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I Work Alone

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"Once upon a time, I had somebody that I cared about...It was a partner. Somebody I had to look after. And in this world, that sort of shit's good for one thing: Gettin' you killed. So you know what I did? I wisened the fuck up, and realized it's got to be just me out there."
Bill, The Last of Us

This is a character who is defined by their insistence on, well, working alone. They refuse partnerships or offers to join teams, and even if they do end up allying with the heroes, they will prefer to operate by themselves.

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Sometimes, this lone wolf attitude arose because of some past trauma. They may have had partners, sidekicks, love interests, or other teammates die on them and wound up thinking that working alone won't get anybody else killed. This type of I Work Alone usually comes with a bitter and cynical personality that defrosts as they get to know the other characters.

Other times, this attitude is meant to portray a character as badass: they prefer to work alone because they really don't need others' help. After all, someone who can take down a whole army by themselves usually doesn't need someone watching their six. Cowboy Cops and heroes that actually enjoy their solitude count in this type. However, saying "I work alone" can sometimes be Tempting Fate, and in this particular instance, the usually competent hero might for once find himself in way over his head. They will, often reluctantly, accept the offer of help.

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Alternatively, this can be due to their cultural beliefs that stems from values of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and personal growth, these individualists view working solo as being more efficient than working with a group (whom they view as collectivists).

Someone who espouses I Work Alone could turn out to be an Ineffectual Loner (their attempts at working alone just end up with them getting beat, and they learn The Power of Friendship and join the team). However, this type of character can function as an independent ally who cooperates from the get-go and befriends the others, but chooses to work by themselves if given the chance.

Can overlap with Aloof Ally, who has teammates and allies but is distant from them. See also Informed Loner, who claims to always be alone but is actually surrounded by people, and Ineffectual Loner, whose attempts to work alone are not effective; those guys usually end up embracing The Power of Friendship. Contrast with I Just Want to Have Friends, True Companions, or You Are Not Alone. Not to be confused with Leave Me Alone!, a Stock Phrase for when you reject others' attempts at companionship, although someone who works alone may occasionally say it.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cassandra from Claymore always preferred to work alone during her lifetime, secretly self-conscious about the "ugliness" of the Dust Eater technique that propelled her to the top rank of the Organization's warriors. When she let other people get closer to her, it did not end well at all: one of them let the other be brutally murdered, copied Cassandra's technique, and had her executed, as well.
  • In the Dragon Ball series, Vegeta always wants to train alone, even though he could potentially become stronger if he trained with a sparring buddy. Perhaps justified given that the only potential sparring partner who'd be able to keep up with him is the guy he desperately wants to surpass; Vegeta wants training that he alone will benefit from.
  • Food Wars!: Akira Hayama has this as his Fatal Flaw. While he's legitimately talented and can work pretty well on his own, his pride prevented him from asking for help when Azami Nakiri took over the academy and threatened to shut down the Shiomi Seminar, even using Jun's lifelong research as a bargaining chip to get him to join Central. When Soma faces him again, he rightfully calls him out on jumping ship so quickly, pointing out that he and the others would have gladly come to his aid had he just asked them.
  • This was actually the Fatal Flaw of Heart Catch Pretty Cure's Yuri Tsukikage. She was so confident in her abilities as Cure Moonlight, that she ignored her partner, Cologne, in finding allies. End result? A massive Curb-Stomp Battle leading to Cologne's death and her temporary depowerment.
  • This is Chang Wufei's attitude throughout Mobile Suit Gundam Wing until an encounter with the ZERO System convinces him that teaming up with the other pilots is the best course of action. He goes right back to being a loner in the post-series manga, culminating in Endless Waltz where he does a Face–Heel Turn because he refuses to change his way of thinking.
  • Mirko in My Hero Academia is a high-ranking pro hero who never takes on sidekicks and dislikes teaming up with other pros, only doing so when the government orders her to. This is because she's a Blood Knight who feels that teaming up would make her fights too easy.
  • In PandoraHearts Sharon calls Break "Mr. One-Man-Show" because of his tendency to refuse help and go off on his own. He even says himself that he doesn't know how to fight as a team. He's actually pretty good at taking care of business by himself, but due to his recent blindness and deteriorating overall physical condition, his willingness to rely on others, however slightly, is part of his character development.
  • Rebuild World: Played With. While Akira is definitely an anti-social Anti-Hero and The Paranoiac, with him being a general Defrosting Ice King, as well as the influence of others, Akira spends a large percentage of his fights teamed up with The Squad of some kind. Nonetheless, he has said this statement multiple times. As for the motivation behind that attitude, it's that Akira’s life before the story began was a Trauma Conga Line of being used and betrayed by pretty much everyone he ever met in the dog-eat-dog environment of the slums.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba actually despises the idea of teamwork because he hates relying on others, especially his rivals. At one point, he declares that if he succeeds with somebody else's help, his victory is meaningless.

    Comic Books 
  • Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl: Batgirl admits to Supergirl that she's not a good partner because she's used to working alone.
  • Mr Beaver: In his first appearance, the titular character rejects a handshake from Detective Kage and says "I don't do partners, kid."
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Fleetway's Sonic the Comic has a downplayed example in Shortfuse the Cybernik, who doesn't have any specific issues with working alongside the Freedom Fighters against Robotnik's forces; he even joined them for a time while Sonic was trapped in the Special Zone. However, his Hair-Trigger Temper and his tendency to prioritize attacking the enemy over assisting his allies makes him something of a poor team player, and, for the most part, he prefers taking the fight to Robotnik in his own way.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) introduces Whisper the Wolf, an ally to the Resistance who'd saved a number of their members during Robotnik's take-over, but declined to work with the rebels in any kind of formal capacity. Whisper only works with her Wisps and prefers to stay out of the spotlight per her "lone wolf" persona and because in reality, she's actually very shy.

    Fan Works 
  • Cheshire (Miraculous Ladybug): Played With. Actually, for Cheshire is more "I need to work alone", since every other Miraculous Holder is after her Miraculous, and they give fighting her priority over defeating the Akumas.
  • Despite Son of the Sannin having a significantly higher focus on team combat compared to canon, Zabuza stands out as someone who usually fights without anyone backing him up (despite stressing the importance of teamwork to his subordinates) because the large reach of his sword makes him just as much a threat to his allies as it does to his enemies. In fact the only time he truly fights with a parter is when he teams up with Mei against Kisame, and that's only because she is significantly more powerful than him and has increased situational awareness thanks to Sage Mode.

    Film — Animated 
  • In The Boss Baby: Family Business, Theodore "Ted" Templeton Jr. is determined to go through with Baby Corp's latest mission solo...or at least without his big brother Tim's help. He maintains this attitude during the mission despite being overruled by his youngest niece and fellow boss baby Tina.
  • Used (word for word) in The Incredibles: Buddy Pine, Mr. Incredible's self-proclaimed "biggest fan", invites himself on the hero's adventures, only to be rejected on the grounds that he's a kid in way over his head and that Mr. Incredible prefers to do his heroics alone. Buddy grows up to become the supervillain Syndrome and embarks on a decades-long revenge quest against not only Mr. Incredible, but all superheroes everywhere. He even brings this up after (seemingly) murdering Mr. Incredible's entire family.
    Syndrome: Ah, you'll get over it. I seem to recall you prefer to..."work alone?"

    Film — Live Action 
  • Eraser: Kruger refuses to work with other agents in the Witness Protection program to prevent the possibility of a leak. (It turns out his caution is more than justified).
    Kruger: I work alone. If anyone comes to you and claims that I sent them... (hands witness a revolver)...use this.
  • Arnie says the same in Predator, but in this case he says his team works alone, when told CIA agent Dillon is not only coming in with them, but is being placed in charge of the mission. Even though Dillon is an old war buddy, he's not used to working with Dutch's team (and it turns out he can't trust Dillon either).
  • Black Hawk Down: At the end of the movie, Hoot tells Eversman "I'm faster on my own" before he goes out again to search for the missing pilot.
  • Kung Fury: The title character insists he works alone because on the night he got his powers, his partner was killed.

    Literature 
  • In Prisoner of the Horned Helmet, the main character had his entire tribe destroyed when he was 9 or 10 (he doesn't know which). as a result, he swears to never depend on other people, and will not work with anything that has two legs. He does have a pet wolf, though.
  • Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium Series:
    • From the beginning of the first book, it is known that she works as a private investigator, and never comes into the office unless to deliver a report. She talks to people only when necessary and cuts off all contact with Blomkvist in the second book because she has fallen in love with him, then loses contact with the few friends she has when she travels around the world in the second book. When she comes home after more than a year she remembers that she had a casual girlfriend, Miriam Wu, who she didn't say goodbye to.
    • When Blomkvist repeatedly offers her help in the second book when Lisbeth becomes the Prime Suspect of a murder investigation Lisbeth denies him, because she looks out for herself, never trusting anyone to help her. This leads to her taking on Zalachenko and Niedermann by herself, and getting shot in the head. The reason she survives is that Blomkvist finds her in time to call an ambulance, and duct tapes the wounds on her body, to which she responds "Kalle Fucking Blomkvist"
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, Nikita has been refusing or getting rid of her assigned partners for the last three years, partly because she's bad at working with others, partly because she has too many secrets to be comfortable with people getting close to her, and partly because she worries that they're her mother's spies. Robin is the seventeenth attempt at having her team up with someone, and the first one that sticks.
  • John Rain: The title character would prefer to work alone, but as he gets older and the world changes post-9/11, it's just not practical or even safe. Mossad agent Boaz tells Rain that no one works alone anymore, and Rain is the only operator he knows who still insists on doing so (implying he's Too Dumb to Live). Even Dox wonders if their skills have become meaningless in an increasingly surveillance-heavy world, where the only way to keep working is when Big Brother Is Employing You.
  • Quiller series: Quiller refuses to work with "shields" (bodyguards) or even his fellow shadow executives because he doesn't want to let his guard down by depending on someone else.
  • A Master of Djinn: Fatma prefers to work alone, which is why she's unpleasantly surprised to learn the Ministry has assigned her Hadia as a partner.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied (like everything else) in Angie Tribeca: Angie constantly asserts that she doesn't need help or a partner. Not even when moving a sofa.
  • Batwoman (2019). In "Drink Me", Batwoman is fighting Nocturna who is clearly turned on by the experience and suggests they team up instead. Batwoman replies that she works alone, causing Luke Fox who is listening in on her earpiece to take offense.
  • Burn Notice: Jesse has this problem. He used to be out in the field but got put behind a desk mainly because he didn't work well with others.
  • Doctor Who:
    • After having lost two companions in tragic ways, the Tenth Doctor insisted on travelling alone, claiming that he didn't want to have his hearts broken again.
      • Deconstructed in "The Waters of Mars", where after having spent too much time traveling without companions, the Doctor goes mad over his inability to change a fixed point in time, and adopts an A God Am I persona, claiming that since he's the last Time Lord, then the laws of time are his to command. He refers to humans as "little people" and is only brought back when a woman whose life he saved committed suicide in order to preserve the timeline.
      • Then subverted with "The End of Time":
        Wilf: Have you got anyone?
        The Doctor: No. Travelling alone. I thought it was better, I thought... but I did some things, they went wrong... I need... [voice breaks]
    • The Eleventh Doctor went into this mode for a while after losing Amy and Rory Pond (who weren't just companions, but actually his in-laws and the only thing close to a family he had left). It takes meeting (and basically falling for) Clara Oswin Oswald in "The Snowmen" to snap him out of it.
    • "The Ghost Monument": Epzo believes that being alone is the natural state of every sentient being, and refuses to rely on anyone. The events of the episode are hinted to have begun to change his viewpoint.
  • Forever Knight. Nick Knight has a good reason to do so, given that he's trying to hide the fact that he's a Vampire Detective. However pressure to solve the 'Vampire Killer' murders means he's forced to take a partner who can work the day shift (Nick ostensibly has an allergy to sunlight). This is Don Schanke, whom he's previously been shown butting heads with, who then becomes his partner.
  • Parodied on Good Eats. Alton is explaining how, for some people, making pasta sauce is nostalgic, reminding them of a loving mother or Granny Classic stirring sauce on the stove...and for others, it brings to mind witches adding Eye of Newt to cauldrons. While he's talking, the loving grandmother is stirring sauce, and a witch keeps adding her ingredients, getting into an Escalating War with her. Alton informs the women that he cooks alone and goes into his pasta sauce recipe.
  • Knight Rider
    • In The Pilot Michael is still smarting over the death of his partner and doesn't want to work with another one. Wilton, as it turned out, wanted Michael specifically for the job primarily due to his loner streak ("One man can make a difference."). So he's given a Talking Appliance Sidekick in KITT instead.
    • Michael and KITT once encountered a government agent who was Working the Same Case as they were. He stated this literally word-for-word.
      Michael: Well me too but I don't make a religion out of it!
  • Abby of NCIS. Her bosses occasionally forced her to take on lab assistants, but she drove them away. After one of them tried to stab her, management decided to leave well enough alone.
  • Andros from Power Rangers in Space is portrayed this way, especially when he's introduced. He's not thrilled to run into the former Turbo Rangers, and fully intends to send them back to Earth and out of his way. Part of his Character Development is learning the value of working with a team. He does have Freudian Excuse though - his former partner, Zhane (the Silver Ranger), was severely injured in a fight a few years ago and is now in a coma, and according to his actor, the morphers he gave to the others may have belonged to a previous team of Rangers who died in the line of duty, leaving him the Sole Survivor.
  • Titans (2018). When Dick Grayson gives the cold shoulder to a Fair Cop assigned to work as his partner, everyone thinks it's because he's an ex-Gotham cop whose partner probably was gassed by the Joker or something. They don't know it's because he's working nights as a costumed vigilante who's broken up with his last partner, Batman.
  • On The X-Files, Mulder is originally portrayed this way. He hates the fact that he's been partnered with Scully and spends most of the first season alternating between annoying the hell out of her and being nice to her. By season two, though, he doesn't work alone... he just works with Scully. And if he can't work with Scully, he wants to work alone. He doesn't like to be partnered with anyone else even for a short time. Scully does the same thing in season 8 when partnered with John Doggett.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Leviathan: The Tempest has this as the core mission statement of the School of the Reef. Beloved, posessions, allies, all these can be lost or taken. The only things a Leviathan can always count on having are his own body, skills, and Channels, and so the School of the Reef focuses on honing these things.
  • Princess: The Hopeful:
    • Downplayed by the Court of Swords. While Swords has nothing against friendship and working with allies, its values strongly emphasize autonomy and self-sufficiency. A Princess of Swords should never let herself become truly dependent on another, lest that other tempt her away from the Light.
    • The Court of Mirrors, meanwhile, has this as their Fatal Flaw. Each Princess of Mirrors is told that she is the True Heir, the one destined to cast down the Darkness and restore the Kingdoms of Light. The problem is that a key part of Mirrors philosophy is that the True Heir must stand alone. She may have followers and lieutenants, but never peers or equals.

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • In Command & Conquer: Renegade, Havoc outright states that he left the Dead-6 commando unit because he works better alone. When he's forced into working with his old team again regardless, he makes sure they're all okay following a botched insertion... then basically orders them to sit on the sidelines for the rest of the game while he does all the work.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 brings us "Solos ," who, as their name suggests, are Edgerunners who prefer to work without a team, for various reasons. Given that Night City is a Wretched Hive where you can die in a million different ways per day, Solos who survive their contracts on their own typically become legends, and are often One-Person Armies in their own rights. One such solo is V who, after an abortive heist that left everyone but them dead, more or less is forced to become a solo because no one is crazy enough to partner up with them again; however, as a result, they build up their reputation as someone who gets shit done despite not having a team behind them.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Urdnot Wrex points out that he's never been much of one for working in an organized army, as "things get... messy." He works best alone, or "in very small groups." Fortunately, Shepard's team counts as such.
    • Previous to that, the turian Spectre Nihlus declines to accompany Commander Shepard's ground team on the mission in Eden Prime, claiming that he moves faster on his own. This ends up getting him shot in the back of the head by his colleague Saren.
  • Subverted with a big dose of lecture at the beginning of Wild ARMs 3. After the intro sequence and all four characters were in a bar, Jet announced that he works alone. Virginia would have none of it, replying directly with "What have you achieved while you were alone?" Make no mistake, it takes a significant chunk of the game for Jet to truly have a meaningful character development, but at least the intent is there.
  • Bill from The Last of Us firmly believes that depending on others is stupid and that you should only count on yourself. He is extremely rude and only seems to work with you to get you out of his holdout, not because you need his help.
  • Geralt repeatedly says in The Witcher that he prefers to hunt monsters alone, though (depending on the player's choice) he may make an exception for Sigfried—or refuse his help and play this trope completely straight.
  • Fire Emblem Heroes features "Solo"-type skills, which grant stat buffs and/or other benefits to their users if they are not adjacent to a space occupied by an ally unit of theirs. Several Heroes' personal weapons and base skill sets focus on staying away from allies and fighting all by their lonesomes. The reasons for this tend to vary, whether it be because said Heroes don't have sociable personalities (like Sirius, who keeps his real identity a secret and works with Marth for his own personal reasons), are used to isolation to some degree (like Shamir, who is a sniper whose job requires her to be away from the group), are reckless and charge head first into battle (like Ephraim, who is a Blood Knight par excellence), or that they don't want allies to get caught in the crossfire of their abnormal powers (like the Fallen versions of Corrin, who constantly work to constrain their feral dragon instincts).
  • Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West usually insists on trying to do everything herself, running off on her allies to save the world. This makes sense given that she's lived most of her life as an outcast and has relied on herself. However, her allies are very devoted to her and most of them are quite skilled, so her behavior mostly serves to really annoy them.
  • Spoken verbatim by White in Neon White, who rebuffs any attempt the rest of the Neons make at teaming up with him.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • Molly from Season 1. She had been alone since she lost her sister when they left Crawford. While she enjoys her time with the group, she leaves, thinking it's for the best. She may also leave the group involuntarily if Lee accidentally shoots her in the shoulder at the school while trying to shoot walkers.
    • Jane in Season 2, who is similar to Molly except that in Jane's case, it's a Deconstructed Trope - she's introduced as a cold, pragmatic badass just like Molly was. However, as she stays and works with the group, she thaws out and it becomes apparent that she just holds this trope as her modus operandi because she's scared of losing people close to her, just like her younger sister, Jaime. With that in mind, it explains why she pulls this trope straight-up and leaves the group after Sarah is eaten alive.
    • In Season 1 Episode 4, Lee can elect to look for Clementine alone, even if the other characters beg him to let them help. Some players felt that they didn't want to put the group in danger, and that finding Clem was Lee's job alone to do.

    Visual Novels 
  • Akira from Spirit Hunter: NG believes that his problems are his own and that he doesn't need to get anyone else involved with him, especially after one of his acquaintances is killed by the spirits he's fighting. While his friend Seiji applauds his independence, he also still insists on tagging along, as do the other companion characters.

    Webcomics 
  • Benjamin Prester of A Miracle of Science. Justified, as it turns out: His Science-Related Memetic Disorder is under sufficient control to enable him to hold down a job in the police taskforce dedicated to handling Mad Scientists, but the emotional trauma he suffers when his new partner is attacked and apparently killed pushes him into a relapse. And in fact, back in his mad scientist days, he not only didn't work alone but was the only mad scientist to build a true alliance with other mad scientists, his friends.
  • Lalli from Stand Still, Stay Silent always performs his primary duty, night scouting, alone. In this case, Lalli just doesn't want to have to deal with anyone else breaking his groove when he's trying to sneak in the woods at night. When it comes to his other duties, Lalli is friendly enough, even though his social skills are... lacking.
  • Heartful Punch of Sleepless Domain is known for going on nightly monster patrols alone when teams of three or more are the norm. When asked about it, HP acknowledges that doing so is scary, but "there's just lots of things that scare [her] more." After spending time with Undine, HP changes her mindset some, wondering if going solo was simply her own way of being a coward, and offers to become an unofficial pair with Undine.
  • Jake Ji from Weak Hero was taught by his brother that real men only rely on themselves, and so he often tries to fight alone both to prove himself and so that his friends won't be put in danger by him. His closest buddy, Dean, is constantly frustrated by this tendency of his, and it's partially responsible for his loss at Ben's hands, as Ben has the lived experience of fighting to the death for someone he cares about.

    Web Original 
  • In one of Lazy Muffin's flash animations, "James and the Chief," James says, "I work alone, or with my old partner... Which is dead... So this can't be done."
  • Spoofed in Homestar Runner, where Strong Bad's Cowboy Cop alter ego Dangeresque claims "I work alone! 'Cept when I work with Renaldo, which is all the time!"
  • RWBY: Qrow Branwen is a Huntsman who fights without a partner, operating instead as a lone agent for the government of Vale. This is enforced by his Semblance giving everyone in proximity to him bad luck, and Qrow really does not want to be alone, but feels he has no other choice to keep the ones he loves safe.
  • Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice. The cliched claymation Cowboy Cop declares this trope on being stuck with a Robot Buddy. It proves to be a nuisance.
    Da Chief: Autocop, are you OK? The boys at the lab will fix you up good as new!
    Steel blows robot's head off with his Hand Cannon.
    Steel: No-they-won't!
    Da Chief: Dammit, Steel! What the hell?!!
    Steel: (Gun Twirling) I work alone!

    Western Animation 
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: In the pilot movie, Buzz takes a lone-wolf attitude after his former partner, Warp Darkmatter, was killed on a mission. It's only after Buzz finds out that Warp faked his death to return to Zurg that he manages to get over his guilt and accept his new teammates.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "In Like Blunt", Darkwing encounters an agent who acts this way. Derek Blunt first enters opposing J. Gander's plan to send Darkwing in with him, reminding him that he doesn't like partners. When he sees Launchpad for the first time, he criticizes Darkwing for needing someone else to fly the plane and remarks contemptuously that he didn't need a sidekick during his own career.
  • In LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers, the titular character is The Ace who is used to and good enough to work alone on missions, even when offered help. Naturally, he's given a team after a private adventure in the beginning, and quite a few problems occur because they can't coordinate their abilities.
  • Ready Jet Go!: It isn't said verbatim, but Mitchell usually rejects help from other characters when trying to solve his cases, claiming that he needs to solve his mysteries himself, as shown in episodes like "What Goes Up...", "Kid-Kart Derby", and "Mindy's Mystery".
  • Final Space: In episode 5, Quinn adopts this mentality after she sees the Infinity Guard is corrupt, and she still doesn’t trust Gary or Avocato. She seemingly gets over it by the episode's end, but in episode 7 it turns out she still thinks she should save the Earth alone; something Nightfall warns her against. By the end of the episode, she is finally ready to give the others another chance at helping her.
  • Gravity Falls: A Deconstruction of this trope is shown in the second half of Season Two and in Gravity Falls: Journal 3: The Author aka Dr. Stanford Pines had this mindset in his youth, only working with one assistant and ignoring the townspeople. This and his arrogance resulted in being manipulated by Bill Cipher into building a portal for him and his friends to try to Take Over the World. He does stop Bill and shuts down the portal, but also loses his one friend, goes partly insane and ultimately gets sucked into the portal after a fight with his brother, Stanley. Even after thirty years missing and his experiences in the multiverse, he still goes by this mindset, trusting only Dipper with The Rift. That results in Cipher manipulating Mabel into unknowingly giving it to him, Ford getting captured trying to stop him alone and him regretting his lone wolf actions. He does get better in the end.

Alternative Title(s): Fly Home Buddy I Work Alone

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