibition right back in.
  • The Call of Cthulhu sees the briefly awakened eponymous Eldritch Abomination go back to "sleep" instead of destroying the world, in one of the rare villainous versions. There's a good reason for this, made clear in the story itself.
  • When C. S. Lewis decided "Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-Sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia" would be a physically present character in The Chronicles of Narnia, he then had to deal with this in every installment of the series. In Prince Caspian, he is prevented from stopping the Telmarines from almost wiping out the Narnians, and thousands of years later, doesn't arrive to save them until the last minute, because he can only show up once somebody's faith has been tested. Aslan also gets this in the earlier The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, only this time he has a good reason since he's dead, having sacrificed himself to save Edmund from the White Witch, leaving the heroes to rally the good army without him, and prove their worth. Aslan, meanwhile, recovers and pulls off an awesome Big Damn Heroes moment. Well, he's not a tame lion...
  • Conan of REH's Conan the Barbarian series has this happen to him in A Witch Shall Be Born. He gets captured by Salome's henchmen, and crucified outside the city gates; an Arabianesque fellow who happens to wander by takes Conan down. Conan joins his little bandit gang and spends a good deal of the story pillaging and doing things outside of the city-state of Khauran where most of the story transpires, leaving the young guard to be the hero of his own story.
    • Also in Beyond the Black River, where Conan heads off to make sure one group of civilians are safe, leaving Balthus to do the real heroism as he arranges for people to be evacuated and covers their escape with a Heroic Sacrifice, saving many.
  • In the first book of The Death Gate Cycle, Haplo explicitly notes that if he used his Patryn powers he could solve all of the book's problems in about two minutes...and then the Sartan would blow up the world again.
  • Michael Carpenter in The Dresden Files gets this a lot. In every appearance he makes Michael gets sidelined for some reason or another. He gets his sword stolen by Harry's faerie godmother in his first appearance, gets arrested for several days in Missouri in his second, and gets stuck in Oregon in his third appearance. It doesn't help that the last two occurrences were off-screen. He did get some badass fight scenes in Death Masks and Small Favor to make up for it though. It is also strongly implied that Michael is dramatically more powerful when God himself is giving him the task he's setting his blade to, turning him from a fairly strong hero with a big sword to a righteous force of pure, evil-smiting destruction.
    • In-universe, the use of this trope is justified in that the knights of the cross are expected to be good or virtuous in all things, so when they're not divinely mandated to be somewhere they're easily distracted by helping a little old lady cross the street, if they stop a mugging they'll also make their court date to stand as an honest witness, and so on. Their militant aspect is implied to be god's measure of last resort, so the call to action (and associated "right place at the right time" power) only activate if evil is otherwise inevitable. So long as Harry and his other allies have things in hand, God isn't going to hot-drop his personal SEAL team into the situation. Narratively, the trope is probably used just because Harry would be much less of The Aloner if his powerful, competent friend were actually reliable.
      • Also justified by Harry himself, as Harry believes that Michael is a lot less powerful and therefore a lot more vulnerable when he isn't on the clock. Harry is therefore often reluctant to call him because he doesn't want Michael getting hurt.
    • Averted for once in Small Favor when Michael singlehandedly clears a train station of hundreds of Hobs. Only after Harry has cleared the myrk though, and meanwhile, Harry himself is occupied by fighting one big monster rather than hundreds of small ones.
    • Happens to Harry himself at least twice.
      • When Mab takes his blasting rod and relevant memories, in-universe, it's because that kind of magic would attract the kind of monsters he was dealing with. Narratively, it's because he could have taken them apart easily with his usual resources, and she only did it at the point in the story where they didn't matter anymore.
      • When he is dead, Chicago becomes much less safe for ordinary people and his friends.
    • In Skin Game, Nicodemus sends a few of his minions to cause a potential nuclear crisis in the middle-east just to get Sanya out of the picture before the book even starts. Not to be outdone by the forces of evil, Archangel Uriel temporarily re-powers Michael, so Nicodemus has to deal with a Knight of the Cross anyway.
  • In the Harry Potter novels, Albus Dumbledore almost always seems to have a pressing duty that makes him leave Hogwarts just when Harry is about to get stuck fighting some highly dangerous bad guy:
    • Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone: Dumbledore is off at the Ministry of Magic when Quirrell decides to steal the Stone. In this case, the summons he receives from the Ministry is fake, made so he'll be away when Quirrell carries out his plans.
    • Chamber of Secrets: By the time Harry and Ron discover the entrance to the Chamber, Dumbledore has been suspended by the school governors for the Basilisk attacks.
    • Prisoner of Azkaban: Played with, since its Dumbledore himself who tells Harry and Hermione what to do to save Sirius and Buckbeak, because they are the only ones who can.
    • Goblet of Fire: The bad guys pluck Harry off Hogwarts' grounds and deposit him miles away.
    • Order of the Phoenix: Dumbledore is replaced by Dolores Umbridge thanks to a Government Conspiracy. Averted in the end, though, since Dumbledore does show up, pwns the Death Eaters, and fights Voldemort one-on-one for the final battle.
    • Half-Blood Prince: Exception, Dumbledore takes part in the climax and is killed. Which also works as this trope for the series as a whole, since it was Voldemort's plan to get rid of Dumbledore first, and then try and take over the world.
    • It is eventually explained in book seven that Harry needed to defeat Voldemort himself in the end, so Dumbledore had to let Harry build up enough skill over the years to do it. Unless he absolutely had to intervene, or if something happened he hadn't planned for, he let Harry do it, giving him just enough skills and information beforehand to let him succeed.
  • In the 7th Haruhi Suzumiya novel, Mikuru gets kidnapped by some hostile organizations. What follows is a carchase with Mori and Arakawa from the organization. Of course, Kyon could have just called Yuki for help, since she's just about omnipotent. This is justified by a) there was not much time and Kyon was in serious panic and b) He doesn't like to rely on Yuki, because he already owes her enough. The best thing is when Kyon actually thinks what would have happened if Yuki was involved. To quote the man himself:
    "There's no way four mere kidnappers could beat the formidable Nagato, but I'd certainly look forward to such a scene."
  • In the Honor Harrington novel Crown of Slaves Genius Bruiser Anton Zilwicki, experienced spymaster and slayer of Super Soldiers who would probably have soloed both the villains' plot and minions, takes a mission that puts him out-system for most of the book.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf combines this with standard Deus ex Machina heroics when he leaves Helm's Deep to fend for itself against the Uruk-Hai siege so he can gather troops for a Big Damn Heroes moment. Not really unexpected, given that he also left Thorin's party to check Dol Guldur in the middle of The Hobbit. Part of this is the implicit idea Gandalf is conflicted on how much to affect events, which would make him too much like Saruman.
    • This happened in the first book too, when a Balrog dragged him into a chasm in Moria.
    • On a larger scale, Higher Powers have forbidden him and the other wizards from engaging Sauron directly, out of the fear that doing so will destroy still more of the world.
    • In fact, even the powers the wizards could use are extremely limited due to their physical "human" forms. It's unlikely Gandalf could have turned the tide at Helm's Deep alone, making his flight to gather reinforcements critical.
    • Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth contains The Quest for Erebor, which is essentially Gandalf explaining all the things he was doing while he was absent for parts of The Hobbit, and how important they were.
    • In the First Age, the Valar don't help Middle-Earth for over 500 years when Morgoth flees there from Valinor. This is partially due to the Noldor being cursed due to the actions of their King Fëanor, who led the first killing of Elf by Elf. However this was also because attacking Morgoth in full force would damage Middle-Earth. Sure enough, when Morgoth is finally defeated in the War of Wrath, Beleriand, the North-West of Middle-Earth, is ruined and sunk.
  • In Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, Ms. Palk tricks Merry to drive somewhere far away because Simon, Jane and Barney went there, while really the kids are being chased by Hastings and his goons.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Luke does this in the Black Fleet Crisis, first going off to try the life of a hermit in utter isolation with no contact from friends and family — a decided change from his usual involved do-gooder attitude — then going with a woman who claims to know his mother on a long and ultimately completely pointless and irrelevant journey, while his friends struggle with a serious war against genocidal opponents. The author took pains to really escalate Luke's abilities in this trilogy, too.
    • Many books give Luke separate Plot Threads which may or not seem related to what the others are doing at first glance, but usually conclude with involvement in the rest of the story. Timothy Zahn does this masterfully, often weaving the threads together and parting them so that whenever Luke's removed from the scene so that the other characters have to make do without him, it never feels contrived.
  • In Worm, Scion is practically omnipotent, but he's busy with the minor disasters constantly happening all over the world and no one knows how to contact him to call his attention to the really serious ones.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: Season 7 has Jack sidelined for most of its second half due to being infected by the Big Bad's biological weapon; since a seasoned veteran agent like himself can't go out on the field this ends up giving the newer agents a bigger challenge. This is eventually inverted by the final episodes of the season where Jack does get caught up in the action because the antagonists need him because of his infected blood making him a living MacGuffin, and the infection is weakening his condition so he can't hold his own against them like he normally could, so he needs said newer agents to eventually come in and bail him out.
  • Season 5 of Arrow introduces Rory Regan, aka Ragman, who wears a magic suit of rags that allows him to ignore bullets and explosions like they're not even there, throw grown men around with ease, and even survive a nuclear explosion with little to no ill effects. However, Arrow is one of the more grounded Arrowverse series compared to The Flash (2014) and Supergirl (2015), being generally more focused on Badass Normal heroes and villains, and the writers are forced to come up with increasingly implausible excuses for him to not just take down the season's Big Bad by himself. (One infamous example is him getting punched from behind and knocked out by said non-powered villain while wearing his nuclear-bomb-proof suit.) Ten episodes after his introduction, Rory loses his powers and leaves Star City looking for a way to fix them.
  • Used as a plot device on Buffy the Vampire Slayer; whenever Giles could easily defeat a lesser big bad, he was promptly knocked unconscious to give Buffy a chance to save the day. This was lampshaded repeatedly, and Giles often refers to his "tendency to get knocked on the head". Anthony Stewart Head's fan club actually sent him a number of helmets to commemorate the Tap on the Head Giles perpetually received; he reportedly used one as a lampshade in his trailer. Which, arguably, should be considered the ultimate form of Lampshade Hanging.
    • Inverted in "The Wish", where the characters are dealing with a Sunnydale that Buffy had never visited, and then they make a call to get her to come there.
    • Giles does get to off Ben/Glory, though.
    • Willow, post magical power-up, was also removed this way at least once. Anya points this out in "Older and Far Away", noting that the "trap everyone in the house" spell they're under should be no big deal for a witch of Willow's power, but she's still going cold turkey.
    • In "The Zeppo", Xander is forced to stop a group of zombies from blowing up the school, something that would be a minor annoyance to the more powerful characters — but they are kept busy dealing with the much greater threat of the Hellmouth opening.
    • Buffy runs away from her friends and mother after having to kill her lover. They manage to hold down the fort, though not nearly as well without Buffy. Some spend an entire summer wishing she was back or actively trying to find her.
    • In Season 8, during the first arc, evil witch Amy traps Buffy in a nightmare while she attacks the Scooby Gang's new castle HQ with an army of zombies. They are saved by Willow. However, this was Amy's plan; she is able to capture Willow for her boyfriend Warren, who wanted revenge on Dark Willow almost killing him, and also to lure Buffy into the grasp of the General Ripper hunting her. However, Amy's plan backfires when Buffy is able to use what in the dream Amy trapped her in to defeat Amy.
    • Several times in Season 3, Faith disappeared for an episode so that the presence of a second Slayer didn't make the Threat of the Week too easy to beat. Most notable is "Helpless", where Buffy is robbed of her powers by the Council; there's a brief line at the start saying that Faith is "on one of her unannounced walkabouts", and no more mention is made of her.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Occasionally happened in the black-and-white era when an actor went on vacation.
    • Let's not forget all the times K-9 was temporarily out of commission during the Tom Baker years. In fact, Baker lampshaded this in a blooper.
    • During the Fifth Doctor era, this was done to the sonic screwdriver. It was destroyed and he never built another one for the duration of the original series.
    • This trope was one of the reasons that the new series rendered the Doctor the Last of His Kind, so that when things really hit the fan no-one would wonder why the Time Lords didn't decide to use their great smiting powers as they had done on a few occasions in the original series.
      • The Time Lords return eventually, but they are in another universe and "The Time of the Doctor" shows them returning would trigger a new Time War. Downplayed when they are able to give the Doctor a new regeneration cycle, which enables him to regenerate and destroy the Daleks.
    • The Doctor spent the majority of the new series' first Christmas special in a post-regenerative coma, unable to help his friends and the entire mankind as the world faced a sudden alien invasion. He snapped out of it eventually, of course, and promptly handed the aliens' asses to them.
    • "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood": The Doctor spends all of the first episode and nearly all of the second as a powerless human, without even memories of his days as a Time Lord (sorta). It is later revealed that he did this on purpose, to give the family of aliens chasing him an opportunity to simply walk away safely. When he is forced to turn Time Lord again, he easily dishes out horrible punishments to all of the family.
      • So easily, in fact, that it happens off-screen. After he is restored and effortlessly blows up their spaceship, the epilogue is narrated by the bad guy, explaining the horrible fates visited upon his family.
    • "Blink" has the Doctor Trapped in the Past and only making brief appearances.
    • Inverted in "Midnight". The sidekick is removed from the picture, and as a result the Doctor fails to save the day.
    • "Turn Left": The Doctor's not around on account of being dead, because it takes place in an alternate Crapsack World where, because Donna never met him, he died during his What the Hell, Hero? moment with the Racnoss.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tyrion Lannister, on two separate occasions, is forced to have a trial by combat to save himself. Fortunately for him, his brother Jaime is one of the best swordsmen in recent memory and is more than willing to fight for his brother's life. Unfortunately for him, during the first trial, Jaime is hundreds of miles away and Tyrion's captor insists on having the trial that day, and, during the second trial, Jaime is incapable of helping due to having his sword hand cut off, making him worthless in a fight.
    • Much of the conflict in Meereen in Season 6 involving the slave owners and Sons of the Harpy trying to retake the city is only possible because Daenerys had to escape a Harpy attack on Drogon, and was left stranded in the wilderness — where she was captured by the Dothraki. Once she escapes and frees her dragons, it's a Curb-Stomp Battle.
    • When Daenerys finally reaches Westeros, the only reason Cersei isn't dethroned immediately is because Daenerys chooses to deal with the White Walkers in the North first.
  • The Gifted (2017) takes place in a universe where the X-Men and Brotherhood of Evil Mutants have either disappeared or gone into hiding.
  • Here we go: Heroes...
    • The Haitian (whose power is to nullify everyone else's superpowers) is conveniently absent whenever things get really crazy. Heck, the first season finale could have been completely avoided if The Haitian had simply walked up to Sylar and shot him in the head (then again, that probably wouldn't have been according to The Plan).
      • He finally makes himself useful in the second-to-last episode of Season 3, where he's the key to defeating the Physical God Big Bad.
      • Volume 4 revolves around a secret government unit out to capture and imprison every last special. That's a job the Haitian could do overnight if their commander weren't so hell-bent on making it all about us vs. them and probably explains his complete absence during that entire arc.
    • Peter could be the most overpowering character on the show, but he's held in check by a fatal combination of Forgot About His Powers, Coconut Superpowers (in that if he doesn't already know he has powers, they're the type of powers that not noticing is fairly logical), this trope, and his pet Idiot Ball.
    • Likewise Sylar on the villain side. He spent much of the first season locked up and/or catatonic and much of the second season suffering a bad case of being Brought Down to Normal.
    • The most egregious of these was probably in the third volume when Hiro was given the mind of a 10-year-old to prevent him interfering, before Arthur Patrelli completely stripped him of his power. Word of God says that they were trying to write out time-traveling powers from the storyline so they wouldn't have to keep doing this to characters.
    • Matt Parkman is also a popular victim of this trope after his Psychic Powers start expanding in Volume Three. In fact, in each Grand Finale from Volume Three on, the writers made sure that Parkman was either on the complete other side of the country from the battle or en route and only arriving shortly after the dust had started to settle.
  • Sort of done in Knight Rider in various ways. When you have a nearly-indestructible sentient supercar, sometimes you have to come up with ways of incapacitating it in order to allow for some drama. This usually involved Michael getting himself somewhere KITT couldn't make it (not that that didn't stop him from turbo boosting into a high-story apartment once...), KITT being incapacitated or stolen/hacked by some kind of Applied Phlebotinum, or outright damaged/destroyed by something. This was never permanent, despite the anxiety it caused, and the Big Bads usually seemed to give them plenty of time to repair/recapture KITT unhindered.
    • The reverse was done a time or two as well, with Michael being unavailable. This was mostly played for laughs by showing KITT trying to cope with a new driver and failing.
  • In M*A*S*H, whenever the CO (Henry Blake in early seasons, Sherman Potter in later seasons) was away, Frank would go about creating his own rules, which created drama that couldn't have happened with the CO present.
  • Merlin:
    • The writers didn't even bother trying to justify why Merlin didn't just call the Great Dragon to his aid every time Morgana took over Camelot. Fan Wank tried to fill in some of the gaps (that Arthur believed he'd killed it, that Merlin didn't want to expose his secret) but it still caused some credibility issues.
    • In the latter half of the series, Merlin became this. It's hard to write a Monster of the Week that the hero can kill without even moving, so the plots were either things that he couldn't solve by just killing the problem or got him out of the way.
  • Rare Sixth Rangers in Power Rangers who don't suffer depowering courtesy of Good Is Dumb get saddled with this instead, with the exception of the even-rarer Ineffectual Loner Ranger. This is usually the case with team additions who start out evil; once they turn good, excuses are made for them not to be on the field of battle rather than run the risk of suffering Badass Decay. These excuses can go as far as half-season absences while they're off researching enemy motives, to as little as being so constantly late they couldn't hold a proper job if they ever tried to get one.
    • Udonna from Power Rangers Mystic Force loses her staff that lets her become the White Mystic Ranger for most of the season, but she's still a powerful sorceress. Yet whenever the Rangers have a problem that she should be able to solve in a matter of seconds, she is nowhere to be seen, let alone mentioned. note 
    • Commander Cruger of Power Rangers S.P.D. at least justifies his absences when he explains that Helping Would Be Killstealing.
    • And of course, the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had Tommy and his "swiss cheese brain" that would cause him to forget important things (like his morpher on at least one occasion) and be unavailable to fight the Monster of the Week. Other times there'd be a different reason, such as him caught up in the middle of a fight elsewhere, or injured in a previous attack which forced him to wait on the sidelines for a bit. This had a Real Life explanation as well, since Tommy's Japanese counterpart pulled a Heroic Sacrifice and wasn't around nearly as much, a problem rectified by Toei producing brand-new suit footage for the second season.
      • In Tommy's introduction, the "Green With Evil" miniseries, the first thing Rita Repulsa does with her new evil Ranger is get him into the Command Center and cut Zordon off from Earth so he can't intervene. The Rangers are subsequently stuck on the defensive until they can reestablish contact.
    • Notably subverted in Power Rangers Dino Charge, wherein The Gold Ranger is both a part of the main cast, appearing in every episode after his introduction and is considerably stronger than the original five.
      • Played with in the case of The Graphite Ranger, who does disappear, but this is justified in that he's the crown prince of an entire country and thus, obviously, has other responsibilities that demand his attention.
    • This is usually carried over from Super Sentai, whose fans refer to the trope as "Sixth Ranger Syndrome." Prominent examples are Genta/ShinkenGold in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, who would either be running his sushi stand during important battles or sent off on completely separate missions from the rest of the team; Gai/GokaiSilver in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, who breaks his arm as an excuse to have him stop fighting for several episodes. He also is mostly absent, without much excuse, from The Movie; and Yuusaku/MegaSilver in Denji Sentai Megaranger, deliberately written so that at the start of the show the character could not transform for more than a few minutes at a time due to a fault with his suit (and when he fixes it, the suit loses a lot of its power.); Jin Masato and Beet J. Stag of Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters often will show up later without explanation, after the main three are already in the heat of battle.
    • An inversion of this occurs in Mahou Sentai Magiranger, where MagiShine sends the rest of the team off on a training exercise while he deals with the Monster of the Week by himself. After that point though, its played straight, with a couple of episodes consists of the main team catching up to him, while he have his own business to deal with elsewhere before he returned in top shape and kicking ass.
    • Exaggerated with Ohsama Sentai Kingohger to the point of going into Superman Stays Out of Gotham, as it's established that Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger is not only well-established and essential to the lore of Kingohger but that one of the rangers and mechas are compatible with the team as well. And yet, outside of their crossover two-parter and a small cameo from said ranger, the Kyoryugers don't lend a further hand to the Kingohgers, even when they are in dire straits.
  • Scott Sherwood is missing from the Halloween episode of Remember WENN with no explanation. One fansite speculated that it was because a character as sneaky as him would have seen through the central deception immediately.
  • This is done to various alien races and civilizations in Stargate SG-1 to keep the protagonists from getting too powerful, too fast. Most of them hide behind some sort of Alien Non-Interference Clause, but in some cases it's just because they are exceptionally difficult to contact, or when they are contacted they are "too busy".
    • The Nox decided to cut themselves off because they think that everyone else is too "young" and that they won't know how to keep from killing themselves and everyone else if given advanced technology. That's fine and all, but they seem to take it to an extreme.
    • The Tollans are afraid to give away tech after they watched the people of their neighboring planet kill themselves with the stuff they gave them. They do at least make alliance with Earth and help out from time to time, but they still don't offer any knowledge or technology.
    • The Tok'ra seem to expect more of the Tau'ri than we're permitted to expect of them, despite being among Earth's closest allies. They're more than happy to give the SGC something to do or use SG-1 as their personal test subjects, but try to call them and either the line doesn't get through or you get a busy signal. Then they have the gall to criticize the Tau'ri for acting without them, or doing it the wrong way. Where the hell were you then?
      • O'Neill often lampshades this, and resents the Tok'ra for never being there when they need help, but repeatedly getting SG-1 to go on stupendously dangerous missions for them.
    • The Asgard at least do help out and give technology and whatnot, but unfortunately, they have their own problems to deal with. If they could have sent in a full Asgard battle fleet, they could have easily walked all over the Goa'uld.
    • What Ancient allies we do run into never stick around more than an episode or two, most often thanks to the rest of their kind enforcing their Neglectful Precursor ways and stopping them before they can do anything more than point the good guys in the right direction.
  • A number of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes had Deanna Troi absent for at least part of the story, because otherwise her telepathic abilities would have brought the episode to a resolution in a matter of a few minutes.
  • On Supernatural, having Castiel around and fully angeled-up is basically the Easy Button. So he gets hit with this a lot.
    • The first time, he time travels back to when the Winchesters' parents were still alive, and the effort alone nearly kills him.
    • The second time, he branded an anti-angel sigil on his chest to send a bunch of angelic Mooks to God-knows-where. This had the nasty side effect of sending him to God-knows-where, as well as stripping him of his remaining powers.
    • The third time, Castiel is busy fighting an offscreen civil war in Heaven and being one of the Big Bad Ensemble of the season.
    • The fourth time, after he absorbs every soul in Purgatory, he is soon "killed" by the Leviathans growing inside of him. He later reappears, believing he's human and without any memory of being an angel, and gets his memory back just in time for...
    • The fifth time, where he absorbs Sam's memory of being in Hell, which drives him crazy and has him committed in a hospital.
    • The sixth time, he gets stuck in Purgatory with Dean but stays behind when Dean manages to escape. He is saved by Naomi, who makes him her Manchurian Agent and prevents him from helping the Winchesters any more than necessary.
    • Finally, he gets Brought Down to Badass because of Metatron.
    • Quite literally in the Season 11 finale, when the two most powerful beings in all of creation, God and his sister the Darkness, take a holiday to have some family time.
  • The Thundermans:
    • The "Secret Revealed!" special does this to Hank and Barb, keeping Thunderman and Electress from defeating the villains in seconds. Max strips them of their powers before the villains arrive, and when they're restored, they end up getting the wrong ones. Hank ends up with Barb's powers, and Barb with Billy's, leaving them struggling against minions they'd normally have no problems against. Meanwhile, Hank's powers go to Chloe, who immediately leaves the battle to go on a joyride. It's telling that the moment Chloe rejoins the fight is the same moment the fight ends.
    • The Movie does this twice.
      • Getting inside Dark Mayhem's lair is no problem for Chloe's Teleportation power, but the rest of the family exclude her from the plot, leaving her to have fun at the beach.
      • During the climax, Hank's powers are the best suited for bringing Max or Phoebe close enough to the volcano to stop the eruption, but he's busy fighting Destructo (who, admittedly, could only be taken down by Hank), leaving Max and Phoebe to find a solution on their own.
  • There is at least one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess in which this happens: Gabrielle gets a scroll which causes anything written upon it to come true; what do you think the first thing written upon it is? "Xena had gone fishing". Hilarity Ensues, including the depowering of two Olympian gods (Ares and Aphrodite). When the characters realise that they need Xena later, and wrote that she had returned, she does so pulling a giant cartload piled high with fish, after spending several days fishing with no idea why.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Done in the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes (3rd century BCE), when the Argonauts accidentally leave Heracles behind in the land of Kios, while he looks for his lost ward/lover, Hylas. Lampshaded in that same work, when Apollonius mentions that had Heracles stayed with the group, all of their challenges would have become trivial.

  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who drama Vengeance of Morbius the Time Lords are written out due to Morbius using his stellar manipulator to drain their power. However when the Doctor turns off the manipulator the Time Lords are able to perform a Reset Button, preventing Morbius's Empire from existing. Too bad Morbius pushes the Doctor down a chasm before the Time Lords do this.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Mythology does this during the expansion. The first game's campaign ends with Arkantos being granted the powers of Zeus in order to beat up an avatar of his brother Poseidon. The ending also implies that Arkantos ascended to godhood. In the expansion, Kronos breaks free despite the event of the first game, when the entrances to Tartarus were either sealed (Ioklos, Atlantis) or in the hands of the good guys. The reason why Arkantos, evidently capable of beating up a renegade god all on his own doesn't whup his ass? Athena promoted him to the god of Titan Slaying and the gods aren't allowed to interfere directly with mortal affairs.
    • Read that again. Arkantos is the god of Titan Slaying, and he isn't allowed to do his job. Face, meet palm.
    • He doesn't even slay a Titan. He slays a statue.
  • In Armored Core: For Answer, the only major power opposing the League of Corporations, Line Ark, and its greatest military asset White Glint (the player character from AC4), who is so feared by the League that they insist on sending their best LYNX with back up to take him out, are taken out of the picture just in time for the game's real plot to kick in.
  • In the Baldur's Gate series, the main character will sooner or later run into both Drizzt and Elminster, who will, for some reason or other, never be around to stop the villain's latest scheme (Elminster tending to have more globe-shattering better things to do and Drizzt doesn't think of himself as the type to intervene in every single frickin' crisis). You can in fact get Drizzt and his allies to help you in Shadows of Amn in Storming the Castle of Bodhi's guild, and in Throne of Bhaal it's justified with multiple reasons. First, only Bhaalspawn can open the way to the Throne of Bhaal, and since the gods are forbidden from directly intervening in the Bhaalspawn conflict by Ao Himself, Elminster as a 'Chosen of Mystra' would likely be barred from participating. The one time you do encounter Elminster face-to-face, he muses you and your party are probably powerful enough to battle him to a draw at the least, and might even be dangerous enough to kill him. And Drizzt is about on the level of your average cannon-fodder by that point.
  • Battle for Wesnoth:
    • After spending the early scenarios of Heir to the Throne as a Crutch Character, Delfador goes to take care of other business for a while so that Konrad (and the player) would have to retake Elensefar with troops they recruited and leveled up instead of a level 5 wizard.
    • King Eldaric starts The Rise of Wesnoth already as a level 3 unit when most of your units are fresh level 1 recruits. Three scenarios in, he pulls a You Shall Not Pass! and dies to let his son Haldric and their people escape.
  • The post game, Broken Steel Add On for Fallout 3 should be a cakewalk. After all you've got Liberty Prime, the giant robot the Brotherhood spent the entire main game trying to salvage, that turned the tide in the final battle of the main game, on your side. Then he gets crippled by an airstrike in the very first quest and will take YEARS to repair. So yeah, don't count on him for the rest of the add on.
  • Saber in Fate/stay night is essentially immune to all magic. The plot of most of the second route, UBW, is about dealing with Caster. Well, we can't have our main fight be completely immune to the bad guy's power, can we? So the contract between Shirou and Saber is cut, Caster captures her and tries to make her kill Shirou. However, she conveniently resists long enough for Caster to die to someone else entirely and then suddenly a new contract is made with Tohsaka!
  • Tellah is subject to this in Final Fantasy IV as the Great Sage of Mysidia, and a master of both White and Black Magic. It would be too easy to have access to all the most powerful spells so he conveniently has forgetten them at the beginning. He regains his spells later in the game, but still cannot access the most powerful spell, and is permanently removed from the party after using it.
  • Final Fantasy IX — two occasions have Queen Brahne summoning Eidolons to wipe out nations and conquer them. Both times, the summoner in the party who could try to stop her — in this case her own daughter Princess Garnet — is either not in the party or has had all her Eidolons drained from her and is unable to fight back. In the second case, Garnet is also on the run, and summoning the one Eidolon she just acquired would blow her cover.
  • Final Fantasy X:
    • Auron could immediately explain to Tidus exactly why he was in Spira and hand any enemies' asses back to them. He probably intentionally exited himself, just to make Tidus grow (both in strength and in character).
    • As the party approach Bevelle, they're attacked by the guardian Evrae — a Giant Flyer whom they have to battle on the deck of an airship. The battle is harder than it would have been if they had Yuna — the summoner who could call one of her own Aeons to match Evrae for size and power. But Yuna is trapped in Bevelle, and finding her is the reason they're going.
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, there is a major war between the Laguz alliance (several countries populated by people who have animal forms) and Begnion (the most powerful empire on the game), embroiling most of the continent and exposing the Laguz to great risk, yet both the king of beasts and his second-in-line are not there. The army is going to be marching through a lot of rough terrain and they simply can't afford to have their king that far away from his country. If what happened in the Hawk Nation had happened in the Beast Nation, there's no way he could have gotten back there in time.
  • Half-Life 2 and its subsequent Episodes has Dog. During his brief periods of time with Gordon, Dog has crushed squads of Combine soldiers, fought a Strider (barehanded and solo) and won, and even manages to severely injure one of the horrifically powerful Combine Advisors. Naturally, events repeatedly conspire to prevent Dog from being with Gordon to prevent this unstoppable engine of destruction from obliterating anything and everything in the player's path.
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman is in outer space fighting Doomsday, so he isn't taken to the alternate universe with the others. Although subverted, as the Batman of the Injustice-verse, who brought everyone else over, is understandably skeptical of bringing another Superman over, seeing how his universe's Superman is the Big Bad. The real Supes is only brought over because of the demands of his universe's heroes, The Flash of the real world powering a portal that Cyborg already used, and a healthy dose of crossing the Godzilla Threshold.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Mickey Mouse, the strongest Keyblade Master in the side of the heroes, repeatedly gets sidelined through the games to prevent him from lending too much assistance to the others with a tendency to do things by himself and leave the heroes to struggle on their own. The few times he does help the other good guys, it serves to show exactly why he is left out before and it's when things get sufficiently critical that even he has trouble.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Mickey was traveling the Realm of Darkness seeking the Keyblade capable of locking the door between the Realm of Light and the Realm of Darkness and this is the reason why Donald and Goofy met Sora. Donald in particular seems to lament that he is stuck with Sora as Mickey would have been able to solve things much sooner. He returns at the end.... To effortlessly take down 3 Darksides, demonstrating Donald and Goofy's respect of him is well deserved.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: During Riku's internal conflict with Ansem, Mickey does provide assistance but as he is in the Realm of Darkness for most of the time, Riku still struggles even with Mickey's support to keep himself from succumbing. When Mickey finally returns, he easily stops Ansem... Only for it to be revealed that Riku has to face Ansem by himself. It's acknowledged he would have defeated Ansem, but Riku decides he has to fight by himself and reserves Mickey for the worst case scenario where he is possessed by Ansem. He ultimately saves Riku from being consumed by the darkness but his role in the game is quite supportive and while he is an assist character, his abilities are clearly quite underwhelmed in order to ensure he doesn't single-handedly finish the fights quickly.
    • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: Mickey is left out of the conflict to retrieve Roxas, even though he most likely could have defeated him, because Riku wants to face Roxas himself and has resigned himself to having to transform into Ansem and wants Mickey to be there for Sora as he can't himself.
    • Kingdom Hearts II: Mickey goes solo on two major battles, first during the attack on Hollow Bastion and then when searching for Ansem The Wise in the Castle That Never Was, and easily takes down dozens of Heartlesses and Nobodies... While Sora and the others struggle. He is also left out on the final battle. He is playable this time around at least, but can't finish off the enemy.... While being strong enough to potentially batter the hard bosses to where Sora can end the battle with a single blow.
    • Kingdom Hearts coded: Mickey once again goes solo against Maleficent and her forces after Data Sora loses his Keyblade. He arrives on the nick of time to save the day by rendering the data of Sora's Heartless powerless for Sora to finish off... And then during the final conflict, Data Roxas purposefully puts him on delay so he can't do anything to help Sora and make the final challenges look easy.
    • Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]: Mickey is not even aware of Xehanort's plans, and when he arrives, he is repeatedly caught off-guard by the bad guys so he can't effectively fight. Considering how he previously was able to freeze all of the Xehanorts with a single time spell, it's safe to assume he would have been able to pull off some overpowered skill to safe the day had he been given the opportunity.
    • Kingdom Hearts III: After demonstrating previously the ability to single-handedly defeat the Demon Tide, the same Heartless catches him off-guard and restrains him and afterwards he gets knocked out, leaving him unable to single-handedly outmatch both the Heartless and the corrupted Aqua and forcing Sora to step in.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is a rare case where the villains intentionally invoke this trope. Cassius Bright, the protagonist's father, is considered an in-universe Memetic Badass and Story-Breaker Power. So before the villains set their plan in motion, they lure Cassius out of the country, as they know that if he was around he'd Curb-Stomp them effortlessly.
  • Mass Effect 2 has Joker's mini-mission. The Normandy's engines are shut off for a few hours while the new IFF is installed, so Shepard and all the party members take the shuttle to get to the next mission. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? A virus hidden in the code knocks out the Normandy's weapons, shields, and communications, then sends out its location.
    EDI: "I have detected a signal embedded in the static. We are transmitting the Normandy's location."
    Joker: "Transmitting? To who?"
    (The Collectors drop out of FTL directly above the Normandy. The Collectors board and begin to capture or kill the Normandy's crew.)
    Joker: Oh shit.
  • Zero for the most parts of Mega Man X. Becomes less and less the case as the series goes on, until full playable status in the fourth game.
    • Especially noticeable in Mega Man X: Command Mission, where you literally lose him for nearly 1/3 of the game right after the very beginning, considering he's easily the most powerful character in your party at that point in the game.
    • Ditto X in Mega Man Zero, and of course his absence has allowed all hell to break loose. It makes sense that his body isn't up trying to blow away enemies; what goes unexplained is why in the hell he never talks sense into the Guardians. And in the Drama Tracks, he even does this — but not until the third game is well underway. Much trouble could have been avoided if he did it, though it is not entirely clear if he could — the one time when he does it, they are badly beaten and unconscious/deactivated for maintenance in a place they would normally not set their foot in.
  • Raiden, dear Lord, in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. You see, by that point, Raiden has gone from complete wimp to even stronger than the legendary Gray Fox...and he spends most of the game disabled. It begins with his first fight against Vamp, making him absent for one quarter of the game. Then, he's back... in time to make logic defying decisions that will leave him even more crippled (Raiden: "I'll cover your back" ...WHAT? I'm riding the ultimate machine of destruction. If anything, you need me to cover your back...) and slightly more ridiculous (Don't worry Snake, I'll save you from this giant submarine by making the reversal of what any sane man would do! I will hold back the giant ship instead of carrying you out of its path! GO ME!). As a result, Raiden is, by the climax, little more than a tragic version of Monty Python's Black Knight.
  • Conversely, this is done to a point in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Solid Snake, still in his prime, is "killed" when the tanker is ripped apart by Revolver Ocelot. This accident is considered an environmental disaster and Snake is vilified. This is the whole reason for the introduction of Raiden in the first place.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The Nonary game's digital roots are the keys to escape. Certain doors on the ship contain numbers painted on them in red paint. These numbered doors can only be opened when the numbers of bracelets verified have a digital root of that number. If the digital root of these numbers is not the number on the door, the RED will read "ERROR" and the screen will clear. The number 9 is an extremely valuable and versatile number, as it is the only number that will not change the digital root of the number it is added to. This means that the bearer of the number 9 bracelet can more easily control his fate than the other players, as he can join any team whose digital root is 9, even teams of two. So the number 9 bracelet is given to a Sacrificial Lamb character in the game's prologue to increase the stakes.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers, Grovyle is one of the three chosen ones permitted to enter the Hidden Land to attempt save the world (The others being your hero and partner). He's usually shown to be more competent then them in cutscenes and is likely to be stronger in gameplay, so naturally, he ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice just before the final dungeon, forcing the two to get the job done themselves.
    • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, this is presumably why Hydreigon ends up being taken out of the picture by Kyurem. Saving the world would've been much easier had he been able to stick around as he intended to.
  • Psychonauts has the world-famous psionic superspies Sasha and Milla, who get sent away on "official Psychonauts business" just as things start getting really bad at Camp Whispering Rock. It's later revealed that they were lured to a trap by the Big Bad and had their brains removed. Don't worry, they got better.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Ever since the jump to 3D, Super Modes are exclusive only for the Final Boss whereas before they were available at any point when the player collected all of the Chaos Emeralds. There are some 3D games that allow them in regular gameplay, but the Chaos Emeralds are either inexplicably absent or play a very minor role in the plot.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the game that introduced the aforementioned Super Mode, and the canon ending is that Sonic collects all of the Chaos Emeralds at the end. So naturally the first thing that happens in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is newcomer Knuckles ambushes Sonic and steals all of the emeralds, forcing the player to collect them again. After this, similarly to the Dragon Balls, the Chaos Emeralds would scatter across the globe after all seven were used.
    • In the Classic games, every playable character at the time had a Super Mode of their own. After Sonic Adventure, Tails and Knuckles inexplicably lost theirs and Sonic, being The Hero naturally, is now the one of the few capable of going Super. Later games would introduce other characters with the ability to go Super, but Tails and Knuckles never get theirs back. Sonic Heroes does have them fight alongside Sonic in the final boss, but Word of God claims they weren't "true" super modes and Sonic simply lent them the power. Word of God has also invoked this trope by claiming "only male Hedgehogs can go Super" locking pretty much everyone but three characters from ever using them.
    • Sonic Adventure 2 introduced Shadow as an Evil Counterpart for Sonic, and he even gets the honor of being the first character to go Super along with Sonic in the 3D era. He dies shortly after, but not really. Afterwards, Shadow is usually absent when a major threat shows up, either because he's dealing with something else or his Aloof Ally nature means he's not as inclined to help.
    • Blaze the Cat has her own set of Emeralds that give her a similar level of power as Super Sonic, that she is the guardian of. She also lives in anotehr dimension seperate from the one the rest of the cast live, so she's not around most of the time.
    • Silver also has the power to go Super just like Sonic, Shadow, and Blaze. Said Super Form has only showed up once in the video games and never again. Silver also happens to be from the future, so like Blaze, he's not around often to help.
    • The Master Emerald is even more powerful than the Chaos Emeralds, and has the ability to depower or empower them, as well serves as the prison for the Physical God known as Chaos. It was broken to pieces twice, only to be put back together in time for the ending. Afterwards, Sonic Team essentially threw their hands up and just decided to ignore its existence from then on out.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) killed off its eponymous character at the end so that his friends could collect the Chaos Emeralds to wish him back to life. In addition, this was done to provoke Elise into releasing Iblis with her tears, making the current situation even worse.
  • Probably the most annoying quest (out of many) in Star Control 3 involves saving the Chmrr after the Daktaklakpak successfully commit genocide against them. The probable reason for including it? To sideline the Chmrr's super-powerful fleet until the war is pretty much already over.
  • Star Wars:
    • Jedi Outcast: Luke Skywalker fights the Big Bad to a draw, then is trapped after taking a sucker punch, delaying his procession to the final battleground for climactic battle, leaving it up to hero Kyle Katarn to fight the bad guy one-on-one.
    • Jedi Academy: Kyle Katarn misses out on the final battle because he has to stay behind and save More than Mind Control victim Rosh, leaving it up to newbie hero Jaden Korr to face Tavion.
    • Knights of the Old Republic I and II: there are several instances where the player loses the use of a strong party member or has to play as someone other than the player character.
    • Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire: In the pre-mission briefing, Cassian informs the players that he was supposed to go on a reconnaissance mission to Mustafar, but "the Empire had other plans". As a result, the players themselves will have to undergo the mission without his assistance.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, while the characters of the previous game are mostly just nerfed into oblivion for no good reason, Lloyd Irving is not (to a degree, he's still only Level 50)... instead, he's a villain and spends a good chunk of the plot opposed to the new main character, even royally handing Emil his ass near the start of the game.
  • In the Touhou Project series, Reality Warper Yukari Yakumo is just plain lazy. On the few occasions in which she has actually woken up, she hasn't shown anything close to the power she showed as a Superboss. In Imperishable Night and in the fighting games, she's just an ordinary playable character; in Subterranean Animism, she stays home and lets Reimu do all the actual work (because surface youkai aren't allowed underground).
    • The main thing here is that dealing with incidents is the humans' job (especially Reimu's). That said, she does beat the hell out of Tenshi and stop her plans more or less single-handedly. And of the few really dangerous incidents the only one she didn't help resolve is the one she caused.
  • Wasteland 2 has Angela Deth, a veteran Desert Ranger from the first game who is recruitable at the very beginning of the game. In the original release, she's level 15 while the rest of your party is level 1, and she makes the Early Game Hell much easier. About 1/3 of the way through the game, she will receive orders that forces her to leave your group (in the middle of a mission), as the game assumes you're powered up enough on your own. The Director's Cut reduces her starting level to only 8, so she's not as overpowered to your group, but she still leaves for the same plot twist.
  • In World of Warcraft this is a running theme with Malfurion. He was introduced in Warcraft III as a bit of a Big Good who, while not taking out the otherwise unstoppable demon Big Bad personally, nevertheless arranged and executed the plan that finally took the demon down and ended the war. The novels would flesh him out further, and show that he almost could have taken on that very same demon himself when he was much younger. So it was of no surprise that Malfurion started World of Warcraft out Trapped on the Astral Plane in order to preserve the drama of the relatively low scale threats of the base game. He isn't rescued until the prelude to the third expansion, Cataclysm, but he spends a good chunk of that plot holding back a continent-wrecking spell that demands his complete attention. At the beginning of the Legion expansion, an old nemesis of his intentionally baits him into a trap, leaving him captured for the duration of that arc. In a short story leading into Battle for Azeroth, Malfurion proves to be a rare match for the mysteriously empowered Sylvanas, before being quickly brought low by a cheap shot from someone who immediately regrets the dishonorable move, explaining why he doesn't prevent the Inciting Incident.
  • X-Men: Next Dimension: Juggernaut lunges at Bastion, who responds by simply using a power ray to teleport him offscreen; in one ending, we see that he was sent to Mars, where his power basically keeps him alive without needing food, water or breathable air, so he could potentially stay there forever, alone.
  • The twin goddesses depart for the heavens at the end of Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter, although they reappear in Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys, which is Canon Discontinuity according to Falcom.

    Web Animation 
  • In Season 15 of Red vs. Blue, all of the team's elite badasses are taken out of commission by the end of Episode 18; Carolina is stuck in a freezer for several days, rendering her incapable of fighting (downplayed, since she's not incapable of strategizing), Wash is shot in the throat, and Locus is forced to leave the group to get Wash medical attention, leaving the Blood Gulch Crew to save the day.
  • RWBY:
    • In Volume 4, Qrow is far more powerful and experienced than Team RNJR, yet travels separately from them because his Semblance makes him The Jinx. However, when he is forced to intervene to save them from Tyrian, he's taken out of the picture soon after to ensure that Team RNJR continue to have to deal with their problems alone. Tyrian poisons Qrow with his scorpion tail, meaning that Team RNJR are left having to solve their problems without his help while trying to get him somewhere that can give him medical care before he dies.
    • In Volume 6, Ozpin departs from group and Qrow struggles with his alcoholism, forcing Ruby to take command of the mission. This means that the heroes have to figure out how to get through a military blockade to reach Atlas without any help from either Ozpin or Qrow. This contines throughout Volume 7, where the heroes have to struggle with Ironwood's trustworthiness without Ozpin's help. A confrontation between Ozpin and the heroes about his secret-keeping, results in the Awful Truth being revealed and Ozpin entering a Heroic BSoD. He locks himself away at the back of Oscar's mind and doesn't return until the end of Volume 7. He and the heroes reconcile at the end of Volume 8; Ruby remains in charge while he takes on the role of Spirit Advisor.
    • In Volume 8, Pietro and Maria end up trapped on a drifting Amity high in the sky while Penny's storyline unfolds at ground level. This ensures they're uncontactable to help resolve the situation. Penny is hacked by Watts, something Pietro might have been able to counter. Instead, the heroes have to come up with a more magical solution to Penny's situation by using the Relic of Creation to save her. Maria is also the only person who has been able to go toe-to-toe against Neo and she has a precognition Semblance, so her absence leaves Team RWBY vulnerable to Neo's surprise attack.

  • Andy Weir, writer of Casey and Andy, has referred to the same problem; since Satan is a regular member of the cast, and on the nominally good side, he needs the find some way to indispose her before any arcs can progress.
  • DM of the Rings brilliantly parodies Gandalf's tendency to do this in The Lord of the Rings (see Literature). After the entire night of fighting at Helm's Deep Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are all talking about how they will now finally get some respect from these people. Three guesses who suddenly shows up at the last minute after all the hardest work is over, and is being praised by everybody else.
    Gimli: It was a lot of work, and I'm sure we'll get jack squat for the reward, but at least we'll finally get some respect from these people. All we have to do is finish off the rest of these orcs.
    [Gandalf shows up suddenly]
    Everybody: Gandalf has come to deliver us! He's saved us! HAIL GANDALF!!!
    Aragorn: That guy is really starting to get on my nerves.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: The Vargas could have sent every particle of Universe 20 back in an instant if U4 Buu didn't sabotage the machines.
  • Girl Genius: When Klaus freezes himself in time, Gilgamesh becomes the Baron Wulfenbach, and gains control of the largest army and biggest Empire in Europa... just in time for a series of rebellions to tear his new empire to pieces. After the time skip, he's using most of his resources to hold things together and steadily reclaim his empire. However, his access to the full resources of the empire has allowed him to make major progress investigating the Mechanicsburg Time Stop.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Rich Burlew, the author has said in commentaries that he is often forced to do this to Vaarsuvius, the party's wizard. Because the comic is based on Dungeons & Dragons, readers already know what powers and abilities a wizard of that level should be able to muster and would naturally wonder why the elf wasn't deploying them in a given situation...whereas if the magic system had been an original invention, he could simply have not given Vaarsuvius any powers that would circumvent the plot.
    • Roy, the leader of the protagonist team is missing for an entire story arc. This forces other members, especially Haley, to show their leadership skills.
  • Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary has mentioned this as a problem for writing when Petey has ascended to a higher state of being but stuck around with virtually omnipotent powers. However, he's introduced a horrifying limitation that cripples Petey: while he could instantly teraport anything or anyone in the galaxy anywhere he wants at will, he needs every watt of energy to save trillions of sentient life-forms in the Andromeda galaxy, and each time he meddles with the main characters represents a sacrifice of lives he could have saved. Lampshaded in the arc that introduced the limitation:
    Petey: "Insufficient resources"? What happened to God Mode?
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Chapter 11 reveals the existence of a Christian pastor's still-lingering spirit, who could help the crew with one of its more persistent problems. When Reynir tries to visit the character a second time near the end of Chapter 14, in big part because he really needs someone to talk to after the events of Chapter 13, he simply can't find her. This results in settling for talking with Onni, from whom he's supposed to keep an important piece of information, instead. However, next time Reynir needs her, he has no trouble finding her.

    Web Original 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, this gets brought up during the Androids arc when Goku gets brought up.
    Vegeta: Can we please stop talking about Kakarot for just a minute? I mean for God's sake, he's never even around!
    Piccolo: Sad thing is, he's not exactly wrong.
  • The Whateley Universe has this problem with some of its more powerful protagonists. Some stories have had to find "reasons" why Tennyo (or the headmistress) couldn't step in.
    • In "Boston Brawl II" they solved the problem by having Tennyo go after the one supervillain she couldn't beat.
    • Even better, in "Ayla and the Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy", the authors came up with a way of stopping Tennyo, maybe for good, by confronting her with the past of her alien part and giving her a Heroic BSoD.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: The Mighty Nein Reunited special features all of the Nein except for Caduceus, as Taliesin chose to play Kingsley instead. This is explained in-universe as Caduceus being far too busy restoring the Blooming Grove after Trent Ikithon's attack, specifically since it involves a Temple of the Gods ritual that takes a full year to complete.
  • Noob:
    • The second episode on the Dungeon of Chaos three-parter had Fantöm go after Tabris, which kept him from participating in his team's high-level Boss Battle which eventually lead to a moment of glory for their new recruit among the protagonists.
    • Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions had Fantöm and Amaras, two of its UltimateGamer386 characters, infected with a phenomenon that made them unable to control their avatars for part of the movie. Spectre, on the other hand, actually thought that the in-game situation wasn't complicated enough and was implied to be actually making things worse. Also, Tenshirock, who can be an in-game Reality Warper at times, was literally on vacation.
  • In Vaguely Recalling JoJo, DIO and J. Geil had to take Enya to hospital, so the Hanged Man and the World Stands can't take Steely Dan and the Lovers Stand out with ease.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers had an unusual set up with four main cast members, and often used Plot Tailored to the Party, but just as often pulled this by having an episode where it was one or two Rangers and their skillsets weren't going to help much in the situation. The most prominent example was "Mistwalker," where Zachary and Zozo were stuck on a Death World where their technology failed. The episode's guest star points out that Niko's psionics and science background would have been much more useful to the situation than Zachary's military training and Zozo's diplomacy.
  • Often happens to Jake in Adventure Time, usually without any explanation beyond his laziness (when they even explain it that much; often he's simply absent). For example, in "It Came From the Nightosphere," Jake is nowhere to be seen. That is, until the end, when it is revealed that he was shrunken down and residing inside a pocket of Finn's shirt the whole time for some reason.
  • In Aladdin: The Series, Genie is kept from resolving the plot of every episode in two minutes through a combination of this trope, the rules of his Weird Trade Union, and Forgot About His Powers. In maybe one episode, they actually meet a rare villain that is more powerful than him; he specifically notes that the creature is about as powerful as a palace full of genies.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In "The Desert" episode, Katara has to lead the group because Aang's too upset over Appa, Sokka is high, and Toph can't see (she's blind and senses vibrations) because of the loose sand they're walking on.
    • Appa himself: he lives and breathes this trope for the entire series. For the record, Appa is a ten-ton (that's twenty-thousand pound) six-legged flying bison with horns. Yet he's only in three battles throughout the whole series and only attacks people in one of them. Case in point: in "Jet" he is literally five yards behind the group as they're walking through a forest, but as soon as they stumble into a Fire Nation camp and get attacked, he's nowhere to be seen. The writers don't even give him an excuse, he's just gone.
    • Not including Aang in the Avatar State, Toph is the strongest bender on the team, a One-Man Army and usually doesn't have Katara's weakness of lack of element. She's occasionally separated from the main team to create tension and give the enemies a fighting chance. In "The Library", she doesn't go inside meaning that Wan Shi Tong sinking the library is a real threat and in "Crossroads of Destiny" she's on a mission to rescue Bosco instead of being in the catacombs where she could have ended the fight in a second.
    • In the second season finale, Aang unlocks his chakras, allowing him to enter and exit the Avatar State at will. During his next transformation, Azula sucker-punches him with lightning, closing his last chakra and preventing him from entering the Avatar State. While fighting Ozai in the series finale, a strike in just the right place unblocks that chakra, and Aang finishes the fight quickly.
    • The third season has Zuko and Sokka going to a metal prison inside a boiling lake on a volcanic island without the rest of the Gaang, with the in-story reason being that Sokka was attempting to sneak off on his own and Zuko caught him. Out of story, it's because Aang, Katara, and Toph would have effortlessly air, water, and earth/metal bent their way through the entire prison and its security force instead of the The Infiltration mission Sokka and Zuko had to do.
    • In the series finale, Iroh refuses to fight Fire Lord Ozai because — even assuming he won — it would not bring true peace, being ultimately nothing more than "a brother killing a brother for power." This leaves it up to our plucky hero Aang to face the Fire Lord himself.
  • On Beast Wars, Optimus Primal's transformation into Optimal Optimus made him larger and more powerful but for the most part, it just made him a bigger target for any Predacon knockout dart that would take him out before he could curb-stomp the Predacons. Rarely did he make an appearance after his initial debut that didn't have him getting blasted or brainwashed, forcing the Maximals to deal with the threat on their own.
    • Tigerhawk, who is introduced with Earth-shattering (literally) power in the third season, then a few episodes later, Megatron, in control of the Nemesis ship, promptly annihilates him before the series finale.
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force Alien X is basically a god. They write him out by making him unable to use his powers without a quorum from Ben and two very opposed personalities. And Ben can't just agree with whichever of the personalities (the pacifist or the violent one) is more in line with whatever needs doing at the moment, because they have thousands of years worth of decisions that they demand be addressed first before they'll move on to the current crisis. It's only in exceptionally rare situations that Ben can convince them to deal with the current situation first, and he has difficulty even convincing them to let him leave! As a result, Ben and Kevin hacked the Omnitrix to lock it from ever transforming into Alien X again, a lock that's only to be removed when the Godzilla Threshold is crossed, as shown with the Aggregor conflict in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien (which still fails due to Professor Paradox interrupting the conversation and angering the other personalities). As a result, fans started calling that season "Ben 9 Alien Force". Other media would zigzag or subvert this depending on the situation. The video game Ben 10: Alien Force - Vilgax Attacks, for example, sees Ben discouraged from using Alien X at the start of the game, only to be finally told by Paradox at a critical moment in the final battle with Vilgax to use him, successfully banishing him to the Null Void once he convinced the personalities. Ben 10: Omniverse would then put Ben into situations that were fit for using Alien X, like remaking the universe or fighting another member of Alien X's species, with him coming out on top in the end, but thanks to a declaration that resulted from the latter case, Ben was now able to use him even in less urgent situations (like fighting the Rooters), and Skurd even briefly activated Alien X's powers for Ben's transformations in at least one instance. On the other hand, however, the reboot's appearances from Alien X, due to this iteration of Ben not having the transformation, featured him as a villain due to being used in two separate instances by major antagonists late into the series, the first instance being "Alien V" aka Vilgax merged with Alien X in the movie Ben 10 vs. the Universe, and the second instance being an alternate rogue Ben in the final special.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Cosmo and Wanda have phenomenal reality-bending magic, so conflicts made by Timmy's wishes are kept alive by them losing access to said magic. Whether it's losing their wands, being captured in a butterfly net, other magical creatures getting the better of them, Da Rules preventing Timmy from making a counter-wish, or Timmy simply not thinking about it, as soon as the problem is gone, the conflict is undone by a wave of their wands.
  • Justice League and Justice League Unlimited loved this trope so they could focus on specific characters. Fights would have been boring with the Martian Manhunter (the King of Combo Platter Powers) and Superman kicking the ass of everything that came to Earth, not that they didn't get their share.
    • The only time Amazo, who was strong enough to be considered a god, tried to save the Earth after he joined the team, it turns out that the Chaos-Magic-fueled Solomon Grundy could feed off Amazo's power, so his very presence is threatening to damage the fabric of the plot universe. So he left and never came back during the show's run; the showrunners later said they didn't have the time to add a scene addressing him right after the final, where he's floating in space several parsecs away wondering if it's safe to return.
    • And, of course, there was "The Greatest Story Never Told", an episode focusing on perpetual Butt-Monkey Booster Gold, who had to deal with an alternative power source gone berserk while the entire rest of the League battled a godlike foe. Naturally, none of them believed it had ever happened. Of course, he did get a hot scientist chick to compensate and didn't have to help clean up either his mess or the mess the League caused, so it worked out pretty well.
    • Subverted in "In Blackest Night, Part I", which very conspicuously pointed out that Supes was busy with an earthquake in India...only to have him show up halfway through the episode anyway. He mentions that he finished early because the earthquake was "only a 4 on the Richter Scale".note 
    • And in the episode "Patriot Act," the entire rest of the League is busy, so the five non-powered heroes who were available are sent to walk in a parade in Metropolis, later to be joined by two (also non-powered) reservists to deal with the newly superhuman General Eiling. They get absolutely thrashed, but did it in a pretty awesome way, especially with Shining Knight talking down the overly patriotic Eiling with his own American ideals — despite the fact that SK himself is a medieval European.
    • In the episode "Chaos at the Earth's Core", the miniature red sun of Skartaris weakens Supergirl's powers almost to nothing.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are the rulers of Equestria and close personal friends of the protagonists, and are capable of truly incredible displays of power, such as raising the sun and moon every day with little effort. The full extent of their power isn't clear, but they're obviously the most powerful good guys in the setting. Yet whenever a serious threat rears its head, they're never as helpful as their powers suggest they'd be. Celestia is usually given a Hand Wave as to why she doesn't help — either she set things up herself or she's intentionally holding back so as not to hurt someone — but Luna rarely gets such a Hand Wave.
    • With her ascension to princesshood and impressive combo platter of powers (including but not limited to flight, teleportation, levitation, Projectile Spells, and Awesomeness by Analysis), Twilight is now finding herself in this situation as well. Especially after Season 5, which introduced a gigantic map that pretty much tells the ponies where to go, leaving Twilight to be stuck and unable to help because, quite literally, the map says only certain ponies can help.
    • Spike is off watching a hoofball game with Big Macintosh during the events of "The Cutie Map", probably because the Arc Villain of that story's main threat revolves around taking away Cutie Marks, which obviously wouldn't affect him, and also that he could just call Princess Celestia to send backup.
    • The Arc Villain of Season 8 invokes this in "School Raze." They give a key that can unlock any door to the main characters to open the gates of Tartarus, intentionally not telling the heroes that It Only Works Once. By the time the Mane Six figure this out, they're stuck, leaving the villain to execute their plans without the heroes interfering.
    • Discord, who is explicitly the strongest character in the series, has this happen repeatedly after his Heel–Face Turn. He is either off-camera, not trusted enough to actually fix anything, or actively behind whatever is going on, so the near-omnipotent Reality Warper cannot just snap away whatever is causing trouble at the moment.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar had Skipper Eaten By A Snakehead once to shift focus onto the rest of the Badass Crew dealing with his absence. And he was also poisoned on another occasion. The whole thing was a setup for their Secret Test of Character.
  • In the Season 3 finale of ReBoot, the home world of the main characters is being destroyed by Megabyte, who is attempting to escape the dying system. In an effort to save his friends and family, as well as countless others, Enzo squares off against Megabyte with nothing but his girlfriend's trident (he threw aside his gun). Sounds great and suspenseful...until you realize that Bob, the Guardian-Keytool Combo Hero is chilling with Hexadecimal in her lair (okay, not so much chilling, as her prisoner). He manages to get back just in time to miss Megabyte's defeat. It's even punctuated by the standard "What'd I miss?"
  • The Ruby Gloom episode "Shaken, Not Scared" follows Boo-Boo as he attempts to scare Ruby and her friends so he can become a full ghost. The easily frightened Scaredy Bat is mysteriously absent.
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power's fifth season, Princess Scorpia was doomed to get captured the moment Horde Priming started chipping members of the Rebellion en masse. Her paralyzing venom would have made capturing them back far too easy. Instead, getting chipped made her one of the strongest foes Horde Prime could field, second only to perhaps King Micah, nearly dooming the Rebellion on multiple occasions.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Ahsoka Tano is taken off the board of the members of the Spectres crew after a fierce fight with Darth Vader in the finale of Season Two. As Season Three stops focusing on the threat of the Inquisitors and Vader, it's obviously to allow the Spectres to face greater pressure when Thrawn shows up as an enemy, with Maul only having a little screen time, as while Thrawn is extremely dangerous due to his tactical skills and is very effective at commanding the powerful forces of the Empire, one can argue that Ahsoka would have been able to still counter him more effectively than the Spectres could have due to having her fair share of experience in strategies and leadership during the Clone Wars, thus taking her out of the picture was necessary to paint Thrawn as the unstoppable villain of the season who wins and delivers as much of a devastating blow on the Phoenix Squadron. Leaving aside her tactical experiences, in terms of combat, Ahsoka would have probably been able to take down dozens of the Empire's forces sent at them if she had been there at the final battle on Atollon and probably repelled the assault without having to escape from the planet. She later returns in the finale season near the end when she's saved by Ezra from Vader for the sole reason of her being the only one who is aligned with the Spectres that has even a snowball's chance in hell to stop Palpatine, which she does with some help from Ezra only for it to yet again force her away from the heroes, obviously to again keep her out of the final battle, Lothal's liberation, and make sure Ezra is pressured enough by the overwhelming military strength of the Empire to perform the tactic of taking himself and Thrawn into hyperspace with an army of purrgil to sacrifice himself briefly.
  • In W.I.T.C.H., once Queen Elyon realizes her true powers and comes to the side of good, she should be able to make fights a lot easier, right? After all, she can warp reality and is probably more powerful than the five Guardians put together. However, during the first part of the second season, she's stuck taking care of the daily affairs of Meridian, and during the second half of the season, she's tricked into giving up her power and stuck inside the Seal of Nerissa.
  • The main plots in the show Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) relied almost entirely on covert operations and intelligence gathering, and having the wool pulled over the X-Men's eyes more than once. So Jean Grey and Professor X were put into comas (to remove their reducing these plot elements to mere annoyances for the team) and replaced by Emma Frost (who is weaker than Jean and Charles in powerset and skill, not as trustworthy so the others would be hesitant to come to her about their problems and who was responsible for putting Jean and the professor in their comas to aid her plot with the Inner Circle.
  • When X-Men: The Animated Series adapted The Dark Phoenix Saga, the writers had to get rid of Rogue for the first episode (Xavier mentioned that she was away on a mission), since her Power Copying and Flying Brick powers would have solved the atmospheric-reentry problem far too easily. This is lampshaded when she returns, where the first thing she says is that she should have been there since she could have handled it. In the comics, she didn't exist as a character yet, and so she wasn't around to absorb the rescued astronaut's piloting skills and calmly bring down the shuttle as the solar radiation harmlessly bounced off her invulnerable body, with the astronauts and other X-Men safely in the shielded area. No fuss, no muss, no unstable cosmic entity.
    • Wolverine was subject to this in two occasions in the series ("Reunion (Part 2)", and "The Dark Phoenix Saga (Part 1): Dazzled"). In both cases, the X-Men were defeated in battle and imprisoned and had their powers nullified in some way (the nature of the savage lands in the former and through special handcuffs in the latter). For Wolverine, this would make the inevitable breakout easy due to his adamantium claws since even in today's comics his claws are unaffected by power nullifiers and could cut through anything including the prison bars for the former and the handcuffs in the latter. Hence why at the beginning of each fight Wolverine would be taken out quite early (thrown off a waterfall in "Reunion (Part 2)" and smashed 5 floors into a sewer by Harry Leland in "The Dark Phoenix Saga (Part 1): Dazzled".) Arguably, this helped his character as it gave him a Big Damn Heroes moment.
    • Another Wolverine example comes from Scott and Jean's wedding (the first one). Wolverine is busy slicing up holographic enemies (some that bear striking resemblance to "Slim" Summers) in his tux during the nuptials. The poor hairy, Canadian shmuck can't stand seeing the object of his affection married off to Cyke. Had he chosen to attend, he would've revealed the big shocker that not only was Morph alive, he was impersonating the priest as part of a plan to destroy his former comrades.
  • Young Justice (2010):
    • Periodically, the Justice League are left indisposed so there's a reason the titular team have to be taking on the biggest issues. In the first season finale the Justice League were the threat because they were being mind-controlled. Partway into the second season most of the league's strongest members are forced off-world to take responsibility for action they were made to do during said period, and in the third season, most are offworld again, this time to rescue metahuman children trafficked into space, while the League also undergoes a schism due to Lex Luthor's manipulations causing several members, most prominently Batman and Green Arrow, to leave the League and form the Anti-Light as a means to counter the Light.
    • Within the main cast, you'll rarely see the entire team together, especially in the second season. A lot of it has to do with budgetary issues, so you'll often have at least several members of the team absent in each episode.
    • It quickly becomes clear that The Light are constantly invoking this as a regular strategy. Many of the threats the Team deals with are the more profitable operations for the Light, while the Justice League is off fighting a much larger and much flashier distraction.
      • This gradually begins to be subverted with a few season 1 heroes also joining the Justice League and having larger roles in the story, first with Zatanna and Rocket, then Kaldur'ahm as the second Aquaman, as well as Cyborg and La'gaan joining as the third Aquaman. Season 3 additionally turns this around with Black Lightning being one of the members of Nightwing's Team faction (although he had to resign from the Justice League in the process), and being the one to expose Lex Luthor, alongside Batman providing the vital intel for the heroes to know Terra was a spy all along, yet still allow her to reform. While Season 4 initially has Superman captured and nearly killed by the machinations of General Zod, once freed he joins the season's final battle, though the enemies being Kryptonians evens the playing field.
    • Another example happens to a specific character. Phantom Girl, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes with the ability to phase into the Phantom Zone, is placed in a Convenient Coma early in season 4. As the plot revolves around an attempted assassination on Conner Kent that strands him in the Phantom Zone but appears successful outside it, Phantom Girl, the only character who could easily pluck him out, is knocked into a coma and presumed dead as well, stranded in the Phantom Zone with him due to the stresses trying to phase him through. She eventually wakes up, but by then Superboy had already been found and molded into loyalty to General Zod, preventing her from freeing him.
    • A few season 4 story arcs are dependent on keeping Miss Martian, a telepath and the strongest of the main season 1 heroes, away from some of the plotlines that would be easily resolved with her present.
      • As Miss Martian is on Mars grieving for Superboy, she is unable to help Tigress with the defector situation involving Onyx Adams and Cassandra Savage. Looker, a less experienced telepath, is brought in to help and is unable to find anything convincing due to League of Shadows assassins being trained to counter telepaths, but had Miss Martian, a far superior telepath who would overpower these tactics, been present, Cassandra's Fake Defector act would be easily uncovered.
      • Once Nightwing calls most of the Team together to free Superboy from the Phantom Zone, Miss Martian is once again left out of their narrative (mainly because of the emotional turmoil she would likely feel seeing him again). She is stuck with the Justice League doing their own lead for the investigation, and is stunned by the Kaiser-Thrall along with them right as Superboy leaves the Phantom Zone. Had she come along with Nightwing, Superboy would have been more easily turned against General Zod. She is only finally able to fix Superboy's mind at the last possible moment, right as General Zod is nearly about to conquer Earth.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Eaten By A Snake, Disable The Game Breaker, Break The Game Breaker


Why she up there all this time

Okoye asks the question about Scarlet Witch, and this trope is the answer.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / StoryBreakerPower

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