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Non-Protagonist Resolver

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“One day it will be over, and everyone will forget that this was the moment. This was when it turned. And it wasn’t the mighty Fleet, it wasn't some fancy new weapon. It was a drill instructor named Zim who captured a Brain.”

An unorthodox Plot/Story Arc where a character gets much Character Focus and is clearly played up to be a Hero Protagonist — as in The Protagonist, whom the plot is about, who will also be the one to resolve his plot's Conflict — and it turns out the conflict isn't resolved by him, but someone else instead.


The only requirement for this trope is that we have The Protagonist "Alice" (could also be a group) who is actively trying to kill the source of conflict and whom the narrative is focused on, and there is this Red Herring Shirt "Bob" (again, can also be a group) who the narrative doesn't pay much attention to, who then kills the source of Conflict for whatever reason, leaving Alice with nothing more to do since the Story Arc is technically over with the conflict out of the way.

Note: Just because the "Story Arc is over", doesn't mean the story ends. This kind of plot can also happen to a sub-arc, not just Grand Finales, so it can still allow the story to continue.

Super-Trope to the following:

  • Crack Defeat: The focal characters lose to an unlikely competitor.
  • Dark Horse Victory: A plot involving competing rivals in a contest, where the focus of the story is the rivals, but the winner is neither of them. Do note, however, that this trope doesn't have to signify a resolution of the conflict.
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  • The Meddling Kids Are Useless: the eponymous kids do everything except resolve the plot.

Involves a Red Herring Shirt by nature, called "Bob" here. Compare A Day in the Limelight, where a minor character (or a group of them) gets an episode where they are The Protagonist. Will sometimes overlap with "Shaggy Dog" Story, when The Protagonist's efforts become for naught as someone else resolves the conflict before he can. May be a Deus ex Machina in execution if the "Bob's" intervention comes out of nowhere; to avoid such a case, the story may show Bob half-prominently but with little relevance to the story until later. If the "Bob" of the plot resolves the conflict by accident/not by his own volition, he may be hailed as an Accidental Hero after the events of the plot.

Unrelated to the following:


Compare Supporting Protagonist, the counterpart for said "resolver", as well as Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work, when a villain plays the "resolver" role.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Blast of Tempest has The Mage of Exodus [[spoiler: Megumu Hanemura— who didn't have any trace of involvement in the first half of the story, which was about Mahiro's quest to avenge his dead younger sister with his good friend Yoshino, which happens to involve Saving the World from the eponymous "Civilization Blaster" (which was revealed to literally be the source of all Conflicts in the story) as well— ending up being the one Saving the World and "getting his girl" (who herself was never even named).
  • Pokémon has done this often.
    • The biggest offender is the two-part "Red Gyarados" arc. First Ash, Misty, and Brock end up getting captured by Team Rocket, meaning Lance had to save them. Then, Lance was the one to defeat the Team Rocket Trio and destroy the base where the evolution experiment was being conducted. Then, Lance was the one to defeat and capture the lead grunt, and finally, Lance was the one to capture the red Gyarados after Ash and his friends failed to stop it. Why were Ash and the others there again?
    • The Mega Evolution Specials setup Alain with being the one in the employ of Team Flare and Lysandre then is outraged at their role in getting Mairin's Chespin ill from the Zygarde core, implying he will turn against them in the main story. Instead, it's Steven Stone who does the rescue of Chespy from Lysandre Labs while Alain is fighting in Lumiose City; despite having appeared far less than him.
  • Digimon Tamers has a mild example, with it being the adult scientists and government agents who come up with, build and plan how to defeat the D-Reaper, the kids simply have to bring the resulting device to the D-Reaper's core. It enters this trope by the amount of screen time and plot focus said scientists get, and the last few episodes pointing out that the kids are kinda standing around getting in the way during the periods where they're not actually fighting.
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, while the protagonists Syaoran and Sakura do manage to escape from the tube Fei Wang sealed them in, it is Kurogane and Fai who finish the Big Bad off while he is distracted by the destruction.
  • Macross Delta: You’d expect Hayate to be the one who kills Roid; instead Keith does the deed while Hayate is busy saving Mikumo from the Sigur Valens. Justified because Hayate abhors killing and Keith has a more personal reason to go after Roid.
  • The Future Trunks Saga of Dragon Ball Super marks the first arc where the villain, aka Zamasu isn't defeated by the Z-Fighters. Instead he is defeated by Future Zen'O as a last ditch effort after Zamasu turns into a bodiless Eldritch Abomination that the heroes seemingly couldn't touch at all. The Universe Survival Saga is a second, where Goku and Frieza sacrifice themselves to ring out Jiren, leaving Android 17 to win the tournament for Universe 7.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has some examples including:
  • In Parasyte, Shinichi is trying to kill the Parasite who killed/took over his mom, but freezes up at the critical moment, with his opponent looking like she'll get the final blow instead. At this point, Mamoru Uda and Jaw (the only other human/Parasite pair known in the series) jumps in and takes care of her instead, with the former saying that he doesn't think Shinichi should be the one to have to kill her.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Newspaper Spider-Man's conflicts are often settled by someone else, in contrast to his hardcover comic counterpart.

    Fan Works 
  • Dear Diary (a story adaptation of a Nuzlocke run of Pokémon Black): It ultimately ends up being Lillil who defeats Ghetsis and Caitlyn who stops Reshiram and Zekrom, thanks to Prima and Opal being (at least sort of in Opal's case) dead by the climax.
  • The MLP Loops: Loop 193.7 is set during Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree, and Sunset is preparing to act when the human Bulk Biceps, a non-Looper, suddenly steps up and talks Gloriosa/Gaia Everfree down, pointing out that if she keeps them there, she's keeping them away from their families. Sunset's surprised by this, but happy with the results.
  • Party Crusher: Kim, by getting critical information to the others about Hawk Moth and Party Crasher, allows Bunnyx to resolve the akuma problem by time travel. Pegasus unknowingly saves Emilie as well, by clearing the party to avoid a panic and getting Markov unplugged.
  • The Legend of Total Drama Island: Dawn, an intern, has A Day in the Limelight during the 17th Night chapter. She (presumably) resolves a subplot in the process, and then goes back to being a supporting character.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In chapter 7 of the sequel Diplomat at Large, Twilight, Pharynx and Tempest Shadow handle most of the job of defeating the Storm King. It's Bon-Bon, however, who actually kills him without realizing it when he gets knocked out a window and lands on the battlefield behind her.
  • The protagonist of With This Ring comes back to the Vega Systems after several months, to check on how they're doing, mediate a peaceful solution to a civil war that's cropped up, etc — and then feels a disturbance in the orange light. Turns out that while he was away, Captain Comet already unified most of the parties in the Vega Systems, and just now finished mopping up the Psions. Paul's return did help to resolve the liberation struggle with a little less violence, but overall, the New Vega Alliance already had things well in hand.
    Adam Blake: I'm not complaining about what you did, Paul. But you left, and Vega had to forge ahead without you. And this is what happened. That peace you thought you were trying to broker? I did that four months ago.

    Films — Animation 
  • Robots, Rodney was played up to have the makings of a hero when he stood up against Corrupt Corporate Executive Ratchet with his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. At the final confrontation? his Robot Buddy Wonderbot who is a robot (who up until then, was just a Plucky Comic Relief) built specifically to help in dishwashing is the one who fights, puts the Big Bad right back to his place, and kicks the Jerkass receptionist out. Justified in that Rodney was played up as a Science Hero, not an Action Hero, and in the climax, he actually played Supporting Leader and helped collectively defeat the Big Bad's minions.
  • Toy Story 3:
    • A particularly touching one: The Hero duo Woody and Buzz, along with the rest of the toys are facing their Darkest Hour, the show has already Shoo Out the Clowns (i.e. The Little Green Men Trio, who were also The Load, and everyone had lost hope and given up and were just waiting for their death from the Incinerator Pit they got themselves trapped into. Cue a literal Deus ex Machina from out of nowhere (it was never in the shots!) in the form of THE CLAW, controlled by none other than The Little Green Men trio, whom Mr Potatohead "rescued" (and ignored for repeatedly saying "You have saved our lives, we are eternally grateful!") back in Toy Story 2. Which prompts him to echo their words to them after their rescue. As for the relevance of The Claw; The LGM were toys obtainable only through a Claw Crane Game in Pizza Planet. They consider The Claw there as sort of savior that will "take the chosen to a better place". Making The Claw scene in Toy Story a Foreshadowing.
    • Also, at the end, Lotso doesn't get his comeuppance at the hands of the heroes. Instead, he's found by Sid from the first movie (now working as a garbage man) who decides to tie him at the radiator of his truck as some kind of decoration. Thus giving him his And I Must Scream fate.
  • In Cars 3, Lightning McQueen does not finish the Florida 500, but his former trainer Cruz Ramirez does under his number. Because of this, they are both considered winners of the race, meaning Lightning gets to keep his job and has won the bet against Sterling.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avalanche Sharks the plot is resolved and the titular monsters (Native American totem spirits) are stopped not by The Sheriff or his wife, not by any of the prominent skiers and snowboarders who've been taking the warnings seriously (and in two cases, lost relatives to the sharks), not by the old hermit whose been warning people from the beginning, but by a random skier, far away from the range of the attacks, who happens to find the damaged scared totems, and straighten them back out due to simple curiosity, which appeases the sharks in time to save the last survivors.
  • The Book of Henry: School principal Janice started the showcase of how Adults Are Useless by refusing to do something about Christina's abuse by her father because she lacked evidence, which is what started Henry down the path of deciding killing Hank (the aforementioned abusive father) was the only solution. At the climax, at the very same time that Henry's mother decides not to carry out Henry's murder plan (because Henry is dead and can't do it himself) and tells Hank that she knows, Janice sees Christina's immense sorrow as she's doing a ballet routine for the school halfway across town, finally gets a My God, What Have I Done? reaction, and calls the police with her complaint, Just in Time because Hank had already called the cops to come arrest Henry's mother for the conspiracy to commit murder and thus they just decide to change targets. Hank, knowing an investigation will inevitably expose his abuse and he will be arrested, blows his brains out.
  • In Goldfinger, the role of James Bond in the plot is actually rather limited. He spends most of his time tailing Goldfinger and hanging out in his base as a prisoner, always trying to get intel outside, but failing. Sure, he does manage to kill both Goldfinger and Oddjob, but that doesn't affect the plot very much, and the bulk of the work ends up being done by the US Army and the CIA. They even disarm the nuke for Bond. The only vital thing Bond does manage to do is, ironically enough, screwing Pussy Galore (who then performs a Heel–Face Turn and sabotages Goldfinger's 'grand slam').
  • The Meteor Man: A guy is given superpowers by a meteor and tries to clean up his corrupt neighborhood. At the end the bad guys have him, but he makes an impassioned speech and the listening apartment dwellers fight back (one, a jazz fan, by throwing his valuable records as Frisbees).
  • In Iron Man 3, Tony realizes the Big Bad is still alive but unfortunately, he doesn't have his armor. Fortunately, a newly super-powered Pepper Potts comes in to take care of business.
  • Captain America: Civil War: while Cap does eventually incapacitate Iron Man long enough for him and Bucky to escape, it is T'Challa who eventually apprehends Zemo, the man responsible for most of the action in the film, and brings him to justice. Furthermore, The Stinger shows T'Challa housing at least Cap, Bucky, Black Widow, and the rest of team Cap somewhere in Wakanda. And even despite all that, the Sokovia Accords pass, so Cap and Bucky's only victory is that at the end of the day, they are alive - only T'Challa actually resolves the conflict by apprehending Zemo.
  • T'Challa only solves one of the three simultaneous climaxes in Black Panther: Okoye forces W'kabi and the border tribe to surrender to the Dora Milaje and the mountain tribe, and it is Agent Ross of all people who shoots down the escaping craft carrying Vibranium weapons.
    • Specifically invoked earlier in the film: after T'Challa fails to apprehend Klaue in Korea, Killmonger shows up in Wakanda with his body. It, along with N'Jobu's ring, is what helps convince W'Kabi and other Wakandans to back him, or at least hear him out.
  • In The Jackal, the terrorist released from prison and hired to help stop the feared assassin (who he worked with in the past) from killing a politician, doesn't kill him in the end, as the Jackal gets the best of him. Instead, he is killed by the terrorist past love interest. Becomes Death by Irony, because the Jackal kept taunting him about how he can't protect his women. But clearly, his women can protect him.
  • In Starship Troopers, Rico seems set to lead the team that captures the Brain Bug. After being diverted from his primary goal to find his desperately endangered ex-girlfriend, however, he has to abandon this objective. He finds the bug anyway, but is unable to capture it because of the hordes of warrior-caste arachnids surrounding it. After escaping, he and the others who survive from his group find that the Brain Bug was eventually captured by a minor character from much earlier in the series who left off being a drill sergeant to fight again, and whose character arc was never followed much beyond that.
  • Denis Villeneuve like this trope. Mary, Adam's girlfriend, accidentally getting herself and Anthony killed allowing Adam to take his identity in Enemy, and Alejandro killing Big Bad Alcon while Kate is sidelined in Sicario.
  • In Office Space the three programmers paint themselves into a corner when their money skimming operation goes wrong. When Peter resolves to take all the blame, he prepares himself to be discovered and arrested, but perennial office doormat Milton (who's not aware of the scam) coincidentally decides that he's had enough crap from his employers and burns the whole office building down, and along with it the incriminating evidence.
  • In District 13, the two main leads Damien and Leito spend the whole movie trying to get to the main villain Taha. Rather than having a confrontation with him, the government seizes all of his funds and its Taha's own thugs who gun him down, since he can no longer pay them and they were through being abused by him.
  • In New Jack City, it looks as though Nino, the Big Bad drug kingpin, will either go free or at least get a very light sentence. Then an old man, who has railed against Nino’s drug operations throughout the entire movie, shoots and kills him.
  • The central plot of Shaft (2000) revolves around Shaft’s mission to get an extremely wealthy and extremely pampered white supremacist found guilty for killing a black man. Each time Shaft arrests him, a judge sets him free on bail, much to the dismay of Shaft and the victim’s mother. At the very end of the movie, the murderer is once again brought to court, and Shaft assures the mother that they have a new judge and credible eyewitness. The mother tells Shaft she believes there will be justice this time, and a few minutes later she shoots her son’s killer herself.
  • In The Rawhide Terror, the Rawhide Killer is shot and killed by two random members of the posse, with the sheriff only arriving in time to hear his dying words. Narratively, this allows the killer (who is a mass murderer) to die without the hero being forced to kill his own brother.
  • The ultimate resolution of The Climax occurs because of the Vienna police and not the hero Franz. While escaping from the police, Dr. Hohner locks himself in Marcellina's tomb, and sets fire to it. (The film is ambiguous as to whether this act is deliberate or accidental.) Hohner perishes alongside his dead love as the police struggle to open the door.
  • At the end of Blackenstein, the police call in the Los Angeles County Canine Corps, and the Dobermans surround Eddie, knock him to the ground and, with a fittingly macabre irony, viciously tear the monster to pieces in the same way he killed his victims: absolutely nothing to with Winifred or Dr. Stein, the movie's primary protagonists.
  • The Man Who Could Cheat Death is ultimately resolved when Margo, the Madwoman in the Attic, hurls a lantern at the rapidly aging Dr. Bonnet: turning him into a Man on Fire and setting the rest of the cellar ablaze. Gerard, Janine and Inspector Legris are forced to flee, leaving Bonnet and Margo to perish in the flames.
  • The Thing from Another World: The electrical trap which kills the Thing is worked not by Captain Hendry, but by the least talkative of the science team, and the only member of the air force crew whose last name is never mentioned.
  • The Man from Colorado: It is outlaw Jericho Howard, and not protagonist Del Stewart, who finishes off Hanging Judge Owen Devereaux. After being shot by Owen, Jericho spoils Owen's shot on Del and then drives him back into the burning down, where they both perish beneath a collapsing building.
  • Curse of the Headless Horseman: Insofar as this film even has a protagonist. When Mark suffers his Villainous Breakdown, he grabs a pistol and starts trying to shoot his way out. In doing so, he kills one of the stuntmen who stage the gunfights in the park. After a brief shootout, he is shot and killed by the stuntman's brother.
  • Discussed in The Princess Bride, when Westley - the obvious hero - is found dead, and the Grandson in the Framing Story frantically asks his Grandfather: "Who kills Prince Humperdinck? I mean, somebody's gotta do it! Is it Inigo? Who?" Ultimately, it is Westley who resolves the story's main stakes, since he was Only Mostly Dead, though he makes a point of not killing Humperdinck.
  • Angel: Despite her vow to avenge the the murders of Crystal and Lana, and his obsession with closing the case, it is neither Angel or Lt. Andrews who stops the Serial Killer. It is aging movie cowboy Kit Carson who arrives with his sixguns blazing like a one man cavalry to save both of them: emptying twelve shots into The Killer's body.

  • In the John Boland novel White August, scientist Dr. Garrett has been vital in figuring out what is causing the freak England-wide snowstorm, and develops a device to track down its source. He helps track down several lesser weather control devices that are shielding the main one, but just as he locates the last one, is shot down and is rendered comatose. The United States military resolves the conflict by dropping an atomic bomb near enough to the final device to knock it out.
  • In The Hobbit, Smaug isn't killed by Bilbo, or Gandalf, or any of the dwarves. It's Bard the Bowman who finishes him off - though Bilbo does manage to give some indirect assistance by finding out Smaug's weak point.
  • Similarly, in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo becomes corrupted by the One Ring before he's able to destroy it, but Gollum ends up causing it to be destroyed by accident while trying to take it from him. Also, Sam is the one who actually carries the ring into the precipice of Mount Doom, Frodo having collapsed from exhaustion just prior.
    • Tolkien would later imply that the lure of the Ring was so powerful that no-one could intentionally destroy it, and that Eru (God) had ensured Gollum's survival up to that point precisely so he could destroy it by accident.
  • In Monstrous Regiment Polly is the protagonist but it is the Duchess (channelled by Wazzer) who saves Borogravia.
  • In the first trilogy of John Carter of Mars, some of the main antagonists are felled by someone else's hands other than the titular character.
    • Sab Than is killed by Tars Tarkas during the first book's climax. This trope is actually a plot point since Than was betrothed to Carter's love interest. Martian customs decree that he cannot marry a woman if he killed her husband/betrothed, and Tars being the one to do the deed allows Carter to marry her.
    • The other Big Bad of the first book, Tal Hajus, is also killed by Tars Tarkas during a duel for Klingon Promotion. Their fight does not even last a single sentence. Don't mess with Tars Tarkas.
    • Played with in the third book, which has a Big Bad Triumvirate. Carter only kills one member of the group, Salensus Oll, before the final confrontation, while the other two - Thurid and Matai Shang - turn on each other during the climax. Thurid wins, but is then killed by Shang's vengeful daughter, Phaidor.
  • Harry Potter only destroys one of Voldemort’s horcuxes himself, the diary. Dumbledore destroys the ring, Ron the locket (although Harry does play a supporting role in that one), and Hermione the goblet. Crabbe uses a powerful fire spell he can’t control in the Room of Requirement and takes the tiara with it. Voldemort inadvertently destroys one himself when he “kills” Harry. Neville then kills Nagini after Harry’s “death”, making him mortal once and for all. Harry also doesn’t technically kill Voldemort. Voldemort uses the killing curse on him and since Harry is the master of the Elder Wand, it backfires on Voldemort and kills him.
  • Tarzan is not the protagonist of Edgar Rice Burroughs' fourth novel Son of Tarzan (which is still a Secondary Character Title, but the protagonist is Meriam, the girlfriend of said son), but he's still the one who saves the day, showing up Big Damn Heroes-style to save his trapped son from a well-meaning but dangerous elephant.
  • While Island (1962)'s hero Will has the authorization to negotiate on behalf of one of the oil companies that threaten Pala, he never does and his presence on the island doesn't change squat, at least not in terms of international situation. He himself learns a lot, but that's it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • Season Five has Jack attempting to prove that President Logan was the mastermind behind the conspiracy that included the death of Former President David Palmer, only Logan's wife Martha ends up being the one to trick him into confessing.
    • The eighth season not only takes Jack out of action early on in the finale but builds up Chole and Core Ortiz as the ones who are going to expose the conspiracy and coverup of the current President (having fallen under Logan's sway), which includes protecting terrorists who were involved in the day's events. Only Chloe and Cole both end up getting arrested and the one to expose the crooked wrongdoings is... the President herself, who hits a major Heel Realization and out of guilt confesses everything that's happened.
  • Arrowverse: Supergirl's first crossover with The Flash (2014) has the two heroes go up against a Villain Team-Up of Livewire and Silver Banshee. However, the villains are actually winning until some firefighters whom Kara saved in a previous episode show up and blast them with water; this causes Livewire to accidentally defeat herself and Silver Banshee with her electrical powers. This does tie into Kara's arc about people learning to trust her again after the Red Kryptonite incident, but it's odd when, during the show's first superhero team-up of all times, the Muggles wind up saving the day.
  • In the Season 5 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy has defeated Glory, but Glory reverts to the form of her human host Ben, and Buffy can't kill an innocent human even if that means a powerful Demon God will be able to return to menace everybody again. Enter Giles.
    Ben: She could've killed me.
    Giles: No, she couldn't. Never. And sooner or later Glory will re-emerge, and... make Buffy pay for that mercy. And the world with her. Buffy even knows that... and still she couldn't take a human life. She's a hero, you see. She's not like us.
    [Giles calmly smothers Ben to death]
    • In the Season 6 finale, Buffy is stuck in a cave with Dawn fighting off creatures as Willow attempts to destroy the world. It ultimately ends up being Xander who saves everyone by bringing out Willow's humanity through a speech touching on their friendship throughout the years.
    • In the Season 7 finale, it's Spike (with a sunlight reflecting amulet supplied by Wolfram and Hart) who takes care of the Uber-Vamps. Said amulet had nothing to do with the main protagonist or anything that had occurred during the entire season, it was brought in at the last minute from another television series.
  • Doctor Who: In the memorably creepy episode "Midnight", the Doctor ends up spending the crisis at a loss to understand the Eldritch Abomination menacing everyone, slowly earning the suspicions of the other passengers, and then paralyzed and totally at the mercy of a group of humans driven to murderous paranoia who are now convinced that killing him is the only way to fix things. The entity is only defeated when the hostess sacrifices herself to throw it and its stolen body out of the shuttle, saving the Doctor's life.
  • Merlin has a particularly cruel version of this. Throughout the entire series, we are told that Merlin will guide Arthur into being the king of Camelot. Together they will unite Albion, legalize magic and rule through a new Golden Age. However, Arthur dies in the Grand Finale and Merlin goes into self-imposed exile, leaving Queen Guinevere to accomplish all these goals. While the two set the framework for Albion and indeed make it possible, they aren't the ones to achieve that Happy Ending.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the Book of Judges, Barak is chosen by God to defeat Sisera, head general of the Canaanites. However, he refuses to go into battle without the prophetess Deborah, who therefore prophesizes that Sisera will be killed by an unnamed woman. After Barak defeats Sisera in battle, Sisera flees and is taken in by Jael, a random woman living in a nearby tent. After she feeds him, he falls asleep, and then she drives a tent peg through his skull.

    Video Games 
  • In Crisis Core, one of the biggest turning points of the plot is Sephiroth's Face–Heel Turn at Nibelheim, leading to a climactic showdown between Zack and Sephiroth. However, Zack is defeated and it ultimately falls to Cloud, who up until this point has been a bit character, to finish him off.
  • One possible sequence of events in Iji: If Iji has fewer than 270 kills at the end of sector 9, she can take a detour into Deep Sector and meet up with a rebellious Assassin who has political issues with the level boss. If she does, the Assassin will join her in the ensuing boss fight, and deal the fatal blow to the boss, keeping Iji's hands technically clean. Until 1.7, this was the only way of getting through the level with zero kills.
  • Inverted in Street Fighter V when Ryu is the one to finish off M. Bison, even though their conflict has never been as personal compared to other characters against the latter such as Chun-Li, Guile, or Charlie/Nash (who does help Ryu through his Heroic Sacrifice).
  • The Trails Series is very fond of this trope due to the fact that while the main characters do something, they're not the ones who ultimately save the day.

    Web Comics 
  • In DM of the Rings the three remaining players in the game, playing Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, get very annoyed that for all their hard work, victory or defeat in the campaign comes down to a dice roll by the DM for whether or not Frodo, now an offscreen NPC after the hobbits' players left to play Star Wars d20, can throw the Ring into Mount Doom.
  • 8-Bit Theater, being so fond of an Anti-Climax, ends with the Light Warriors not defeating Final Boss Chaos. Instead, it's White Mage and three other such healers - as payoff to a Brick Joke set up in the first pages of a comic that ran for over 1000!
  • Wilde Life: The author has noted with some amusement how early on, fans were always wondering "how is Oscar going to solve this problem?," when in fact, Oscar pretty much never solves the main conflict — usually, it's Eliza or Cliff who fights off the opponent.
  • Only three of the major villains in L's Empire were directly defeated by the protagonists, and they were Harmless Villains. The rest were all taken out by allies or — in one case — a former Big Bad.

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers: Generation 1: Near the end of the 3-part "More the Meets the Eye" pilot series, Optimus Prime literally gets shot down while trying to pursue the Decepticon space cruiser. When the other Autobots regroup with him, he notices that Mirage is missing. The scene then shifts back to the Decepticons right as Mirage de-cloaks and guns down the ship's controls. Then bails as the ship plummets into the ocean, taking the Decepticons with it.
  • Often used on Looney Tunes for Rule of Funny. "The Dover Boys" has a double-whammy for one. First of all the villain isn't defeated by the heroes, but by the Damsel in Distress, who beats him up even as she calls for help. By the time the Dover Boys arrive to finish the job, they only succeed in knocking each other out. Second, the Dover Boys don't get the girl in the end; instead, she goes with the old guy in the Old-Timey Bathing Suit that keeps popping in and out during the film for seemingly no reason.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The Day the Violence Died", when Bart and Lisa think of a plan to save Itchy & Scratchy Studios they rush over, only to discover that two previously unseen characters named Lester and Eliza (who look like Bart and Lisa did in The Tracey Ullman Show days) have already saved it.
    • In another episode, "Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge", Homer, who has started a private security company, is being threatened by local mobster Fat Tony and his gang. As they advance menacingly someone starts shooting and the criminals run away. It tuns out it was Maggie.
  • In the third season finale of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) which deal with the Turtles' Final Battle with Ch'rell, the Utrom Shredder (at least until Turtles Forever), the Turtles attempted to stop the Shredder from leaving the Earth and continue his attempt to take over the Utrom homeworld. Despite their best efforts, their final encounter with him, following him entering a new, more powerful exosuit, resulted in them being defeated by the Shredder worse than ever before. Feeling there was no alternative, the Turtles chose to blow up the Shredder's starship rather than let him spread his evil across the universe. However, it is then that the Utroms arrive, and using space-time technology, pull everyone off the ship before it's destroyed, rendering the Turtles Heroic Sacrifice unnecessary, along with everything they did since the beginning of the two part finale. Following that, the Shredder is finally brought to justice, not by the Turtles, but by the Utroms, who send him into permanent exile for his crimes. Leo spent half the next season dealing with the failure to stop the Shredder by growing angrier and edgier than Raphael.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "A Canterlot Wedding - Part 2", the Mane 6 are captured by the army of Changelings before they can retrieve the Elements of Harmony. Instead it is Cadence and Shining Armor who combine their powers to use a love powered energy barrier to blast the Changelings out of Canterlot.
    • In "The Cutie Map - Part 2", Starlight runs away with the Mane Six's cutie marks. Four town ponies who just got their own marks back catch up to her in time, using their special talents to travel faster than the talent-suppressed Mane Six could.
    • In "The Crystalling - Part 2", Shining Armor is the one to persuade the crowd to evacuate, after three of the Mane Six can't get through to them.
  • Kim Possible: It's Ron Stoppable and Drakken who defeat the Lorwardians in the Grand Finale.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: In the final battles with the show's two most important villains, the Huntsman and the Dark Dragon, it's not Jake, but his Love Interest Rose who saves the day on both occasions.


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