Follow TV Tropes


Failure Knight

Go To

"You're looking at a living legend, Lilly. The only active agent who ever lost a president."
Frank Horrigan, In the Line of Fire

A character with an emphatic level of devotion to another character they may not have known very long. Such a character will often matter-of-factly explain it as chivalry, destiny or whatever. Everyone who knows the other character will envy the situation, or tolerate it with minimal embarrassment. So far they seem to be a simple Satellite Character.

Then we find out the tragic Backstory about their greatest shames and failures. This isn't the first person they've pledged devotion to, and the former died, left or outright rejected them; it may have happened repeatedly. In some cases, this role was a job of some kind, which gives the added punch to the gut to make them feel useless. The Failure Knight keeps trying even harder now.

Bodyguards, Battle Butlers and Samurai can fit the bill too. If the lost figure was the knight's beloved, compare Heartbroken Badass. Some (literal) Magical Girlfriends are Failure Knights but are perceived as a lot more cloying about it.

Many knights will find promotion: their boss treats their failure as a Career-Building Blunder. In particularly grim cases, the new object of devotion may be a Replacement Goldfish for the lost one. For a more general effect of death on the knight's heroism, compare I Let Gwen Stacy Die.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Manji is this in Blade of the Immortal. Although he has been hired as Rin's bodyguard, he repeatedly shows that protecting her is more than just his duty. It is later suggested that he cannot bear to let her die since she looks so much like his sister who had died under his protection.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Chrono's fierce devotion to Rosette and saving Joshua is due in part to the guilt he feels for killing Mary Magdalene through their contract in a misguided attempt to protect her.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Setsuna is ashamed of her failure to save her ojou-sama, Konoka, from almost drowning when they were kids.
    • Mana evidently failed to protect her partner, but continues to carry around his now inert pactio card. The circumstances regarding it are still unexplained, however, so exactly what happened is anyone's guess.
    • Negi never got over failing to save his village. He was 4 years old, of course, but that didn't stop him from trying.
  • Shao the Moon Spirit from Mamotte Shugogetten was shown to suffer from this in a flashback episode. Her masters who were actually good all eventually die anyway and most of her powers are seen as rather useless in the modern world.
  • Mahoro from Mahoromatic not only was unable to protect Misato Suguru's father but had to kill him in the line of duty. When allowed to spend the rest of her (shortened) lifetime as she wants, she chooses to become the Misato family's maid and goes to serve and protect Suguru.
  • Ellis McGaren from the Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever OVA channels her failure not only into protecting Fiasse but also into trying to show up Kyouya and Miyuki so they'll stop protecting her and leave them alone. Since Katanas Are Just Better, the opposite happens, and Ellis has to face her past as their Forgotten Childhood Friend.
  • Fakir from Princess Tutu fits this trope so well that villains actively mock him for it. He fiercely tries to protect Mytho from danger—partially for fear that he'll repeat the mistakes of the Knight from the original fairytale, whom he's the reincarnation of. In the story, the knight had tried to protect the Prince from the evil Raven, but was torn in two before he could strike a single blow on his enemy. As if that's not bad enough, it turns out that his desperate need to protect Mytho is compounded by suppressed guilt for his parent's deaths, who were killed trying to protect him when an attempt to use his powers to make stories come true went horribly wrong.
  • Balsa of Seirei no Moribito agrees to protect the prince despite the danger (and the attempted trickery) because she feels she has to atone for nine lives her Mentor took to keep her safe; furthermore Chagum is also a Replacement Goldfish for herself, as he is in pretty much the same situation she was in as a child.
  • From Code Geass: Sir Jeremiah "Orange-kun" Gottwald was the guard in charge of the imperial palace the day when Empress Marianne was murdered and never could forgive himself for such a terrible failure. The chance to atone by serving her son Lelouch is the basis for his Heel–Face Turn.
    • From the same show there is General Bartley who blames himself for the death of Prince Clovis, he spends the rest of the series trying to atone for it, finish their research and avenge the prince's death. His last words are even him calling out to his slain master.
    • Suzaku is also a fairly textbook example of this trope even before he actually becomes Princess Euphemia's knight. Her tragic death only exacerbates things, and by the time he gets to Nunnally's (apparent) death, Suzaku has hit the Despair Event Horizon.
  • The hero of Flame of Recca immediately pledges his eternal loyalty as a ninja to his "Princess" Yanagi (a sweet healer) despite the fact that he had sworn only to do so for someone who's proven themselves stronger than him. This, of course, pisses off two characters who have a long history of trying to defeat him in order to make him their subordinate. And the whole reason why he does this? Because of a dream that was eventually revealed as his father's failure to protect HIS master, Sakura-hime.
  • In My-HiME, part of Mai's reason for being protective of her younger brother Takumi stems from her belief that her negligence led both him and their mother to almost drown in a raging river when they were young, leading to his current heart problems and their mother's death.
  • In Kure-nai, Yayoi seems to be stalking Shinkurou and Murasaki to the point of obsession. At first, this is put down as just her being jealous that Shinkurou got assigned the job to protect Murasaki. However, it is later revealed that Yayoi once failed in her duty as a bodyguard to protect another client from murder, so this time she's extremely protective of Murasaki.
  • In the Basilisk TV series, Gyoubu Kasumi, from the Koga ninjas gets his backstory expanded so he's shown as a tragic, sad anti-hero who, as a child, was traumatised after seeing his beloved father Renbu die as a result of an Iga ninja attack.
  • Akito from Martian Successor Nadesico was traumatized by being unable to protect the people he was in a shelter with from a Jovian attack at the beginning of the series — especially the little girl named "Ai" he befriended.
  • The death of her old boyfriend Emilio Ribisi is hinted to be what caused Leesa Kujo aka Sumeragi Lee Noriega's alcoholism in Gundam 00. She is more of The Strategist than of a knight, but it still fits well.
  • Ex-private detective, now Hitman with a Heart Youji Kudoh from Knight Hunters is permanently haunted by his failure to protect his girlfriend and former partner, Asuka Murase, from being shot down during a job that went horribly wrong.
  • Hanamichi Sakuragi from Slam Dunk was badly traumatised by the death of his father. What makes it worse is that he was prevented of saving his dad's life by a bunch of bullies, who ambushed him when he was running towards the hospital, searching for help, in retaliation for him having beaten them up earlier.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the fact a legendary demon slayer failed to kill Muzan, with the added insult of he only escaping because Yoriichi’s kindness distracted him by noticing Tamayo’s sad nature by the sidelines. That weighted him down immensely since Yoriichi came to realize he was pretty much the strongest demon slayer to ever live, thus knowing very well Muzan would be responsible for many deaths to come without anyone at the time being able to put a stop to that terror.
  • It has been revealed that Hayate the Combat Butler's title character's strength and devotion comes from having failed childhood friend Athena when he himself was a child.
  • G Gundam has George De Sand and the "Versailles Tragedy", where his opponent, Mirabeau, fired at the audience and killed several people
  • Ein Dalton from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has lost his mentor Lieutenant Crank Zent in the hands of Mikazuki Augus, and he projects the image of his relationship between Crank and himself onto his new superior, Specialist Major Gaelio Bauduin because other than Crank, Gaelio was the only one who respected him despite him being a half-Martian. His repeated failures on protecting his superiors eventually lead to his Sanity Slippage.
  • Knight Zest of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. The constant guardian of Lutecia and Agito, who before the events of the season had lost his entire squad in a failed attack on one of Jail's research facilities. A squad that included the mother of Lutecia, Megane, as well as the mother of Subaru and Ginga..
    • Vita seemed to take on some of this trope after Nanoha is almost fatally wounded between seasons.
    • Also, Hegemon Claus Ingvalt from ViVid flashbacks, who has failed to save the Saint King Olivie.
    • There's the possibility that Signum becomes one of this after failing miserably in stopping Cypha of Huckebein from kidnapping two kids at the beginning of Force.
      • Confirmed as of chapter 20, Signum apologizes twice to Tohma and Lily for not being able to save them and also talk about the unavoidable guilt she feels about it.
  • Hayate's rather complicated attitude toward Himeno in Prétear - including his harshly critical behavior toward her but also more particularly his almost stalkerish protectiveness (especially in the anime) - is the result of his guilt over the previous Pretear, Takako, becoming the Princess of Destruction because of her unrequited love for him.
    • Sasame has elements of this, too, particularly in the manga version—because of HIS unrequited love for Takako. At one point when Himeno is in danger, he panics, saying "I failed to protect the Pretear again!"
  • Xerxes Break, formerly Kevin Regnard has this as a somewhat complicated backstory in PandoraHearts.
  • Bleach:
    • Rukia Kuchiki. As a Shinigami, she was forced to kill the man she admired and perhaps even loved. Finally, she gave Ichigo the power to protect his family and mentored him only to see him cut down by her own brother, Byakuya. By the time her execution rolled around, she was almost looking forward to oblivion.
    • Also Ichigo, in regards to his mother Masaki's Heroic Sacrifice for him:
      Ichigo: "I loved my mom. (...) She filled up the center our family revolved around. From that center, I stole mom from them, I did...!"
    • Ryuuken Ishida's worldview and life choices are deeply influenced by his inability to save his cousin and fiancee Masaki from Hollowfication or his wife Kanae Katagiri, who was the sole person capable of bringing him back from his Heroic BSoD over Masaki, from Yhwach's purge.
  • Naruto:
    • Haku. His father killed his mother and then turned on him afterward all due to both of them possessing a rare bloodline ability. Poor Haku's will to live saved him by killing his father and the rest, leaving the child a vagrant orphan in a village stuck in perpetual winter. When Zabuza offered him the opportunity to serve him and be useful, Haku accepted and became Zabuza's loyal servant.
    • Jiraiya for Naruto when he returns to Konoha. Even in his dying moments, Jiraiya thinks of his entire life as nothing but a long string of failures: failing to win Tsunade's heart, failing to stop Orochimaru's descent into villainy, failing to save his student Minato and his teacher Sarutobi, and failing to stop his former student Nagato. Raising Naruto for the past few years to be a strong and capable young man was the only thing Jiraiya believes he did right.
  • Ingrid in Freezing, having lost her friend Marine, becomes a Blood Knight version of the trope.
  • In the Skypiea arc of One Piece, former ruler Gan Fall, after being unable to make peace with the Shandians or stop Enel from turning his kingdom into an Orwellian Dystopia, he puts on a suit of armor and dedicates himself to saving as many people as possible as the Knight of the Sky.
    • In the Dressrosa arc, we have the Toy Soldier, who was unable to save Rebecca's mother Scarlett, and therefore devoted himself to Rebecca herself. Eventually, however, Rebecca was caught and forced to fight in the colosseum for her freedom as a gladiator. The reasoning for this devotion is because the Toy Soldier was not originally a toy; he was the legendary gladiator Kyros, who was forgotten thanks to the abilities of Sugar's devil fruit. He was also the son-in-law of King Riku by virtue of being Scarlett's husband; his inability to protect the mother of his child made him determined to protect Rebecca, his daughter.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne, we have two of these on opposite sides of the war. Allen Schezar, Knight of Astoria, feels guilty for not being able to protect his deceased Missing Mom and his long-lost sister Selena, kidnapped as a young girl. In the Zaibach empire, Jajuka the Beastman feels guilty because he also was unable to save Selena... from forcibly becoming Dilandau, thanks to the Mad Scientists of the group.
  • Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion devoted herself to piloting from a very young age. The reason for that is later revealed to be very tragic: on the day she was accepted as a trainee, she ran to tell her mentally unstable mother Kyoko the news only to be the first to find Kyoko's body after she hung herself. To add insult to injury, Kyoko, even while alive, rejected Asuka for a doll and Asuka's father openly cheated on Kyoko with the woman's nurse and neglected Asuka as well. The real reason she wants to be the best pilot is that she feels it as a justification of her existence, essentially adopting her Eva as a Replacement Goldfish. Once it becomes painfully clear that Shinji is better, Asuka feels she has no reason left to live. When she realizes that her Eva isn't a Replacement Goldfish but the real deal, she instantly recovers... only to lose again due to circumstances out of her control. This time she crosses the Despair Event Horizon and stays that way.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Akemi Homura is an unusual example in that the person she's going out of her way to protect is the same person she failed to save. It's revealed that in the original timeline, Madoka was a Magical Girl and died protecting Homura. Overcome with grief and guilt, Homura made a deal with Kyubey to be able to go back and protect Madoka in exchange for becoming a Magical Girl herself. Her wish was granted, and she became a Magical Girl with the power to control time which allowed her to repeat her attempt when Madoka died or turned into a witch. This has happened many times over. Nonetheless, she remains determined to save her.
  • Tachibana of Gate 7. His Big Brother Instinct towards Hana is justified once it's discovered that he fails in protecting his own twin sister and she ended kipnapped by Iemitsu.
  • Takao, the heroine of Bokura no Kiseki, is extremely devoted to protecting the protagonist Harusumi, because in her past life, she failed to protect her sworn master, Veronica (who Harusumi happens to be the reincarnation of), and let her die. This is rather embarrassing to Harusumi because previously to Takao regaining her Past-Life Memories, the two of them had just started going out.
  • Skeleton Soldier Couldn't Protect the Dungeon: It's right there in the title. The first thing that ever happened to the skeleton soldier was he failed to protect the necromancer who raised him; apparently the next twenty years weren't much better, and he died failing to protect his succubus queen.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman is Gotham's Failure Knight. Other characters who don't know his backstory find him insufferable, until they realize he feels everything.
  • Sin City invokes this trope quite a bit. The heroes have the Dulcinea Effect. They know they will probably get killed in their quests but they can't help but protect those around them (or at least avenge their deaths).
  • Sabretooth for his love interests, Monet, Bonnie, and Holly. He's controlled by an enemy to fatally wound Holly and fails to get her to a hospital. Bonnie was infected with a plague before they met & he has to kill her when the cure gets destroyed in the lab explosion. When Monet is cursed by Emplate, he helps hide it by covering for her & letting her feed on him. This allows Emplate to gain greater control over Monet, which leads to her Face–Monster Turn. He wanted to stay by her & help find a cure but due to the Resurr Xion relaunch dropping their relationship, it doesn't happen.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Bleach fanfic Winter War, Kotetsu Isane becomes this. After her captain, Unohana, surrendered Seireitei and was taken captive- after ordering Isane to escape along with the critically wounded Captain Ukitake rather than try to fight- Isane focuses all her energies on keeping him alive, even as she becomes too apathetic and convinced of her own weakness to take an active role in organizing La Résistance (despite being one of the few surviving lieutenants). She manages to put her guilt aside and fight effectively when she has to- but she's still strongly focused on protecting Ukitake, to the point of refusing to let him try a Heroic Sacrifice at one point.
  • The basis behind Sakato in Pokéumans trying to become the fastest Pokeuman pretty much ever is because he wasn't good enough to save his friend Connor from Pokextinction.
  • Guardian, being about Lulu from Final Fantasy X, has a thorough exploration of this attitude and how Lulu came by it. From the beginning, her narration describes Ginnem as "the first summoner I failed."
  • Blackened Skies has several examples, such as Kaede and Kaito. All of the participants were involved in previous mutual killing games, and despite their best efforts, wound up falling victim to Monokuma's twisted motives and manipulations. Being thrown into another one, despite how impossible it seems, offers a chance to make up for those past mistakes - something Kaede in particular is determined to take full advantage of.

  • During World War II, Frank Capra volunteered for the Army, where they assigned him to make training films. In his first film, he wrapped the information in a little story: a captain had lost his entire company and was drilling his new soldiers to survive what had killed the last one. They hated him until it happened, and they all survived. The Army found that soldiers who watched this remembered what to do much better than from most training films.
  • Marlin from Finding Nemo can be seen as this. In just the first 15 minutes of the film he loses his wife and almost all of the hundreds of their eggs to a vicious barracuda. In the end just one egg survives which he ends up naming the titular character Nemo and he becomes extremely overprotective of Nemo out of sheer deterimination to not lose him too.
  • Sir Didymus of Labyrinth.
  • Frank Horrigan of In the Line of Fire holds himself responsible for not stopping the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Someone taunts him with the possibility of history repeating itself.
  • Jason to Kelly in Mystery Team.
  • Sir Knolte of Marlborough in Black Knight (2001) (the one with Martin Lawrence), who used to be a respected knight in the service of the Queen, until King Leo usurped her throne. His greatest failure is preventing this. When Jamal finds him, Knolte is living in the woods and spends much of his time drunk. He is later convinced to lead La Résistance against the false king and kills The Dragon.
    Jamal Walker: Oh, you're upset. I ain't got no beef with you, dawg.
    Sir Knolte: [drunkenly] Kindly address me with the proper respect. I am Knolte of Marlborough, and I am not a dog.
  • In Epic (2013) Ronin is determined to protect MK and the pod because the pod is all the forest has left of Tara.
  • Jake Gittes of Chinatown is haunted by the memory of a time when he tried to help someone and ended up hurting her instead. He's doomed to repeat the same experience by the movie's end.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire is rife with these. To name a few:
    • Jorah Mormont's wife Lynesse left him; now he is massively overprotective of Daenerys, who looks like her
    • Sandor Clegane's past failure is unspecified, but may have something to do with Gregor killing their younger sister; now he protects Sansa
    • Erstwhile Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Barristan Selmy carries the guilt of being too cowardly to stop Mad King Aerys from starting a civil war... and equally guilty about failing to protect him from said war, not to mention failing to protect Prince Rhaegar at the Trident, and failing to protect King Robert from a Hunting "Accident". After getting forcibly retired by Joffrey, he threw his lot in with Daenerys Targaryen, and is absolutely set on protecting her whatever happens.
    • Brienne of Tarth was in love with Renly Baratheon, who was the first man to pretend to treat her with something other than scorn, and swore to guard his life with her own; when he was killed by his brother, she was devastated. While she doesn't seem to be in love with Jaime Lannister, the fact that he was the first man to actually treat her with something other than scorn plus her single-minded devotion to fulfilling the oath she made to him smacks of this trope.
    • Subverted with Ser Dontos, who is saved from execution by young Sansa Stark and helps her escape the Lannisters in return, but is really a greedy drunk spying on her for Littlefinger, who has him killed.
    • Lord Jon Connington was close friends with Prince Rhaegar, and the way he thinks about him hints towards having felt more than friendship. Haunted by Rhaegar's death in the war that saw Jon exiled, he is now determined to restore Rhaegar's son Aegon to the throne.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, Bonded Warders can go a little crazy if their charges die - they are typically Driven to Suicide, Walking the Earth in an Unstoppable Rage against evil forces until they get defeated.
  • Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold: Miles Vorkosigan, when Ekaterin starts to slip down a slope, has a flashback to the rescue operation in The Borders of Infinity. In the previous incident, as the Drop Ship was leaving, one of the female prisoners who helped him organize it from the inside fell out the back. Miles tried to catch her, but he missed the grip and she fell to her death. This time he catches her...and promptly slides into the pond with her, as he's not anchored to anything and she outmasses him. This helps him accept that he couldn't have saved the other woman.
  • The Bloodguard in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant probably fit this trope.
  • Araris Valerian in Codex Alera has a lot of this going on thanks to his failure to protect Septimus. He gets a second chance with his son, Octavian.
  • Severus Snape has a twisted version in the Harry Potter series. His failure and motive for his subsequent behavior don't become clear until late in the final book.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Bartimaeus in a way projects this onto Nathaniel (especially at the end of the third book) because of his failure to protect Ptolemy.
  • Tash Arranda in Galaxy of Fear has a mild version of this. She's thirteen and lost her homeworld Alderaan, and everyone she knew and loved except her little brother with it - and she's determined not to lose him or, as they get to know and care for each other, her uncle. Zak loves her and wants to protect her too, but the element of "Never again" isn't as clearly outlined with him.
    • Their uncle Hoole takes them in and protects them initially for reasons similar to this trope - he unwittingly contributed to an Apocalypse How, and caring for kids whose homeworld is lost eases the guilt a little - but as he gets to know them better and care about them, after it was revealed that he wasn't as responsible for it as he'd thought he becomes more of a Papa Wolf.
  • Toklo in Seeker Bears feels that he could have prevented his brother Tobi from dying. That's why he felt he had to protect his friends all the time.
  • The Underland Chronicles: Poor Hamnet. He shouldn't have listened to his mother and let the flood gates open so that everyone would drown. Later we discover that Ripred is this for his dead mate and pups.
  • Percy Jackson: Grover, who failed to save Thalia and then becomes this for Percy. And if Grover didn't feel bad enough about it himself, the elders are quick to shame him for it.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Kaladin. He fails to protect his little brother, which drives him to try to protect anyone else he ever deems to be his responsibility (his spear squad, Bridge Four). His reaction is generally not pretty.
  • In Solar Defenders: The Role of a Shield, Sensei Billingsley lost his son to a monster attack because he and his friends didn't know how to protect themselves well enough. He's since made it his mission in life to make sure all the kids in town are trained in self-defense.
  • Conrad Weller from Kyo Kara Maoh! has only been this for the last twenty years of a roughly hundred-year life, but it's really deep-set. The main character, Yuuri, is the reincarnation of the woman he loved very much, Susanna Julia von Wincott, and Conrad handled the soul transfer personally and assisted in the birth. He does pretty well at not treating Yuuri or thinking of him as a Replacement Goldfish, but he is definitely a replacement.
    • Oddly the failure that seems to have hit his psyche deepest, or at least the one he acknowledges, has nothing to do with him—the entire command structure of the country is apparently held responsible for Julia applying her Healing Hands to battle wounded until it killed her, and at the time he was off surviving a suicide mission while all but one of his best friends fell and died about him under his command. Technically, however, Rutenberg Pass was a victory, and nobody but he and Yozak really cared about the other Half-Human Hybrids who fell there, betrayed by the nation to which they had sworn their loyalty. Probably Julia's loss, which hit him quite hard in its own right, was the safe one to feel, since really processing what happened at Rutenberg would require confronting the incredible betrayal by his nation and his family that allowed the battle of Rutenberg Pass and his credentials as a hero to even happen. He appears to have completely sublimated all his personal feelings to this overreaching mission to dutifully serve his king, which gives him his Stepford Smiler vibe.
      • Note that the best friend who survived Rutenberg with him is still someone whose life he is willing to threaten for messing with Yuuri after knowing the kid a few days, and those not being heroic or successful days for the most part.
      • He also wound up betraying everything he was and loved because his nation's god told him it was the best way to help Yuuri achieve his goals. To twist the knife, Shinou appears to have pulled that just as much to torment and mess with Yuuri as to get an inside man into Daishimaron. Their relationship never quite recovers, which is probably a good thing since Yuuri tended to rely on Conrad for everything.
    • Conrad needs somebody to live for. Once it was Wolfram. Wolfram rejected him for being half-human shortly after his father died, he had a very justified nasty cynical adolescent phase, and then wound up fixated on Julia, as well as country and almost certainly his comrades. When most of that was shorn away and his Julia attachment was adroitly transferred to the new king, he became patriotism in a brown uniform. Even though it was a country in which no one had protested sending him to die, or moved to punish anyone for getting soldiers killed stupidly...but exiled a high-born general on a Snipe Hunt because his We Have Reserves tactics wound up setting off a popular blind noblewoman's Chronic Hero Syndrome, and getting her killed. Emotionally, that is the loss it is acceptable for him to mourn, so he assigns all his negative emotions to that, rather than risk hating everyone he has left in the world.
  • Fate/Zero
    • Lancer (a.k.a. Diarmuid Ua Duibhne) lost the trust of his lord Finn mac Cumhaill when he (accidentally) stole Finn's fiancé. He joins the Holy Grail War for one reason: to successfully serve his Master through the War, thus atoning for his past failure. Unfortunately, his new Master's fiancé falls for him much like Grainne did, poisoning the attempt right from the start.
    • Berserker AKA Lancelot thinks he is this and was trying to atone for banging his king´s wife (who forgave him because they would be happier together). He completely snapped and killed several of his comrades. Not like he knows now that he is a Berserker.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Vampire Hunter Holtz, to a certain degree.
  • Game of Thrones: How Brienne feels about herself after the deaths of Renly Baratheon and later, Catelyn Stark, neither of whom she was in a position to protect. Littlefinger even points out her inability to protect either of them in "The House of Black and White." This changes by the middle of Season 6, where Jaime praises her for succeeding in fulfilling her oath.
  • Lateline had one of these, a snarky sassy secretary type who idolized the jerky lead anchor character.
  • Shoutaro Hidari, in Kamen Rider Double, is intensely devoted towards protecting his clients no matter what. He got too ahead of himself once while still working under his mentor. It caused the client (parent and child) to get hurt. With his mentor's teaching and his own guilt, Shotaro decided to never be so rash again. The sentiment is shared by Akiko in her more heroic moments as she indeed is a daughter of her father.
  • Haruto Soma, in Kamen Rider Wizard, sees protecting Gates as his sole purpose in life. He blames himself for being the only survivor of dark magical ritual that started the plot and moved him from Failure Knight he became after losing his parents as a child to superpowered Failure Knight. He couldn't do anything in either case, but that doesn't particularly matter to him.
  • Nico Saiba invoked this reaction in Taiga Hanaya when she called him her doctor in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. She meant it as a joke, but he failed to save someone once already and so was obligated to take care of her no matter how much he didn't want to. Her habit of trolling him and spoiling his attempts to be Mr. Tough Guy didn't make anything easier either.
  • On NCIS, it's implied that Gibbs's devotion to his team is at least partly due to the murder of his wife and daughter several years earlier. This may be especially true of Abby, who serves as something of a surrogate daughter.
  • The Mentalist: Patrick Jane, while not helpful in the traditional sense, always saves his beloved Lisbon and her team after the death of his wife and daughter.
  • Zig-zagged in Nikita: after she fails to save Larissa, a woman she'd befriended during a brief period of captivity, Alex becomes invested in saving the people of Division, to the point of orchestrating a mutiny which she (irrationally) believes will allow everyone to live. However, it is eventually revealed that Larissa never existed, and that Alex had been brainwashed in order to exacerbate her existing survivor's guilt to the breaking point, with the expectation that she'd do what she eventually did. Subsequently, after the mutiny results in the actual, for real death of someone particularly close to her, Alex, still under the influence, attempts to pull off a second rescue, this time of a group of sex slaves.
  • Finch to Reese in Person of Interest. He holds himself responsible for the people whose lives were endangered but he did not, or could not, save, including Reese's love. Reese returns this to a degree, seeing Finch as the man who gave him a purpose in life and a way to save people.

    Multiple Media 
  • In BIONICLE, Toa Vakama got stuck in this rut as a result of what happened to Toa Lhikan and failing to stop the Big Bad in time, becoming a Leeroy Jenkins around the time the Visorak invade Metru Nui. This, plus the effects of being turned into a mutant freak cause him to perform a brief Face–Heel Turn.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Anchors of Bliss Stage are pledged to love and protect the very, very fragile ANIMapilots: it's always safe to assume that they've seen more than one of their charges die. "Repeat (falling for a pilot who dies) until you get used to it. THAT'S what it's like to be an Anchor."
  • Warhammer 40,000: Skarbrand is one of the most feared Bloodthirsters despite having been effectively abandoned by his patron god Khorne. After taking a swing at his boss (due to a Tzeentchian spell), Khorne picked him up and threw him so hard he didn't land for eight days and eight nights, destroying his wings on landing. Now a being of pure rage, he slaughters his way across the galaxy in the hopes of getting back into Khorne's good graces... fat chance of that: he's actually killed more people since than when he worked for Khorne.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate
    • As his charge is killed during the opening of Baldur's Gate II, Minsc becomes unable to return to his homeland of Rashemen, as he would be utterly humiliated for his failure to protect hernote . This makes Minsc's devotion to the survivors of the first game's party (canonically, the PC, Jaheira and Imoen) all the stronger, as well as giving him a highly protective streak concerning Aerie, Nalia, Mazzy and Keldorn should they join you.
    • A more literal Failure Knight in the same game can be found in the graveyard. Near the top of the screen, a Paladin mourns his deceased adopted son, while near the bottom of the screen a priest searches for a guardian for the orphaned little girl he's looking after...
  • In Chrono Trigger, Glenn is this way around Cyrus during Frog's backstory.
    • In fact, getting over this event was the major point of a sidequest at the end of the game. This upgrades your Masamune to 200 Attack Power, making it Frog's best weapon.
    • Lucca is also something of a Failure Knight. Having witnessed a horrific accident involving machines in her childhood, when we meet her as a teenager she is fanatical about technology and science, and shows particular compassion towards Robo. If you do a certain sidequest, she gets the opportunity to go back in time and prevent the tragedy where her mother lost her legs—turning it into a scary "near miss" which still has the same effect on the younger Lucca.
  • Dragon Age II has Aveline, who meets the Hawke family while defending her husband from Darkspawn, declaring "They will not have you, not while I stand." A matter of minutes later, it's revealed he's infected with the Blight, forcing either her or Hawke to Mercy Kill him. She spends the game's seven-year timespan juggling her roles as Captain of the Guard and Hawke's adventuring companion and is an equally fierce Team Parent in both. To put this in perspective, she's still in the running for the most well-adjusted character in Kirkwall.
  • In Dragon Quest VI, the Real World version of The Hero went off to fight Murdaw, but got banished immediately by Murdaw's magic. He wound up in Weaver's Peak, where everyone viewed him as a weakling and a coward. The only person who cared for him was Tania, hence why his Dream World counterpart is Tania's actual brother. Only once Weaver's Peak is attacked does the Real World hero become willing to face his fear and merge with his Dream World counterpart.
  • The Final Fantasy games are fond of this trope:
    • Locke in Final Fantasy VI. He acts the knight-errant protector to Terra, especially when he finds out she has amnesia, and drops hints about a difficult past. Shortly thereafter he meets Celes and becomes utterly devoted. Locke swears to protect her, mentions a promise he had made to someone, other characters ask if he's "thinking of... her," and eventually we get the story: Locke was reminded, by both women, of his girlfriend Rachel. She was injured and lost her memories trying to save him. She later died, just after regaining them. Eventually, he revives her — only for a minute. That is long enough for her to forgive him, give her blessing to Celes and Locke's burgeoning romance, and die for good.
      • Cyan also falls under this when Kefka poisons the water surrounding Doma castle, killing everyone inside, including Cyan's wife and son. Later on, after beating the Phantom Train boss, Cyan sees his wife and son depart to the afterlife, telling him that they love him and they thank him for all he has done for them. Though he tries to put it behind him, Cyan still blames himself for not being able to prevent the tragedy. In fact, during the World of Ruin, those negative emotions haunt him and cause a spirit fiend named Wrexsoul to appear in Cyan's dreams and feed off Cyan's soul. After the party defeats the monster, the spirit of Cyan's wife and son appear and they tell him to be strong and to keep living. This finally gives Cyan the strength to carry on, which causes him to fully master all of his Bushido techniques.
    • Cloud and Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. It's because she is killed by Sephiroth and Cloud was unable to do anything.
    • Steiner from Final Fantasy IX is a literal failure knight. Despite his personal skills, his platoon (The Knights of Pluto) is the laughingstock of the Alexandrian military, his attempts to help or protect the Princess are undermined by everyone else in the cast (including the Princess herself), and he eventually watches his own beloved Queen die, hoist by her own power-hungry petard. Fortunately, once he's hit rock bottom, things start to get better. When Bahamut attacks Alexandria, his men start to redeem themselves when they perform specialized duties like readying the cannons, gathering information, protecting the citizens, and sending for reinforcements. You learn about which knights specialize in each area when one of the Knights of Pluto gives information (in the first Disk) that this knight is a great fighter, these knights are great cannoneers, that this knight knows all the women in town, and things along that line.
    • Lulu from Final Fantasy X went on two pilgrimages before going with Yuna. Both failed, but for differing reasons. The first journey was a summoner Lulu was unable to protect when they went to see an off-the-beaten-path Aeon, something she never forgave herself for. The second was a man who, upon reaching the Calm Lands, decided to abandon his journey — something many summoners end up doing once they reach that stage.
      • Auron from the same game, however, is a Failure Knight because he succeeded in protecting his summoner (since the Final Summoning results in the summoner's death anyway). Being a guardian just kind of sucks all the way around.
    • Noel from Final Fantasy XIII-2 feels he failed to protect Yeul and everyone else in his world. He also fails to protect Serah, who dies in his arms right after they beat Caius. And then it turns out that he didn't even succeed in protecting the future, as killing Caius allows the world to be destroyed. Damn...
    • Yunita from Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is determined to protect Aire and save Horne, but Aire berates her for being late, they're separated early on, then the two boys she travels with ditch her one after the other and leave her with a severe inferiority complex, and she's conned out of all her possessions. It's probably a good thing she didn't find out until after meeting her again that Aire spent the good chunk of the game cursed into being a cat, otherwise her Heroic BSoD in Urbeth might have gotten even worse.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Prince Shanan from Genealogy of the Holy War, as a child, failed to stop his leader's wife kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the enemy, who later killed almost everyone Shanan cared for. 17 years later, he's a badass and handsome swordsman who still feels horribly guilty after that mistake.
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade:
      • Lady of War Fiora goes through this twice. First, she had a huge fight with her middle sister Farina that almost split up the family, and then her whole Pegasus Knight squad is slaughtered, so her youngest sister Florina must talk her out of going into a suicidal Foe-Tossing Charge. YIKES!
      • There's also Harken, who obsesses over his failure to protect Lord Elbert from Nergal.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones we have Gerik, who tells Innes in their supports that he's always felt like crap for not preventing the death of an old friend who motivated him to become a mercenary. And there's also the matter of him finding out that the killer... was another good friend of his: Saleh, the Badass Bookworm. Who killed the other guy by accident and also considered it his greatest regret.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening has a Pegasus Knight, Cordelia, go through a situation identical to Fiora's (a slaughtered squadron under her watch). Except in this case her fellow knights sacrificed their own lives willingly so she could escape. It haunts Cordelia deeply, especially in her supports with the Avatar, and in a conversation with Severa she mentions she "often dreamed of death" aka the slaughter of her wingmates!
  • Mickey Mouse, of all people, is like this in Kingdom Hearts. In the first games, he prefers to work behind the scenes on his own and doesn't seem to want to get Sora and company too involved with what he's doing, only directly helping out when he has no choice. That's because in the prequel game, he does the opposite, running off to heroically join Terra, Aqua and Ven in battle and fight on the frontlines with them. However, he winds up accomplishing nothing and can only watch as Ven is rendered comatose, Terra and Aqua "disappear" and the Darkness starts to destroy worlds a year or so later just like they feared. Apparently he doesn't want Sora and co to end up like their predecessors.
  • Occurs frequently in Knights of the Old Republic. Depending upon your character interpretation, Carth, Jolee, and Juhani in the first game and Atton, the Disciple, Mandalore, and Visas in the second all qualify.
  • In a way, Persona 4 has Yosuke, who loved Saki Konishi only to subsequently have her die. This is more subtle in that he didn't really have the power to protect anyone until after she died, but her death definitely drives him. The game kind of slaps him in the face by revealing that Saki hated his guts - she worked at the department store run by Yosuke's father, which was putting Saki's family's liquour store out of business, and despite her claims to the contrary, she secretly resented him for it.
  • In Phantom Brave, Ash protects Marona to make up for failing to protect her parents. Nevermind that he died right along with them.
    • This is also quite likely the source of his power as a Phantom. Most of the main cast of Marona's army release their power to get ready for a big fight by reciting a small incantation, unique to each character. Ash's incantation? Word for word the last thing he said before the battle where he failed to protect Marona's mother and died in the process.
  • In the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, Adrian Andrews is stubborn and very matter-of-fact due to her former mentor, Celeste, committing suicide. Doesn't help that the guilty party AND the victim of the case were directly responsible, and Adrian Andrews suffers from severe self-esteem issues.
    • In the first game, you could make the case that Phoenix himself is Edgeworth's failure knight. Think about it: he allowed his entire career choice to be determined by his desire to help a guy he'd known for about a year when they were both nine years old.
  • Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time's Alistair Azimuth is this until he goes a bit crazy and tries to reverse his failure.
  • Dias Flac, from Star Ocean: The Second Story. Though we can't really blame Dias for his family's deaths, being as he was a little kid at the time.
  • Archimedes in Suika, who is depressed that he didn't come into existence to fulfill the wish of the little girl who made him until after she had already died. But he gets to make up for it by sacrificing himself for the local ill girl sister.
  • The Tales Series has a few different Failure Knights in its ranks of heroes.
    • Asbel from Tales of Graces fails to protect his friends during a childhood incident that left them all inches from death. He joins the Knight Academy to attempt to become stronger so he never fails again, but then promptly fails over and over. To his credit, he keeps trying, but several characters call him out on this.
    • Senel from Tales of Legendia goes through quite the Trauma Conga Line when it comes to protecting Shirley and Stella. He inadvertently gets the village they live in destroyed, gets Shirley kidnapped by Vaclav, fails to save Stella in time, and then breaks Shirley's heart to the point that she pulls a Face–Heel Turn and attempts to flood the world with water. On top of all that, his repeated "not my problem" attitude grates on the other party members' nerves to the point they go on without him, and the Quiet Nerifes doesn't give him sacred eres until he realizes what a complete Jerkass he's been to everyone. Tough break.
  • Sork from Treasure of the Rudra even though the Knight Captain says that he is the best Swordsman of Cryunne.
  • Jack van Burace from Wild ARMs was originally a Fenril Knight named Garrett Stampede, tasked with protecting the Kingdom of Arctica and the main offense of his unit (and potential Love Interest) Elmina. Unfortunately the demons completely destroyed Arctica, killed the king and most of the other Fenril Knights. Jack only escaped because Elmina locked him out of the castle to protect him while she undertook a Last Stand against Alhazad. Later on when Rudy has lost his left arm, Jack laments he can't seem to protect the people he truly cares about.
  • Wild ARMs 5
    • Greg certainly qualifies. Dropping his entire war on Golems and becoming a ride-along babysitter/bodyguard, all for a kid he met twice that on one occasion was more than ready to shoot him in the back is a pretty far jump for a violent, outlaw drifter. Until you find out that Dean reminds him of his murdered son, whose death he blames himself for.
    • The main villain is one as well, considering that his entire crusade was prompted by his own failure to tear down the wall between Veruni and Humans. The same goes for Nightburn, to a lesser degree.

    Visual Novels 
  • Saber of Fate/stay night has shades of this, which become more evident as the story progresses. As King Arthur, she failed to save the country she lived to serve, and perhaps even led to the civil war which tore it apart. Her sole wish is to erase her own existence, in the hopes that a different king will wield Excalibur, and succeed where she failed. And as Fate/Zero makes clear, this isn't the first Holy Grail War she's taken part in.

  • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, of Girl Genius, could be considered a variation; instead of having lost his Great Love, he just thought he did. The second time drives him insane. Well, more insane.
  • Nigel Dantalian of Fey Winds is a war golem who failed to protect his master, the Alchemist, from the comic's resident Big Bad. The last order that the Alchemist gave Nigel was to find Sylphe and help her. He devotes himself to Kit because of the echoes of Sylphe's magic in her body.
  • Kat suggests this as a possible motivation for the mysterious bird robots in Gunnerkrigg Court. Specifically, that their creator lost his lover on the bridge so he built the birds to defend court students trying to cross the bridge. It now looks unlikely that this is the case, however.
  • Chief of Goblins seems to feel this at times. At birth, he was chosen as chief in order to prevent a civil war that would have destroyed his clan, but it cost the clan their glory and honor. As a result, he has shown a strong loyalty towards his warriors and when Kore found them, he chose to stay behind so the others could escape.
  • Ruby in Nuzlocke Comics during season 2, after he loses his entire team in the Hoenn Champion battle at the conclusion of the first season.
  • Grace of El Goonish Shive, becomes one after failing to stop Damien when he killed everyone at the lab she grew up in. Grace also blames herself for not being able to help Nanase stop Abraham. Abraham himself is one because he failed his mentor in creating the Dewitchery Diamond which compounded his already serious problems and resulted in the deaths of at least five people.
  • Katia of Prequel is this to everyone who is nice enough to be her friend, aside from random guards.
  • Kielnode Chrishi from Black Haze is a variant of one for his little brother Rood. While Rood doesn't end up dying, it's directly because of Kiel's negligence that he becomes an experiment in the Tower's ceremony. Kiel uses this second chance to make the now amnesiac Rood his top priority, ensuring that he's living safely and comfortably.
  • Sir Vitaleu from the Trash Knight is considered by many to be a dullard, incompetent, and even a coward. Seems to be an Informed Flaw because while he is naive and trusting to a fault, he is very competent at killing people and is very courageous. It could also be a case of him being a Hero with Bad Publicity or he is just bad at administrating to his town being a noble warrior at heart.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, we discover in Chapter 19.7 that Tattletale went to such great lengths for Skitter because her older brother committed suicide, and Skitter was on a path to do the same.

    Western Animation 
  • Twist: Depth Charge from Transformers: Beast Wars isn't a Failure Knight... He's more of a Failure Vampire Hunter. He used to be a loyal, good-natured, reliable Maximal, an all-around good guy. What happened? Protoform X happened. The sadistic, violent experiment gone wrong pretty much literally ripped Depth Charge's life to shreds, and bringing the monster to justice is all Depth Charge has left. He has a way of showing up when he's needed and then telling whoever he just saved where to stick it which stems from him being more of a loner than most Failure Knights... but considering what happened to his last group of pals, maybe that's understandable.
    • Arguably, much the same thing happens to Silverbolt in Beast Machines, when Megatron turns him evil, removes his code of honor, and he likes it. Afterwards, he splits his time between brooding over his fall, seeking revenge and spurning the affections of his former lover, Blackarachnia
  • Sean Napier from Exo Squad reversed this trope; his goal is to "fix his mistake": saving the life of Phaeton.
    • Interestingly, there are indications that Phaeton is a variant of this. He must bring about Neosapien domination of the Solar System because he helped the Exofleet crush the first Neo revolt, albeit under duress; not to mention that the Neos were losing anyway.
  • Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender is upset with Yue's death and blames himself for it, thinking he could have protected her. When he meets up with Suki again, he tries protecting her fervently to prevent her from dying too.
  • In a sense, Leonardo, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and particularly from the 2003 version) sometimes fall into this or feels like this. He hasn't always been able to protect his family from danger, and this has always tormented him.

     Real Life 
  • Older Than Radio: In a sense, The 47 Ronin who pulled a huge Long Game to kill the nasty nobleman who got their master killed and still ended up as the heroes, allowed to kill themselves honorably via seppuku rather than be executed and die in shame.
  • George III's second son Frederick, Duke of York was so conscious of his disastrous experience in Flanders that he devoted himself entirely to being a better officer; Britain got its first serious army reform in the bargain.

    Unfortunately for Britain, this devotion also impacted his health and marriage: his bad marriage added to the uncertainty of the succession (the reign of George IV was a race among the previously-dissolute princes to produce a legitimate heir), as he wanted nothing to do with his wife; and his ill-health eventually killed him before his older brother died, leaving third son Prince William to take the throne—and while "Sailor Billy" was hardly a bad king given the circumstances, it's widely believed that Frederick would have been better.