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Monster Threat Expiration

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A form of Villain Decay. The longer a monster is seen on screen, the easier it gets to defeat or avoid. Maybe mowing down the cannon fodder tired it out or something. If a writer is good, they'll have some damage occur to it from previous battles, or deliberately point out that the monster is toying with the main characters more due to personal grudge. Otherwise, it's clearly the plot giving the main characters a break.

This is especially obvious when the heroes don't have any powers or anything technically to distinguish them from any of the other humans that were easily killed.

Aspects of Monster Threat Expiration include:

If the monster becomes less difficult when there are many of them, that's Conservation of Ninjutsu — of course, contrast with the fourth clause above. Related: Strong as They Need to Be, where the heroes' powers fluctuate as the plot demands.

In video games, this may downgrade bosses into regular encounters. If the monster's difficulty decreases over a long series, it may be because the characters are getting stronger and the monster Can't Catch Up. In role-playing games, however, this is to be expected because in most cases, your party gets stronger while the enemy monsters don't.

Compare Sorting Algorithm of Evil, Third Act Stupidity, Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?, Villain Decay.

Contrast Team Rocket Wins.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Black Lagoon:
    • Monster Threat Expiration is the only reason Revy was able to hold her own against Ninja Maid Roberta in a fist fight. Otherwise, she wouldn't be standing for very long.
    • Hansel and Gretel. After showing both skill and deviousness when fighting a bunch of mooks, one of them tries to take on the leader of a fierce attack squad by stepping out into the open to kill her with an ax and the other just stops paying attention and gets shot in the back.
  • Also seen with the Boomers in Bubblegum Crisis. Curiously, their armor also seemed to get weaker as attacks that merely bounced off early on do more and more damage the longer they are on camera.
  • Major 'boss' fights in the Claymore anime take several episodes to defeat, and as a result the weakening of each boss fits every bullet point of this trope to a tee. Even the obligatory constant taunting.
  • Occurs in season 2 of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 to an extent with the GN drive powered mobile suits, whereas in the first season, a force of a few dozen of them plus support from Ali's stolen Gundam and Alejandro's mobile armor and luck managed to Damage 3 of the 4 Gundams beyond repair and destroy the Ptolemaios, in the second season they become nothing more than elite mooks, Even before the Gundams start getting upgraded.
  • Digimon:
    • Bakemon grew much weaker over the course of Digimon Adventure. When they first appeared, it took two Champion-level digimon and some assistance from Jyou to take on a single Bakemon. (Okay, so that was kind of a Giant Mook, but the regular-sized Bakemon still were rather competent). They return as part of Phantomon's army in the Myotismon saga, they still require the chanting in order to be weakened, although this could be attributed to power in sheer numbers—maybe. But by the time Myotismon is defeated (right before coming back as VenomMyotismon), they are apparently so weak that the Digidestined's Digimon can each take out multiple Bakemon single-handedly at their rookie stage, though that could be justified with how much stronger they had become by that point.
    • Myotismon suffers one as well in Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Who Leapt Through Time. In Adventure, it took seven Ultimates and one Champion to defeat him while a horde of them were defeated by the protagonists Xros Up forms. When they digivolve into VenomMyotismon and MaloMyotismon, they are easily defeated by the past Digimon Leaders when WarGreymon and Imperialdramon had difficulty fighting one in their own world.
  • At the beginning of the Sailor Moon R movie, all five characters are barely able to take down one Flower Youma... But later they are taking down the exact same enemies in crowds. Possibly Justified with them not holding back the second time, as the first encounter was in the middle of Tokyo but the latter on an asteroid.
  • Subverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, when the enemies in the antispiral universe are easily defeatable (which the characters even remark on), before suddenly becoming extremely powerful and wiping out some Ganmen, as well as forcing the rest to retreat. However, shortly after this, the main characters are once again able to fire their weapons at the enemies, destroying them in droves - previously, these enemies were dodging all of the same attacks being used with ease.
  • The mechas used in Utawarerumono were at first very destructive and nigh invincible. Later they are defeated so easily that they are brought down off screen. They didn't even bother showing how they were taken down. Hakuoro destroys one with a single stroke. Somewhat justifiable; by this point, a Proud Warrior Race Guy that formerly served Kunnekamun had joined with Tusukuru and provided firsthand demonstration of the mechs' weak points. Why the armies of the many nations steamrolled by Kunnekamun never thought to shoot or slash the giant, unarmored, fleshy areas on the Avu-Kamuu is... not elaborated on.
  • Done intentionally in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. Bison, who is virtually omnipotent, decides to fight Ryu and Ken as a straight martial artist by not using his Psycho Power. Granted even then he was still capable of mopping the floor with them even just using Martial Arts, and they just barely managed to defeat him in the end. And then there's the final scene where we see him none the worse for wear, driving a huge semi towards Ryu at breakneck speed and sporting a Slasher Smile...
  • In Kikaider, he fights a new Monster of the Week. Fighting one alone is usually no easy task for him, but in the OVA series, Gill is creating an entire army of duplicated copies of all the robots he ever fought. He managed to kill all of them, with lightening speed. Though this isn't to show the monsters got weaker as much as Jiro became an unstoppable killing machine.
  • Vampires suffered from this in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure between Parts 1 and 2. Part 1 only had one vampire, Dio, who was the Big Bad of the arc and required a lot of blood, sweat, tears and dead allies to beat. Then in Part 2, they were delegated to Mook status while the Pillar Men, the creators of the stone mask that creates vampires, took their place. It's zigzagged in Part 3, though, when Dio returns and takes back his Big Bad Hero Killer position (and the one underling that he turns into a vampire becomes a huge threat as well.)
  • Opponents Kenichi fought early on in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple often suffer from this. However, it's justified, as Kenichi receives Training from Hell from various martial arts masters, and likely his opponents didn't train much if at all. And in many instances, due to Kenichi being a paragon of good, said opponents will usually help him out later on.
  • In Fairy Tail the first time Acnologia meets one of the main characters, it's Gildarts, the strongest wizard in the guild. The Black Dragon takes an arm, a leg, and at least one of his internal organs. When it attacks a group of the guild's elite, Gildarts included, he wonders why they haven't all been killed yet, and decides he’s just playing with them. And it's proven when Acnologia stops playing and fires an island-destroying Breath Weapon; they all only survive thanks to a special defensive magic spell.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A few of the monsters from the Godzilla series suffer from this (notably King Ghidorah, who starts off as a cosmic-level Omnicidal Maniac but soon devolves into the mind-controlled pawn of various alien invasion schemes), but perhaps none worse than Hedorah. In Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, he is Godzilla's most powerful foe in the entire original series (with the possible exceptions of Mechagodzilla and, again, Ghidorah). Decades later, in Godzilla: Final Wars, he's killed in about fifteen seconds. Granted, much the same happens to every enemy monster in Final Wars (with the merciful exception of Ghidorah), but Hedorah was easily the most powerful of the monsters that Godzilla curbstomped yet was the quickest to go down (Final Wars follows a separate continuity from the original Showa series, meaning that this version of Hedorah was probably far weaker than the original, and Godzilla much stronger).
  • In Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the Aliens are severely weakened. While the other films (including AVP: Alien vs. Predator) tended to vary on exactly how powerful they were and the precise nature of their abilities, this one kneecapped them almost entirely for the sake of the Predator protagonist. Aliens, despite often being held as an example of both this trope and of Conservation of Ninjutsu, is an aversion. The Aliens are vulnerable to heavy gunfire and therefore seem easier to kill compared to the lone creature from the first (and later third) film, but unlike in Aliens, the protagonists of those two installments lacked any effective weaponry with which to fight it. Indeed, out of an entire platoon of Colonial Marines, only one is still alive by the end of the second film, showing that the creatures are still very much a deadly threat.
  • In the first Predator movie, the eponymous monster systematically hunts down and kills an entire elite special forces unit, only losing due to a conveniently placed trap shortly before it could kill Arnold. In Predator 2, although it does do quite a number on drug gangs, as soon as Danny Glover manages to track it down (he is a very well-armed cop), he has it on the ropes, lops off one of its arms, and kills it with its own weapon, although it's probably justified as Word of God said that the Predator in the sequel was younger than the first, and obviously less experienced. In the original AVP: Alien vs. Predator, two Predators (out of three) get taken out in five minutes of screentime (although the third one lasts the length of the film). Finally, in Predators, a trio of stronger, less fettered Predators end up being killed off by a group of similar size to the group in the first film, despite using things such as "hunting hounds" and UAV surveillance, and the fact that while the unit in the first film was a cohesive group (with the exception of Dillon), the group in Predators was composed of a random assembly of dangerous people who didn't trust one another, including a convict armed only with a shiv. While the final Predator does take quite a lot of damage before succumbing (including being shivved in the neck, fighting a worn-out and injured "Classic" Predator, and having grenades explode in his face), the other two die fairly rapidly.
  • Ip Man shows the fourth clause in his fight against ten Japanese pugilists. Immediately before that, in Master Liu's final 3v1 fight, the Japanese pugilists were clearly working together to prevent him from comboing any of their number down. However, when the titular hero goes to bat, none of them interfere when he pulls off his Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs Finishing Move on any of them. It would perhaps have made the fight more "realistic" to have them interrupt. It would also have further increased Ip Man's badass quotient if he had done Jason Bourne-style Offhand Backhand "wait your turn" strikes to stop interlopers.
  • One of the most jarring cases of this occurs in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs who are ruthlessly efficient and accurate when taking down most of their victims do mind-bafflingly stupid things when facing the lone woman and little girl in the area such as patiently waiting for the little girl to finish her gymnastics routine which ends with the raptor kicked away somehow, despite how small she is and how little momentum she had accumulated, or fighting amongst each other for the "right"(?) to kill the fleeing woman. The raptors also suffer badly from this in the first Jurassic Park movie as well. By contrast, the Raptors in the novels remain dangerous over both books, even when they're not directly threatening the protagonists. The T-Rex actually becomes more dangerous in the second novel, when our heroes make the mistake of taking a Rex infant. Then they give it back. Then the Rexes try to kill them anyway, because they're in their territory.
  • The Matrix movies are a pretty good example of this. In the first film, one of the things that makes Neo special is that he's on par with the Agents. In the second film, he even ACKNOWLEDGES that the Agents have had "upgrades"... but the rest of the cast can hold their own against them, most notably in Morpheus's truck top fight. The "upgrades" are increased speed and strength in exchange for reduced intelligence. That makes them better against Neo (if only barely), but less effective against everyone else. Niobe and Ghost outright kill several Agents in the canonical Enter the Matrix game. They could still possess someone else; but still, so much for "nobody has ever beaten one."
  • To an extent, the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. In its first appearance, it snaps a (small) ship with its mighty tentacles while dragging it down in instant. In subsequent appearances, menacing the heroes, its tentacles slowly curl around the (significantly larger) ships. Since Will Turner had been subject to an attack on the Kraken's second victim, he was able to quickly devise a plan to temporarily counter it. Perhaps because they couldn't find a way to have the heroes kill it without it being an even worse case, in At World's End Davey Jones kills it himself under orders of Beckett entirely offscreen. This may be intentional; the biggest, baddest thing in the entire series, and Beckett doesn't even let us see it die. When we actually see its corpse, it's sad and pitiable instead of mighty and terrifying.
  • The critters in Pitch Black are a prime example of this trope. At the beginning of the film, they are clearly crawling around while there's still sunlight visible. Later on, a dimly luminescent glass jar can send them screaming away.
  • Roger Ebert called this the "Hero's Death Battle Exemption" and cited Prophecy as an example. In this movie, a killer bear shredded normal humans in seconds, but was considerate enough to let the hero stab it in the head multiple times with an arrow, which took ten times longer than it had killed anyone previously.
  • The Arachnids in Starship Troopers are classic examples of the trope: in the first major battle scene it takes a fire team of soldiers blasting away on full auto to put down one. In the final battle scene, a trio of heroes with the exact same weapons mow them down by the dozens, and other soldiers do so as well. Justified, as the Arachnid Warriors can take a lot of damage but go down easily once you hit their nerve stem: at the start the still green troopers were just firing at them at random, but later they learned where to hit.
  • Tremors:
    • The first few victims were killed and sucked through the ground without giving them a chance to escape. By the middle of the film, we had two of them going after a single person, and even one coming up directly under her and she still managed to escape. By contrast, a few Graboids learn and plan, and all refuges become either temporary or a second form of slow death as they work out how to get their prey.
    • Tremors 2: Aftershocks plays with it in an odd fashion. In many ways the Shrieker stage is less dangerous than the Graboid predecessor stage (smaller, much more fragile, easier to shoot at since they're on the ground, by most indications dumber), in line with this trope (the big danger of the Shriekers is how immensely fast they can reproduce in the right circumstances). The problem is that the reason the Graboids were less dangerous than in the first movie was that this time the characters facing them knew right from the start that there were Graboids there, what the Graboids were and how to fight them, and prepared accordingly — but they had no forewarning of the Shriekers, and some of the equipment best suited for hunting Graboids is the exact opposite of what you'd want for hunting the swarming Shriekers, such as Burt loading up on low ammo, high impact weaponry (and hence running out of ammo and, at one point, over–penetrating a Shrieker so far that he accidentally crippled the escape vehicle behind it).
  • Terminator:
    • Justified in The Terminator; it made sense that the Terminator was getting weaker by the end, due to all the damage it has slowly been accumulating throughout the movie. After it's been run over by a semi-truck, the movie even makes a point of showing the machine limp to let it sink in that, unlike the other injuries it suffered that it was able to shrug off or repair, this one was for keeps. The suspense lays in the fact that the heroes had been getting hurt and killed too.
    • Also justified for the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, although because of its regenerative abilities, it isn't as apparent in the theatrical film. In some of the extended scenes at the end, however, the T-1000 starts "glitching" - his hands and feet mimicking and melting into the surrounding environment. It seems that getting frozen by liquid nitrogen, heated up by molten steel, and then attempting to reform without any mistakes would mess anyone up.
  • The only reason Injun Joe from Tom and Huck doesn't come out on top is he acts like a spider: He surveys his prey, walking s l o w l y toward them, and if they run away, he follows at a leisurely pace. Even when he's trying to take revenge at the end, even when he momentarily catches Tom (who pulls free and runs off). This, despite the fact that he's been shown to vanish in a split-second when he confronts Tom halfway through the movie (so obviously he moves fast). He lost only to a sort of very odd hubris.
  • In A Lonely Place to Die, the bad guys range from being crack shots with their rifles to being hopeless marksmen, depending on who they are shooting at. They are hopelessly unable to hit the fairly nearby heroine as she slowly climbs away from them in broad daylight, but a few hours later one of the same gunman can effortlessly hit someone (twice!) through a window at night with fireworks going off around him.
  • The titular monster in the B-movie The Being has several defense mechanisms, including being able to melt into liquid form and then reform itself. However, it just lets the main character whale on it with an axe at the end without using its powers.
  • The creature in Dark Was the Night is able to outmaneuver and slaughter three armed hunters in broad daylight in addition to being fast enough to run out of the woods, pick up a deer carcass and run back into the woods in the amount of time it takes to glance down and immediately back up. In spite of this it just runs away from the protagonist on multiple occasions, even when he is completely unarmed and it clearly can get the drop on him. When they finally fight he quickly dispatches it in the dark, alone and without sustaining any meaningful injuries. Quite possibly justified by the ending however, which reveals that there are actually multiple creatures, so he could have just been lucky to encounter weaker, less aggressive individuals than those that have been taking everyone else out.
  • The vampires in the Blade Trilogy. Its established early on that the only reason Blade has so much success against them is that he is a vampire/human hybrid - all of their strengths, none of their weaknesses as the tagline goes. Normal humans are far weaker than vampires and really do not stand much of a chance without heavy weapons or very specialist vampire hunting tools that few have access to. Come the third film and a perfectly normal human girl half their size can kick them clean across the room whilst wearing an Ipod.
  • Inverted in Romero's Living Dead Series. The zombies got more dangerous, monstrous, and infectious with each passing film. At first they were very slow and could be fought off by hand in low enough numbers; by the later movies even trying that will get you bitten or Eaten Alive immediately. Also, the zombies gradually develop sentience that makes them better hunters.

  • The eromakadi (eaters of light) from The Journeys Of The Catechist. At the beginning they are nigh invincible spirits sucking good things out of the world, the main characters attempt to escape them then barely manage to take out one. In the third book the main character effortlessly dispatches two then weaponizes their bodies.
  • The monster in any James Byron Huggins novel. In the first act, the genetically-engineered super-dragon will be destroying tanks and if it escapes it could destroy cities, while the third act it can be killed by some strongman with a viking axe and a couple of grenades. Same thing in Hunter; the monster rips apart heavily fortified labs and squads of armed guards only to die from being lit on fire in single combat with the hero.
  • The more Denarians you see in The Dresden Files, the easier they get to kill. The first one took three Knights of the Cross to take down. By the time we see three more, the Denarian leader versus one Knight is pretty even. More than a dozen pop up, and they're not much more than ordinary mooks.
    • The explanation Harry gives is that the Denarians operate on entirely different levels of power from one another. So Nicodemus, Deirdre, Tessa, and their inner cadre are incredibly tough opponents that he needs to stack the deck in order to fend off, let alone beat. But the others just aren't as strong — which is why Nicodemus doesn't bring them when they aren't necessary, such as his first appearance.
  • Harry Potter may suffer from this, but Harry also tends to take at least one level in badass each book, and tends to soup up his magical arsenal in the downtime between books.
  • This happens to yammosks in the New Jedi Order. The first yammosk, in Vector Prime, is a borderline-Physical God that can only be killed by destroying the planet it's implanted itself on. Later yammosks, though still powerful (and valuable targets because of how their death affects nearby Yuuzhan Vong forces), are about on par with an above-average Jedi (one character remarks in a later book that a Jedi sacrificing themselves to kill a yammosk is a fairly even trade), especially once the heroes figure out how to jam their telepathy. Furthermore, while the first yammosk is Nigh Invulnerable, later yammosks are squishy wizards that are fairly vulnerable to conventional attack once their telepathy is disabled.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Ubervamps in season 7. It originally took Buffy several episodes to kill one of them...and even that one Ubervamp had lowered difficulty, going from stake-deflecting skin to being decapitated with wire. (Buffy's hands presumably got an upgrade to avoid having her fingers cut off in the attempt.) Then, in the finale, the main characters are cutting through hordes of them. Not only Slayers, but Badass Normals Giles, Xander, Wood, and even Andrew, Dawn and Anya (who are just normals, not badass at all) are able to dispatch some of them, sometimes without even hitting anywhere near the heart. Writer/creator Joss Whedon even mentioned this in the episode's commentary, handwaving the problem by saying that that "isn't what it's about."
      • This can also be explained away by the Ubervamp horde having just emerged from underground where presumably they'd had no chance to feed for millennia.
    • This happened to normal vampires after the earliest seasons. In the first two seasons, even your average vampire was so much stronger and faster than humans that anyone not a Slayer who tried to directly fight one was doomed. From the third season on, any human with reasonable combat skill had a good chance of taking out a vampire, as long as it was a mook and not one that had a name.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Daleks tend to suffer from a strange form of this. Depending on the writer, episode and situation, the Dalek can be a godlike mass-murdering killing machine immune to bullets, missiles and everything else - or capable of being defeated by having their eyestalk covered with a hat. They eventually agreed on a sort of middle-ground; one Dalek isn't that much of a threat to a late 20th to early 21st century army -they might be Immune to Bullets but a rocket launcher is a different ballgame- but a couple of hundred Daleks are a different ballgame too.
    • The new series tries to have it both ways. In keeping with its new action-dramedy look, it goes the godlike, mass-murdering killmachine route with the Daleks, even trying to make their truly ridiculous design look threatening. And of course, the thing about the Daleks is that there is only one thing they ever do with other species: "Exterminate!" Despite this, every Dalek two-parter in the new series has relied on the Daleks having the Doctor, his companions, and other important characters at their mercy halfway through the story, gearing up to "Exterminate!" the hell out of them, and then deciding "Maybe later." At one point, they put it off for no apparent reason other than plot necessity. This inability to kill the Doctor was lampshaded a couple of times in the Eleventh Doctor's run. The first time, in the episode related to the Dalek Asylum, the Dalek Prime Minister (yes, they have a Prime Minister, and a Parliament) rather creepily suggesting that they've never managed to kill the Doctor for the same reason that they can't kill the insane Daleks in the Asylum: they find his hatred of them beautiful. Considering that psychic contact with the Twelfth Doctor led to 'Rusty' the Dalek being so affected by the Doctor's hatred of Daleks that he spent the next several billion years trying to exterminate them, there might be something to this. The second time, right as the Eleventh Doctor was dying, without any apparent chance of regeneration, having used up his allotted cycle (the Time Lords gave him a new one), he lampshaded this, suggesting that the Daleks were too scared of what he might do to risk it.
    • In the Doctor Who episode Blink, the enemies can move so quickly that if you so much as blink, they'll rush forward and drag you decades into the past, but they will turn to stone as long as you're looking at them. Apparently, they lost their exceptional speed halfway through the episode, conveniently before the central characters arrive for the final scene. note 
    • The Cybermen acquired a large collection of weaknesses during the run of the original series, but the treatment of their aversion to gold amounts to Serial Monster Threat Expiration. In the Tom Baker story "Revenge of the Cybermen," gold was described as the perfect non-corrosive metal that killed by plating the Cyber breathing apparatus. Gold dust was the key, and man had invented he glitter gun. By "Earthshock," the Davison Doctor was able to scratch open a Cyberman's chest plate using the point of Adric's gold star. Then in "Silver Nemesis," even round gold coins were enough to do the trick when used as arrowheads.
  • The mysterious Monster on Lost is portrayed in the first season as a deadly killing machine that strikes fear in the heart of the survivors. After it is seen onscreen for the first time in the second season, however, everything goes downhill as the survivors no longer fear it to the same extent they once did. Culminates in the fourth season when the Monster attacks a group of redshirt mercenaries but only kills one of them, despite the mercenaries' weapons being shown to have no effect on the Monster, which begs the question of how they managed to survive its attack.
  • The mooks in Power Rangers as well as Super Sentai are subject to this, sometimes painfully so.
    • In the first episode of S.P.D., a "Bluehead" ("Orangeheads" are a different story), or leader of several standard-issue mooks, is cause for alarm. As the series goes on, they slip further and further down the ladder, until the season finale has the Rangers fighting off swarms of them, bare-handed and unmorphed. Note that although the "Orangeheads" suffered from this trope (with one of them proving to be a big Wake-Up Call Boss that easily the beat the whole team for than once), they do still at least remain a challenge for individual rangers in each of their appearances unless a power-up is used.
    • Not even the monsters of the week are immune to this. Take for example whenever a large group of monsters are sent to deal with the Rangers in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, they'll usually be defeated in no time flat, and are often nerfed to the point where they lack their original abilities and just use physical combat to fight the Rangers.
    • Sometimes sheer will power and determination is enough to get through a monster's previously unbreakable defenses.
    • Hurricaneger had one of the worst cases of this with the Big Bad's henchmen The Seven Darkness Lancers. In the finale, the Big Bad transforms into a copy of each of them to fight the Hurricangers before going back into his original form. The Hurricangers easily trounce the Lancers, even Sandaaru, who have been effortlessly trashing them in his previous fights and had destroyed two of their robots.
    • This trope is sometimes inverted as well. Villains will sometimes get beaten up easily in one episode, than later will reappear and put up much more of a fight later. Particularly interesting to note is that this happens even if a villains is for The Worf Effect to show off how powerful a Monster of the Week is.
  • The titular monster in SS Doomtrooper is a mutated Nazi Super Soldier that, after proving completely Immune to Bullets and capable of ripping entire battalions of soldiers into pieces, is finally killed in a one-on-one fight with the main character, who cuts off its arm with a knife.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Jaffa armor could initially withstand automatic weapons fire for a decent amount of time before a bullet got through. As the series wears on, Jaffa armor resilience decreases, eventually reaching the point where they may as well be wearing nothing. Unlike other examples though this is a main plot point: whilst the Jaffa continued to use increasingly obsolete weapons and tactics, the SGC continuously evolved such as switching the MP5 for the P90 as their weapon of choice among many other things. This would eventually be the undoing of the former.
    • A straight example is the Goa'uld. In the first season, they are nearly Immune to Bullets, requiring A LOT of firepower to take down permanently, and have super-strength. On multiple occasions, a single Goa'uld is capable of giving the SGC a run for its money. By the 2nd season, they are as harmless as any human if you can get them away from that shield generator of theirs.
  • Stargate Atlantis has the Wraith. In early episodes, killing or even disabling a Wraith is insanely difficult. Later on, Wraiths become as easy to take out as humans. During their first appearances, killing a Wraith requires emptying an entire magazine from a P90 and a some luck. By season 2, Wraiths die not only from a single burst from a P90, but are as easily killed by a few bullets from a 9mm pistol or a single stab from a knife. It is later explained that Wraith healing ability is directly proportional to how recently they have fed. As more Wraith wake up and food becomes scarce, the Wraith become easier to kill.
  • The Borg of Star Trek also had some of this. After adapting to the Enterprise's weapons in their first encounter, a Borg Cube is initially completely impervious to all attacks by Federation ships, able to single-handedly destroy a fleet of 39 ships while taking no significant damage in return and is only stopped in the end by Hollywood Hacking the hive mind. Later depictions have toned down this perfect adaptation, such that in Star Trek: First Contact, a large fleet of ships is capable of damaging a Cube and eventually destroying it by aiming at a weak point. Another dangerous aspect of the Borg which was gradually whittled down was their decentralization. A Borg Cube could have more than half of it destroyed and still be in good combat condition. Originally it was depicted that the Borg did not have any nerve center you could strike to cripple an area dependent of it. Then the Borg Queen was introduced which provided one such weak point, and in Voyager the Cubes were revealed to each have a Vinculum, a sort of central processor through which all drones on the Cube can be affected.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Devil in the Dark", the mysterious monster kills everyone instantly on contact, so no one has ever lived to see it, including many (presumably) armed. But when Kirk encounters it, he has time to agonize over the morality of killing it, and it stays away because of his weapon.
  • Supernatural has moments like this in some episodes. The wendigo in the same-titled episode is shown to be a lightning fast, shadowy death machine and an expert hunter. Yet when the main characters confront it in its lair it just lumbers along casually despite the fact it knows they have weapons that can hurt it. It's not really surprising when it dies in one shot.
  • Occurs in the Tomorrow People story "The Culex Experiment". Every time Culex directs one of her mosquitoes at a disposable guest character, it stings them into a coma within a few seconds. But when she traps Ami with one of them, it buzzes around her menacingly for several minutes until her friends teleport her to safety. At the climax, Culex unleashes a whole swarm of them at a small group of heroes and they apparently don't manage to sting anyone before the Tomorrow People casually freeze them to death.
  • Ultra Series:
    • In the franchise as a whole, many famous kaiju will make reappearances from series to series, particularly if they're well-known in the fandom for being some of the Ultras' toughest enemies. Unfortunately, as a result of becoming recurring foes, they tend to become a lot more beatable (though no less dreaded). A good example of this is Antlar, who could only be killed by the Blue Stone of Barraj/Vallarge in his original appearance, but is now usually dispatched with a standard Ultraman Finishing Move.
    • In the movie Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends, Belial's Hundred Monster Army includes a number of the Ultras' most infamously formidable foes like Zetton, Tyrant, Fire Golza and Birdon, but every last monster is treated as Cannon Fodder for the heroes.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies:
    • Yellow Squadron. The first time they appear, they have Story-Driven Invulnerability and can't be hurt (although their AI is nerfed to prevent them from killing you if you run, which is your mission objective once they appear; they're no better shots than regular enemy jets). The game even warns you against trying to struggle against them by instructing you to turn tail and flee ASAP. The second time, even a dead hit only succeeds in annoying them into leaving. The third time, Mobius One does down one of them, but Worf Had the Flu. In subsequent encounters, though, Yellow Squadron planes do get shot down honestly to the last, including their best pilot Yellow 13 in the penultimate mission. In the very last mission, the Yellow Squadron pilots are pretenders to the name who lack the skills of the original, thus getting defeated more easily despite their superior numbers.
    • The first time Stonehenge shows up as an obstacle, it's at the end of a mission where you probably were expecting a simple Mission Accomplished, you're forced to terrain mask by dropping into a naturally confined ravine, the One-Hit Kill shots come rather frequently and SkyEye can only predict the next round to less than 10 seconds, forcing you to stay inside the ravine. The second time, you are told in advance to expect it, the shots aren't as frequent so allowing you to actually do some useful bombing or dogfighting, SkyEye can predict the shots with enough advance warning and there are nice wide open plains to drop below 2000 feet with. The final time, the instakill shots only occur at the start and once you get in its face, it's all but a nonissue even above 2000 feet.
  • Igor, the second boss in Cave Story reappears right before the final boss. The interesting part is that he has the same amount of health and does the same amount of damage, and is indeed exactly the same as when you met him earlier. The only difference is that you have bigger guns.
  • Chrono Trigger has an interesting example. The plot requires you to fight the Final Boss at one point before the end, and he's even more difficult than he is then, not just because you haven't had time to grind levels or find the Infinity +1 Sword, but because he has many more HP and uses his ultimate attack almost immediately. Beating him then is one of two ways to get the developer's room ending, but it isn't practical unless you're using a New Game Plus. (The other way to get the ending is to choose to fight him as soon as the game starts, an option only available in a New Game Plus; if you do so, he's only as strong as he is at the end of the game, so beating him in the Hopeless Boss Fight is definitely worth some bragging rights.) The reason for this is that rather than have hopeless boss fights, battles you were supposed to lose really did just have enemies much stronger than you were expected to be. You could win them, but it was unlikely without new game +. That particular boss fight arrives at a point where you start to get strong enough to conceivably defeat the final boss, so they ramp up its power for that one encounter to make it that much more likely you'll lose and progress on the normal story line.
  • Mendoza in Command & Conquer: Renegade. He appears twice in the game before a climactic battle, only to be hurt a little and escape (even saying "I'll finish you later!" before flying off in a helicopter). He's invincible while escaping, and each time he returns, he's back to full health. When he finally fights a pitched battle against Havoc, he's at full health again, but as easily hurt as before.
  • Crysis has a fairly glaring example in the large alien robots called Scouts. Throughout the early part of the game they're shown as exceedingly deadly with one of them effectively killing off the player's entire team (who all have his weapons and powers) with barely any chance for them to fight back. However when they eventually come after the player all three parts of the trope come into play: they attack from plain sight, forgoing the previous brutal ambushes they used; they don't simply grab and maul him in seconds like they did all his teammates; and simple machine gun bullets can suddenly kill them rather easily. By the end of the game the player is battling them in packs of up to a dozen with no real explanation for their sudden decrease in deadliness.
    • Also in Crysis, it's a major plot point that the largest alien war-machines (referred to as Exosuits in-game and as Hunters in the game files) have an energy shield that makes them indestructible and thus capable of single-handedly wiping out a few platoons of U.S. troops. However, in Crysis: Warhead, those same Exosuits somehow lack their signature energy shields, and you fight and destroy a few of them as "boss battles" throughout the game. Even the North Korean nanosuit soldiers are seen destroying an alien Exosuit.
  • In Dead Space the final boss, the Hivemind, suffers from this, as well as Anticlimax Boss. In a cutscene it instantly kills someone with a brutal horizontal sweep of one of its giant tentaclesnote . Despite the fact that this tactic would be equally effective against you, the Hivemind inexplicably only attacks with slow, highly telegraphed 'vertical' tentacle strikes that are easily dodged, and every couple of attacks it obligingly opens its mouth so you can shoot its weak points.
  • Final Fantasy VI:
    • It is possible at certain points in the game to bump into the Guardian, which is an invulnerable boss. The only way to survive the encounter was to run from the battle. The Guardian then reappears in the final dungeon, with the Guardian switching to "Attack Mode" when you face it as a proper boss. Before that it was in the unbreakable "Defense Mode".
    • Also inverted with Kefka, who turns from a comic relief pest who's Not Worth Killing when you first meet him, a wuss on the second encounter, a fairly difficult boss battle the third time, to curbstomping the Empire's finest warrior without even caring. And this is all before his ascension to godhood.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII you can recruit a Tonberry that can inflict this trope on monsters.
  • Videogame bosses are frequent victims of this: they can be damaged in the designated battle, but are invincible if the player encounters them before then. Two examples from the Mega Man Battle Network series are Bass in the third game and ShadeMan in the fourth.
  • The Black Knight suffers from this across his appearences in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. The first time he appears on the map he's outright invincible and will likely kill anyone he attacks, forcing you to stay far away. The second time, over 10 chapters later, he's still invincible but your characters might be strong enough to survive a fight with him. The third time it's an optional Duel Boss and Ike can win if he's been trained enough (he now has a weapon that can break through his armour's blessing), but it still requires some luck. Jumping to Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Ike and co. have become much stronger and he stayed largely the same, and he can be beaten the first time Ike encounters him, although it's not needed. He's encountered for the final time in Endgame Part 2, and this is the one time you have to beat him to progress... and Ike's new Vanguard class and him losing his blessing means he's actually pretty easy. Especially if you forego Ike's legendary weapon and use a common armour-slaying Hammer.
  • Ridley in Super Metroid subverts this. You briefly encounter him at the start of the game, and usually he'll end up reducing you to twenty energy before flying off. However, it's possible to deal him enough damage to cause him to flee voluntarily.
  • Metal Gear:
    • RAY comes pre-decayed for your convenience. When introduced, they're introduced as a weapon built to destroy Metal Gear REX and its knockoffs. But Raiden can take out hordes of them more easily than Solid Snake could take out one REX. And when you finally get a chance to pilot REX against the Super Prototype RAY the battle is still not that difficult. There's an Ass Pull that Otacon used a software update to improve REX's speed, giving it the ability to take on RAY. Still seems a bit suspect as presumably Liquid's RAY was stored in a hightech facility and properly maintained, while REX sat abandoned in the decrepit military base where its cockpit was destroyed a decade earlier.
    • The Boss in MGS3 is invincible in cutscenes, to the point that she snaps Snake's elbow in their first fight. As the game goes on, however, Snake gradually gets better at fighting her, to the point that he holds his own for a minute or so in their last fight before she appears as the final boss; once that comes around, Snake is properly prepared (and can also instantly deal with any more bones The Boss breaks) and is able to beat her. It's also justified in that her orders are to let herself be killed by Snake.
  • In Paper Mario 64, the recurring enemy Jr. Troopa has reduced HP resulting from having swum to Yoshi's Island and back in pursuit of Mario. This is somewhat mitigated by the addition of a spiked cap. Upon defeat, he then talks as though flight would have made the trip effortless.
  • Halo:
    • The Brutes in Halo 2 had no shields, yet could shrug off tons of damage and attempting to melee them was pretty much suicide. They've been nerfed in various ways since then:
      • In Halo 3 they have shields, yet once those are gone they are pretty weak (outside of Elite Mook versions) and they can be beat around in melee combat; what's more, unlike Elites, their shield-generating armor breaks down if you ever break through the shield completely, keeping them from regenerating the shields and leaving them laughably vulnerable. In a Bungie ViDoc, they said they wanted to make the Brutes more than just the damage sponges they were before, and the shield breaking feature was likely put in so they wouldn't too similar to Elites. It was later confirmed that 2's Brutes came from a different cultural group than 3's, explaining some (though not all) of the differences
      • In Halo: Reach, they rarely have shields yet aren't much tougher than unshielded Halo 3 Brutes (and are only slightly harder to defeat), and even the Elite Mook versions go down in a few headshots (bar the few that do have shields). This coincides with them having less influence on the plot; they are very important to the plots of Halo 2 and Halo 3, but at the time of Reach (a prequel story), they are just another type of mook.
    • Jackal snipers were infamous in Halo 2 for their insane aim coupled with their potentially one-hit-kill beam rifles. Subsequent games have lessened their accuracy and given them helmets with big glowing lights.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, one of the main antagonists, Llednar Twem, has a law that makes him literally unbeatable (the in-game rules made it illegal to beat him, the actual gameplay simply made him invulnerable), there's a point in the game where a battle is won by surviving against him enough time. You actually watch as a judge nullifies this law and thus allows you to beat him.
  • .hack//G.U. has this with Tri-Edge or rather, Azure Kite. He is invincible in the cutscene and effortlessly defeats level 133 "Terror of Death" Haseo, yet by the end of the game, you beat him while you are nowhere near your former glory. Of course, having teammates and healing potions probably helped. He averts this in the third volume, when Haseo rematches against him. He doesn't even move during the fight, just throws powerful blasts of energy at you. Only after you "win" the fight does he prepare to actually get serious and attack directly (by which point Haseo's team is beginning to feel worn out), but Aura commands Azure Kite to halt his attack and the battle ends there.
  • Done in the third-generation Monster Hunter games with the Deviljho:
    • Monster Hunter 3 (Tri):
      • In the original Wii game, as soon as you hit rank 31 and the High Rank quests become available, you start fighting the monsters from the bottom of the pecking order: Great Jaggi, Qurupeco, and Royal Ludroth. Except that in any high-rank quest, there's the possibility that Deviljho will appear, which you're nominally not qualified to fight until rank 51. Thus when you initially encounter Deviljho, you have to run like hell if you want to live, and hope that either Jho or the monster you're tracking retreats from the room, but then you have to take down Jho like any other later on.
      • In 3 Ultimate (3DS and Wii U), the same thing happens when you start the sixth rank chapter (which corresponds to high rank). One of the first quests requires you to kill 10 Jaggia, but with the twist that Deviljho will lurk around (and it's even introduced in a cutscene where it crushes Great Jaggi from above). And you'll have to avoid it once again during any quest where it might appear, until you're tasked to hunt it in one of the post-finale quests in the ninth rank chapter.
    • Monster Hunter Portable 3rd: Not only can this happen with Deviljho in High Rank (like it happened in Tri and happens again in 3 Ultimate), but also with Zinogre in Low Rank. Completing certain quests involving hunting lower-threat monsters or simply gathering items for delivery will, instead of take you back to the village as usual, trigger a warning signaling the arrival of Zinogre. You have the option to fight it with your current gear, though it's not advised until you progress into the story until Zinogre finally becomes the main target in the 5-Star Urgent Quest.
  • The Black Knight in Agarest Senki is a blunt example. You faces him three times. The first where he has a full HP recovery ability and chain more than 4 comboes, killing you in one attack. In the second time, he's still tough because of his HP recovery, but he can no longer kill anyone in one hit if you don't play on hard. In the third time, you must beat him to clear chapter 1, and he isn't even that tough if you upgrade and fight properly.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • The Darkspawn come mainly in two flavors, Hurlock and Genlock. These are pretty tough at the beginning but merely annoying later on. Then, early in the Final Battle, when your party independently engages incoming Darkspawn hordes (meaning you are on your own for a while), said hordes consist mostly of the nerfed "Hurlock Grunt" and "Genlock Grunt" versions, which can be killed in a single blow.
    • The Ogres. The first you meet is the end boss for the prolog but by the finale they're just a tougher Darkspawn mook.
  • Blaster Master's That One Boss, Hard Shell, is the Warm-Up Boss of Overdrive.
  • In Fallout 3: Broken Steel, the Feral Ghoul Reaver was a Boss in Mook Clothing Lightning Bruiser with the durability of an Abrams tank and overpowered ranged attacks in addition to Deathclaw-level speed and melee damage. In Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4, while still packing a punch, they are more of an Elite Mook variation of the standard Feral.
  • This happened across the board with the Resident Evil games to the zombies. In the first the zombies were quite dangerous, taking as many as 15 to 20 rounds to drop, being difficult to avoid in the narrow hallways of the mansion, and being able to casually drain more than half the player's health from a single attack, meaning the zombies were a genuinely threatening obstacle and not conserving your ammo was basically a guaranteed death. In the second game the zombies went down with less bullets, you had more room to avoid them, you could now Button Mash to shake them off faster and take much less damage, and ammo was more plentiful, making the zombies less of a threat as you could casually dodge and shoot as you saw fit and still finish the game with ammo in the double digits. The third game turned zombies into a near non-threat: in addition to the previous game's changes you now also got ludicrous amounts of ammo to the point you could kill every enemy you encountered and not run out, the quick-dodge mechanic made even using the knife a viable tactic in battling zombies. It's quite telling how the third game would casually throw gangs of zombies at you for the hell of it which you would take down without issue when in the first game even three zombies in a room would have been an Oh, Crap! moment. Granted this is hardly seen as an issue as it paved the way for enemies and boss characters that were threats, with creatures like the Lickers from the second game and the much-beloved Implacable Men like T-00/Mr. X from the second and The Nemesis from the third who served as the real threats. The Resident Evil remake took a "best of both worlds" approach where it gave you more ammo and made the zombies less of a threat, but they would come back as the much more threatening Crimson Heads if you killed one without a headshot or immolating its corpse: headshots were dictated by lucknote  and there was only enough kerosene for 25 zombies on easy/normal and 15 on hard, which wasn't nearly enough to burn them all, putting you in a Morton's Fork situation when it came to shooting or avoiding zombies.
  • Exploited in Fate/Grand Order, when the cast finds themselves in a singularity that runs on horror movie tropes. Against the unstoppable monster that stalks them the first night, their options amount to dragging the fight out as long as possible, or using Illya as a Human Shield.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles 4, Klaus Waltz's Vulcan Tank gets stronger every time you fight him, but is very vulnerable to one specific tactic, having several lancers clustered in a row so that they fire together, and using engineers to keep the ammo flowing and once you've figured out that tactic he becomes fairly easy to beat, to the point that in his final appearance he can be defeated on the first turn, despite him having twice as much HP as in his last encounter.
  • Happens to the resident Clock Roach Dahaka in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within in the canonical ending. Due to the events of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Dahaka is after the Prince, and in Warrior Within there are segments where he is chasing you and you can't do a thing to him, thus retreat being your only option. Getting all life upgrades will also award you with a Water Sword, which is Dahaka's Achilles' Heel, so getting it will open the fight with him for a True Final Boss.

    Western Animation 
  • An inversion of this occurred in Dungeons & Dragons (1983). In the first couple of episodes, the band of teenage/preteen adventurers are battling no less than Venger and Tiamat on a regular basis. Midway through the series they're having trouble with orcs and bullywugs. Near the end of the show's run, they had an episode where, in the process of helping some fairy-sized dragons escape to their homeland, they're overpowered and captured by a perfectly normal, two-bit human baron and his dozen or so men at arms....
  • Done at times in Teen Titans, perhaps most obviously in the episode "Revolution". At first Mad Mod's robot guards are so powerful that the Titans can't even defeat 2 or 3 of them- they're simply too tough. When they wind up fighting an entire army at once all of a sudden the Titans can rip them apart like tissue paper or knock them over like skittles. It's even more notable in that in their first appearance, Cyborg was unable to put a dent in their armor with his fist, and in the end he's able to punch straight through one and blow it up. Considering both times are metal vs metal with somehow different results, the trope is played very straight here.