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Pursued Protagonist

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"Must... warn... the president... Giant spider!"
Messenger, Wild Wild West

This is a standard opening for a movie, book, or cartoon — start with a protagonist in the adventure pursued by relentless, shadowy figures who outnumber them. It can be on Hellish Horseback, spaceships, cars, roofhopping, or any of a thousand methods of pursuit. If the protagonist has escorts, expect them to wear copious amounts of red. If they are critically injured, they will inevitably survive just long enough to alert others.

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The Pursued Protagonist has a 50/50 chance of survival, much less escaping capture. However, they have a much higher chance of keeping their cargo out of enemy hands. Enter the real Hero who has been Easing into the Adventure and becomes the Pursued Protagonists' last desperate hope to keep their cargo safe, by handing them the MacGuffin, Phlebotinum, or a Fetch Quest Delivery Quest. Though, expect little explanation of what exactly they got in their hands, much less gotten into. Will they resist or embrace The Call to adventure?

If the pursued protagonist survives, they will likely either become a Mentor to the hero, Love Interest, or otherwise become a steadfast ally. It's not uncommon for said Protagonist to require rescuing as one of the heroes' first tasks, either, for which they may need to gather allies. Bonus points if they're a Princess.

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Usually begins In Medias Res. If the hero gets pursued later in the story, expect a character briefly introduced earlier to rescue them. This will end the chase.

Subtrope of Cold Open. Can overlap with Dramatic Chase Opening. Compare Bring News Back. Subtrope of Herald.

Not to be confused with Stern Chase which describes a plot of an ever-pursued protagonist.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Jue of Final Flight of the Osiris in The Animatrix is a version of this. She's a strange example because she is delivering a message inside the Matrix while her crew mates are pursued by sentinels in the real world. Although this isn't the beginning of her story, it kicks off the Enter the Matrix video game and the second film.
  • In Brave10, Isanami is on the run from Tokugawa the whole series, right from the very first scene.
  • The opening of Castle in the Sky shows the heroine being chased by evil forces.
  • In the opening episode of Code Geass, Lelouch has a run-in with a truck manned by Nagata and Kallen carrying a payload stolen from a Britannian facility, with the military hot on their trail.
  • The first action scene in Full Metal Panic! starts with Sousuke rescuing a woman who carries a CD containing vital information.
  • The anime for Granblue Fantasy begins with Lyria escaping pursuit by the Erste Empire.
  • Monster Rancher opens with Genki winning a tournament. His prize for this is a beta copy of a new game, which opens this way, showing Holly and Suezo running from Captain Dino and his Mooks.
  • Outlaw Star opens with the Space Pirates in hot pursuit of Hilda.
  • The second major Myth Arc of Reborn! (2004) begins with Basil being pursued by Squalo as he attempts to deliver the Vongola half rings to Tsuna. Slight subversion in that Squalo grabs the rings right out of Tsuna's hands. Fortunately, unbeknownst to Basil, he had been given fake rings to serve as a decoy so that Dino could deliver the real rings with no interference from Varia.
  • Episode 15 of Samurai Champloo begins with a Ninja spy fleeing from a counterfeiter's enforcers. The ninja is actually caught, but not before tossing his evidence into a nearby pond, where the Power Trio finds it.
  • The manga Tokyo Underground begins with the main heroine Ruri, who'd been held captive much of her life, escaping pursuit and fleeing to the surface with her bodyguard Chelsea.

    Film — Animated 
  • Treasure Planet has one of these, where a turtle-alien thing in a spaceship crashed, mutters about a cyborg, asserts that "He'll have to pry the chest from Old Billy Bones' cold, dead hands!" He dies soon after, leaving the MacGuffin in the possession of young Jim Hawkins.
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    Film — Live Action 
  • The Beast Must Die opens with Tom Newcliffe being chased by a helicopter and a group of hunters in Land Rovers who are being guided by Mission Control Pavel who is using microphones and cameras mounted throughout the grounds to monitor Tom's progress. This is eventually revealed to be Tom testing the effectiveness of his new security system.
  • Bones (2001): The film opens with Shotgun fleeing from Jimmy's hellhound to establish the danger it poses, barely locking himself inside his apartment in time.
  • The Colony (2013): The first scene shows two Colony 5 residents running through a bunker's tunnel until they reach a locked door. They beg for the man hiding inside to let them in as unseen figures quickly close in on the two fugitives and the camera cuts to the next scene. It's never shown what happened to them, but it's heavily implied that they're killed and cannibalized like everyone else besides the man hiding behind the locked door.
  • Frankenstein 1970 opens with Caroline being pursued by a shambling monster and being driven into the lake. This is then revealed to be a scene for the movie they are shooting.
  • The Cold Open of Hard Target is Binder being hunted for sport through the streets by Mr. Lopacki—Fouchon's latest client—accompanied by Fouchon, Van Cleaf, and Fouchon's 'hounds' on motorbikes.
  • The 2008 film version of Journey to the Center of the Earth opens with a Dream Sequence in which the hero is being chased by a T-Rex.
  • The opening chase with Trinity and the agents in The Matrix.
  • Night and the City has a Cold Open with the protagonist being chased by mobsters.
  • Octopussy had Agent 009 in a clown costume, pursued by a knife thrower, before dying in the British Embassy with the MacGuffin in his hand.
  • The Rocketeer: Well, pursued Punch-Clock Villain anyway. The second scene shows two Valentine Mooks with the jetpack MacGuffin fleeing from several police cars. One of them is quickly killed, while the other hides the jetpack in the protagonist's workplace (where he quickly finds it) before being captured.
  • Rovdyr opens with a young blonde woman running through the forest, fleeing something that is chasing her. She steps in a Bear Trap, and while struggling to free herself, is shot from behind.
  • Marv's story in Sin City begins this way with a SWAT team moving in to capture the hero.
  • Star Wars: A New Hope opens this way, with Leia being pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer on her way to deliver the plans of the Death Star to the Rebellion. Using R2-D2, she tries to send them to Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. R2 and the plans instead end up in the hands of Farm Boy Luke Skywalker, which kickstarts the adventure.
  • Subverted in The Thing (1982): It starts off with a husky being pursued be Norwegians in a helicopter who are throwing sticks of dynamite. In retrospect, offering sanctuary to the pursued was probably not in the best interests of the protagonists.
  • The film version of Wild Wild West opened this way; see the page quote. One of the kidnapped scientists was fleeing through a forest, being pursued by a giant flying buzzsaw. Seconds later it chops off his head.

    Literature 
  • The Angel Experiment opens with Max being pursued by bloodthirsty wolfmen called Erasers. It turns out to be a dream, but also a good indication of her life and the events to come.
  • Elfangor in Animorphs crash-landed after a battle in orbit around Earth. He then met a group of teenagers, gave them powers, and immediately got killed off.
  • Christopher Paolini's Eragon opens this way, with Arya being pursued by Durza on her way to deliver the dragon egg to the rebellion. Using teleportation, she tries to send it to Brom. It instead ends up in the hands of Farm Boy Eragon, which kick starts the adventure.
  • The first part of Gods and Warriors begins with Hylas fleeing from a group of Crow warriors who are hunting Outsiders such as him. It's later revealed that they killed his dog when they suddenly attacked his camp, and he ended up being pursued by them when he tried to prevent them from finding his sister. He manages to evade them for the time being by literally hanging from the edge of the mountain trail.
  • The novel Green Rider opens with a messenger who's been shot in the back trying to escape pursuit. He meets the heroine and makes her swear to deliver his message, then dies on the spot.
    • And then goes on to save the heroine's life several times despite being DOA (Dead On Arrival)
  • The prologue to the Matthew Hawkwood novel Rapscallion features Lieutenant Sark being chased through the marshes by unknown pursuers with dogs. He does not survive the experience.
  • Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters begins (not in the very first scene but very soon after) with a palace guard rushing to escape, er, other palace guards while trying to spirit the baby prince out of the castle following the king's death. When who should he meet, before dying of an arrow wound, but the three witches...
  • The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly begins with Decoy Protagonist Becky Taylor being chased by the maddened inhabitants of New York in the Bad Future. The time portal she hopes to take back home is blocked, and Becky is never seen again.
  • Wizards First Rule started out like this, with the protagonist Richard helping Kahlan (his eventual love interest) save herself from a Quad, four assassins who have been chasing her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Marcus Cole in the first episode of season three Babylon 5. G'kar in one season two episode.
    • "The Quality of Mercy": An informant Lurker dies in Garibaldi's arms with the statement, "They're going to kill him." This triggers an investigation by Garibaldi, which unfortunately places Garibaldi in nearly the same situation later in the episode.
  • Castle: The season 7 episode ‘’Bad Santa’’ begins with a man running down a street, being chased by a car, with the driver leaning out to shoot him in the back. The killer (whose wearing a Santa suit) then gets out to finish him off with a headshot.
  • Firefly: The Tams are this in the pilot. A similar incident happens in the episode "The Message".
  • Inspector George Gently: "Gently With the Women" opens with a young woman being chased along the river in Durham by her eventual killer.
  • Magnum, P.I.: several of Magnum's clients are this. In one notable episode Magnum's girlfriend turns out to be from a family who has an ancient tradition of guarding a Chinese vase and she is pursued by an assassin.
  • Midsomer Murders: "The Night of the Stag" opens with the first Victim of the Week being chased through an orchard at night.
  • Mission: Impossible: Happens to Casey in The Teaser for "The Fortune". Leads to her being the only recurring character to be killed on the show.
  • Monk: In the opening scene of Mr. Monk Gets Lotto Fever, screaming lottery announcer Marissa Kessler is chased out of her workplace in the middle of the night by an armed, shadowy figure. She makes it to her car, but he smashes through the window, forcing her to duck out the opposite door. The pursuer yanks Marissa down as she climbs a nearby fence and stabs her to death as she pleads for her life. The killer retrieves the evidence of lottery-rigging from Marissa's body, but police forensic experts find some metallic paint on her fingers which helps clue in Monk.
  • Murder, She Wrote:
    • "Big Easy Murder" opens with the first Victim of the Week being chased through the swamps outside New Orleans before being struck down with a machete when he stops to catch his breath.
    • An episode set in Australia begins with a lawyer fleeing on foot from an armed man in a jeep, although he temporarily escapes by abandoning the McGuffin he was carrying.
  • The New Avengers: "The Eagle's Nest" opens with an agent on a remote island being chased by two murderous anglers. He attempts to seek sanctuary in a monastery where things do not go well for him.
  • Reacher: The first few seconds of the pilot show informant Pete Jobling running through a cornfield before being shot in the back.
  • Sherlock: Sherlock at the start of "The Empty Hearse" is being pursued by soldiers and a helicopter with a thermal camera through a forest.
  • Stranger Things: The first scene of the series shows one of Brenner's technicians desperately running through a hall and pounding on an elevator button. Unfortunately for him, his pursuer is inside the elevator. His protagonist characterization is sketchy though.
  • Vera: "Little Lazarus" opens with a young boy fleeing cross-country from the murderer that just killed his mother.
  • Voyage To Th Bottom Of The Sea: “Turn Back the Clock” begins with Jason Kemp fleeing from dinosaurs at the Earth’s core and fashioning an air bag from some shed dinosaur skin to escape underwater. However, it turns out that he isn’t exactly a protagonist and his cowardice got two colleagues killed.

    Video Games 
  • This is how Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura begins. The player is on board a dirigible, notices a peculiar gnome among the passengers, when suddenly the zeppelin is attacked by planes and shot down. Upon awakening among the crash debris, they see the gnome again, who barely has time to hand them a mysterious ring and some vague ominous warning before snuffing it.
  • Descent: FreeSpace opens with a terrified human pilot fleeing the Shivans, a new enemy intruding into an existing war. Because no-one believes his distress call and he then gets killed, the Shivans are a surprise to everyone else when they show up part-way into the campaign.
  • Emperor Uriel Septim qualfies in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The old guy is isn't very concerned about his impending demise. His guards drop one by one, and he pushes the MacGuffin into the player's hands before being killed from behind by a crazed assassin.
  • Final Fantasy II opens with Frionel, Guy, Maria, and Leon being chased by the Empire's Knights after their hometown's destruction. The Knights catch up anyway and leave the protagonists for dead in the woods.
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has as its prologue Eirika and Seth escaping from Renais before the invading Grado army sacks it.
  • This is actually how the original The Legend of Zelda begins, although this portion of the story takes place before the game. Impa, nursemaid to Princess Zelda, has been charged with finding a hero who can save Hyrule from Ganon. She is pursued in the forest by Ganon's mooks, only to be rescued most conveniently by the hero in question.
  • In The Matrix: Path of Neo you get to play through an extended version of Neo's chase scene in the first The Matrix movie with Agents Smith, Jones and Brown in pursuit.
  • Mega Man Zero opens with Ciel being chased by Neo Arcadian forces. They chase her into the lab where Zero is in suspended animation. Cue ass-kicking.
  • The second act of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon begins with Latios and Latias being chased down by an unknown villain while trying to meet with Celebi. They ultimately get turned into stone by said villain, with the heroes stumbling into their petrified bodies that crash-landed, confirming that the rumors of petrification are true, and that not even Legendary Pokémon are safe...
  • Rondo of Swords opens with the main character and his two retainers fleeing from their capital city... with the entire enemy army on their heels.
  • Skies of Arcadia begins with Mysterious Waif Fina fleeing from a Valuan warship.
  • The founding of Durotar campaign in Warcraft III begins with Rexxar encountering an Orc messenger chased by Quilboars. The messenger doesn't survive, so it's up to Rexxar to carry on his message to Thrall.
  • The opening mission of Yggdra Union has the titular character being pursued by Imperial force.
    • It's a bit of a subversion, though, as she's assisted by the Decoy Protagonist and takes her rightful place as the main character only two stages later.

    Western Animation 
  • Princess Tekla in the pilot for Shadow Raiders, fighting off her pursuers is what gets Graveheart and King Kryos to realize they haver a rather literal Enemy Mine on their hands.
    • And once the Beast arrives at the Planet Cluster, and the heroes discover the World Engines, the rest of the series is spent fleeing their enemy. It catches up once, and snacks on one of the four main planets of the Cluster.

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