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Run the Gauntlet

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A Super Hero has to face their entire Rogues Gallery one by one in rapid succession, leaving no time to rest. Race to stop this villain from blowing up the bridge, then dash to the other side of town to free the mayor from another villain...and the villains are almost always fought in order by the Sorting Algorithm of Evil — weakest first, strongest last. In the climax, the hero has to face the toughest villain, who is quite refreshed, while the hero is exhausted.

While it makes sense in theory, the scheme raises the question of why the villains don't just attack all at once. One reason is that the villains would all get in each others' way and allow the hero to win by turning them against each other, particularly if they have no experience in fighting as a team. Another common reason is that they didn't plan it — the Big Bad has manipulated them into doing it. That way, the hero and villains can weaken each other for the Big Bad to step in and win (Let's You and Him Fight). Either that, or they all coincidentally caused incidents for the hero to stop one after another, but since when do such things happen without being orchestrated by someone?

Heroes with especially awesome Rogue's Galleries will run into this more often; Batman does it all the time. Made possible by Villain Decay — the guy who almost killed you last time is taken out with a flick of your wrist while you move on to the next one.

Incidentally, the "Gauntlet" that appears in the name of this trope doesn't refer to an armored glove, or even to the notion of "throwing down the gauntlet." It comes independently from the archaic word gantelope, meaning a double-file of men facing each other and armed with clubs (or other weapons) with which to strike at an individual who is made to run between them. (It was commonly practiced in the British Army; you can see how speakers with different accents would get those two words confused.) So, yes, it should be spelled "run the gantlet", but the pun's too obvious.

Compare Boss Rush for when videogames have you face previously defeated bosses in rapid succession.

Compare Rogues Gallery Showcase. For when a character runs a physical gauntlet, see Death Course.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • In Bleach, after Ichigo defeats Grimmjow, he is immediately pitted against Nnoitra Jilga, who was a full rank above Grimmjow. This trope gets inverted on Nnoitra when Nel is revealed to be the former third Espada, who then proceeds to mercilessly beat the crap out of Nnoitra. However, Nel's release deactivates at the worst possible time. After Nnoitra's Kick the Dog moment, he sends his Fraccion Tesla to finish off Ichigo, but Kenpachi appears to not only defeat Tesla, but almost immediately goes to fight Nnoitra.
  • Katanagatari features a variant in which Shichika runs a gauntlet against all of the weapons that he spent the series collecting but this time in the hands of different wielders. The subversion is in how he utterly destroys the first 11 of the 12 in mere minutes as 1) they are in the hands of fighters who are far less experienced with them than the masters he had already taken them from and 2) this time he isn't under orders not to damage the weapons and is therefore no longer holding back his true strength. As he already knows their weaknesses many are destroyed in a single strike.
  • When the Seven Devils kidnap Meat (More specifically, they break him into pieces and keep each part), they force Kinnikuman to fight each of them one at a time. After defeating Stecase King and Black Hole, Kin has become too injured to fight and the other Justice Choujin have to step in and take out a few Devil Choujin on their own. However, only Terryman and Brocken Jr (With aid from Mongolman) prevail, leaving Atlantis to Kin, Springman to Mongolman, and finally Buffaloman to Kin. Something similar happens when the Devil Knights steal the Gold Mask and force Kin to fight them for it.
  • In an anime where singing is the (pretty much) only method of battle, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch had a gauntlet run. And it was Played for Laughs. Why? In the first level of the tower the bad guys made as part of some ridiculous plan or other, the first 'boss', Alala, was merely bypassed and ignored. In the second level was Lanhua, who was Bowled Over by a bowling ball (don't ask how it go there, they don't know either). The third was Lady Bat, who was 'repelled' when his (yes, his) breath reeked of curry. The fourth level had the 'planner' Napoleon, who let them by after the heroines threatened him with a beating (he was rather short). It was at the fifth and final level where the singing ensued. But not before a Funny Music from the hostage the heroines were trying to rescue.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • A heroic version occurs in Pokémon: The Original Series. When Ash is facing Drake, the Orange Islands champion. Through most of their match, Ash has knocked out five of Drake's Pokémon, while Drake has taken out only two of his. Drake sends out his trump card, a very powerful Dragonite, but Ash eventually manages to beat it by rotating his remaining Pokémon and forcing Dragonite to take them down one by one. Dragonite defeats Charizard, Squirtle, and Tauros one after another, but they all do enough damage that the Dragonite is exhausted by the time Pikachu is sent out.
    • The Frontier Brains from Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire is another non-villainous version of this. While League tournaments involve hundreds of trainers, a participant in either of these special "leagues" only ever battles each of the Frontier Brains one at a time.
  • Saint Seiya' Twelve Temples Arc in a nutshell: to save a mortally wounded Saori, her Bronze Saints have to cross the Twelve Temples and recover Athena's Shield in twelve hours, with (almost) every Temple having a Gold Saint to defend it-with the Gold Saints being so much stronger than them it's not even funny. Thankfully, the first one knew the actual situation and decided to give some help and the second had enough doubts to not go all-out, or they would have died at the first Temple.
  • Inverted in Transformers: Cybertron when Starscream decides he's getting the Omega Lock, dammit, and fights his way through eleven Autobots in a row, successfully distracts Optimus Prime, and gets away with the Lock, free and clear.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers: A variant on this happened in the conclusion to Bendis' New Avengers run, where Doctor Strange had to fight the assembled Avengers and New Avengers one-on-one, without hurting them, because a spirit-form enemy who wanted him dead was body-surfing from one to another.
  • Batman:
    • Knightfall to Hush — and also every non-canon miniseries he's ever been in, from Child of Dreams to The Long Halloween to Dark Victory, feature his familiar Rogues teaming up as part of a coordinated assault. Child of Dreams is an interesting case - none of the villains he faces are the real deal. They're crazies who think they're his iconic arch enemies due to a new drug.
    • Batman: The Animated Series,The Batman, and Beware the Batman had The Bat fight all of his villains one after the other. Deadly threats from previous episodes were reduced to petty Mooks, Elite Mooks at best.
    • Justified in Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. Batman faces all of his opponents in the eponymous Asylum, as part of a twisted game of hide and seek. They don't all just fall on him at once because they've spread out to look for him. Many of the confrontations are also purely psychological. Of course, then there's the wheelchair-bound Doctor Destiny- Him, Batman just kicks down the stairs.
    • The 2017 "I Am Bane" arc has a heroic example. After Bane beats Batman to a pulp, Bruce retreats inside Arkham Asylum and releases almost his entire rogues gallery. In a reversal of Knightfall, Bane solos them all in a single night while Bruce tries to recover.
      • And then the "Knightmares" arc culminates in Batman breaking free of being trapped and hallucinating in an Arkham that's been taken over by Bane. Batman then fights - and defeats - everyone Bane had to fight in order to make his escape (in roughly the same order, too).
  • Daredevil:
    • Typhoid Mary recruits a number of Daredevil's enemies to put the horn-headed hero through this trope. It's also a variant in that the villains win, beating Daredevil to within an inch of his life and leaving him for dead. The Typhoid version is specifically a deconstruction of the Sinister Six plot from Spider-Man, complete with epic full-page splash panels as each villain turns up, to show what would most like happen if the hero really did have to fight so many villains in a row and they weren't handed the Idiot Ball. As each villain appears and takes their shot, Daredevil's injuries and fatigue pile up until the final few confrontations have him as a bloody, concussed, hallucinating wreck basically being kicked while he's down.
    • Even earlier, Daredevil contended with a small squadron of his 1960s villains in the Emissaries of Evil, which started out as this trope before turning into a more standard Legion of Doom scenario where they all regrouped after losing to him one-on-one and attacked him together to equally poor results.
  • Darkwing Duck: The first arc in the Joe Books continuation sees both Darkwing and Gosalyn trapped in prison right as Negaduck breaks every single supervillain out, forcing them to deal with nearly every villain Darkwing has ever faced in a huge case of Continuity Porn, including major and one-shot villains from the show, villains exclusive to the new comic, and even several villains created exclusively for other material such as the Nintendo video game, the Disney Adventures comics, and story books.
  • The Flash:
    • Subverted because the Rogues are rarely known to pull a caper alone. They firmly believe in strength in numbers since most of them are either underpowered or ridiculously unsuited for facing a guy who can move and react at light speed. Even all together it's no surprise they get their asses kicked every time.
    • The first time this plot was used back in The Silver Age of Comic Books, it was in a story called "The Gauntlet of Super-Villans"; after that, the Rogues began appearing in team-ups at least as often as they did solo to the point that such team-ups became unremarkable in the series.
  • Jonah Hex: Hex was once captured by a Native American tribe that formed a line to club him as he ran to determine his fate.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spidey's first battle with the Sinister Six was one of these, where he was forced to battle the Vulture, Electro, Kraven, Sandman, Mysterio, and Doctor Octopus one after another to save Aunt May and Betty Brant. This has been explained as being so each villain would have a chance to get the "honor" of killing Spidey himself. Spidey has since called this a "bone-headed method of teaming up" and in all subsequent fights, the Six attack en masse.
    • Gently parodied in Spider-Girl's fight with the Savage Six — the entire issue was one big homage to the entire first Sinister Six issue, the leader of the Savage Six employed the same method of attack, and his brother, also a super-villain, called him an idiot. The final fight (between the exhausted hero and fresh villain) is thoroughly subverted when Spider-Girl calls in a few favors, and the last villain is confronted by just about every hero in the Marvel Comics 2 'verse. He wisely surrenders at that point.
    • Norman Osborn once claimed that only a gauntlet would work against Spider-Man since the webhead is "good with groups," using the opponents' powers against them and causing infighting.
    • After a period where the classic villains were put aside to focus on new faces, there was an arc titled "The Gauntlet," where the Kravenoff family set up Spidey's classic Rogues Gallery to fight him one after another and wear him down. The cover for the first collected volume encapsulates the trope almost perfectly - Spider-Man lies battered atop his fallen enemies.
    • A Spider-Ham anniversary issue lampshaded the origin of the Sinister Six with Mysteriape of the Swinester Six suggesting the same and getting mocked for it.
  • Superman:
    • In Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow??", Superman's whole Rogue's Gallery is manipulated by Mr. Mxyzpylk into ganging up on him.
    • At the end of Who Took the Super out of Superman?, Superman is forced to fight his nine worst foes one after the other as part of a villain ploy to kill him via a Super-Power Meltdown.
    • Ending Battle saw Manchester Black pit Superman against not only his own Rogues, but even send lesser villains after other people in Clark Kent's life, purely to make a point by keeping Superman so busy with the villains that Black can kill Lois... and even that is a faked death so that Black can push Superman to breaking point.
  • X-Men: The X-Men frequently faced this, with a Plot Tailored to the Party to go with it.

    Fan Works 
  • Happens in Chapter 60 of Child of the Storm with the forces of HYDRA gunning for Bobby Drake and having to go through Harry and his aged up friends to get him. Justified because their first attack is geared for a quick snatch and they quickly find themselves monstrously outgunned. After that, Lucius responds by chucking the kitchen sink at them (in the form of a proto Destroyer controlled by Baron Zemo and an army of Slendermen because Bobby is a young Omega Class mutant and with Xavier out of commission and Magneto distracted, this is possibly their only chance to 'recruit' him and because he recognises Harry's singular talent for being a Spanner in the Works, having been on the receiving end of it before, and is intent on making sure that it doesn't happen again. And unlike most examples, but for an appropriately timed Big Damn Heroes and a Heel–Face Turn by the Winter Soldier, it would would have worked.
  • In The Fairly OddParents! fanfic Discovery, Timmy Turner runs the gauntlet of all his magical enemies and his Imaginary Friend.
  • The Karma of Lies: In an effort to lure Hawkmoth out of hiding, Ladybug and her allies make it appear that she's been trapped inside a burning building. Hawkmoth attempts to exploit her apparent vulnerability by sending a succession of akuma after her before finally showing up in person.
  • Happens twice in My Little Mages: The Nightmare's Return:
    • First, the girls have to fight each member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad (or a trap laid by them, in Iron Will's case) while making their way to the castle in the Everfree.
    • The second time (which also incorporates a non-lethal Dwindling Party scenario), has them running into each villain again while fighting their way through the castle itself, with the girls peeling off one by one to deal with them and catching back up later.
  • When Kelly Kelly returned from her 10-Minute Retirement in The Return-Remixed, Jazz made her face all the other members of the Diva Army, with each one playing the part of a member of DEAR. This marked the beginning of where Kelly Took a Level in Badass
  • Issue #50 of Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams forces Sleepwalker to take on all six of the Nasty Boys by himself. A few issues later, he goes through this trope again when the Green Goblin puts a $1 million prize on his head. He's forced to fight several villains trying to claim the prize one after another, and they each do a number on him. By the time he fights the last villain, Sleepwalker is so exhausted that he would have been killed without the help of a Heroic Bystander.
  • Double Subverted in Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light, when Will O' the Wisp initially plans to recruit several of Spider-Woman's other enemies to attack her in a Villain Team-Up. Jack O' Lantern points out the flaws that plague most villain team-ups. Having the hero run a traditional gauntlet often doesn't work, for any number of reasons. However, having all the villains attack the hero at once isn't necessarily better, since they can all get in each others' way. Jack also points out that Spider-Woman's enemies aren't exactly willing to train together until they can work as a team. Instead, Jack advises the Wisp to force Spider-Woman to Run the Gauntlet, but to be smart about it by figuring out how to best use each villain's individual talents to best effect. The Wisp realizes that this doesn't just involve villains' powers, as he gets Psycho Psychologist Moonstone to create a psychological profile of Spider-Woman and determine what would be the best way to not only exhaust and cripple Spider-Woman physically, but emotionally as well.

    Film — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • Season 12 of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is entitled "The Gauntlet", in which Kinga Forrester and Max make Jonah and the Bots binge watch six movies back-to-back-to-back.
  • Power Rangers:
    • The "Doomsday" two-parter from season 1 of Mighty Morphin had Cyclopsis, Rita's War Zord, equipped with an Adaptive Ability to counter anything thrown at it. The Rangers ultimately get the idea to switch between Zord formations as fast as they can in hopes of overloading Cyclopsis' computer; this occurs, allowing the Rangers to destroy it. (This idea did not exist at all in Zyuranger, where they simply switched between mecha formations for no clear reason, other than to sell the toys.)
    • A later episode of MMPR featured Lord Zedd doing this with several monsters as well. It also provided a very rare case of a Monster of the Week Taking a Level in Badass, as Pumpkin Rapper put up a good fight against the Megazord by himself when the Rangers had previously destroyed him without even using one.
    • In the Power Rangers Lost Galaxy episode Hexuba's Graveyard, a sorceress named Hexuba brings back several former monsters of the week to fight the rangers before fighting them herself. This example include the Villain Decay, in that a monster that the Rangers previously couldn't defeat without their group power-up, the Lights of Orion, is taken down by the Red Ranger alone. (To be honest, any time a monster appears for the second time in the franchise, it's rarely as powerful as it was the first time.)
  • The short-lived game show Whew! had this for the Bonus Round, and was called "the Gauntlet of Villains". The contestant would encounter 10 different "villains" and have to answer "bloopers" (statements with intentionally wrong words) correctly to advance past them- defeating all the villains within 60 seconds (plus a few more seconds, depending on how much money you won in the front game) would net you $25,000 buckaroos.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Among the many types of gimmick matches devised in pro wrestling, there is the "running" variation of the "Gauntlet" match, where one wrestler has to fight three or more opponents one after another, without a break. The match can end when the runner is defeated or if the match maker is being particularly nasty, when every wrestler has wrestled, regardless of how many times the runner is defeated. As you can tell, running is usually a form of punishment, though it will make the runner look good if he succeeds, such as when Chris Benoit took on and defeated on his fellow Radicalz (Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero). "Normal" gauntlets are not examples of this trope though, being a series of matches that continue until there is one winner and are not centered around a single wrestler.
  • Johnny Doyle's NWA Los Angeles introduced the "Beat the Champ" Television Title in 1950s, where the current "champion" was given the challenge of beating randomly selected "challengers" for five weeks in the row. If he failed, he had to pay the former "champion" 100 USD. The belt was revived by NWA Hollywood in 1960s, SMW in the 1990s and NWA Wildside in the 2000s.
  • This trope is often invoked by wrestlers who vow to run through the local Power Stable one by one, such as Samoa Joe's targeting of TNA's Main Event Mafia. This almost never works though because stables usually do send more than one person to meet the lone opposition or employ some equally ignoble tactic(the mafia convinced Joe to join them with money).
  • After he turned 40 in 2012, Bob Evans challenged himself to an "Iron Week", where he would wrestle a sixty minute Iron Man match every day to prove to Ring of Honor that he could handle working for them beyond his role as a trainer/manager (he faced Grizzly Redwood, Todd Sople, Julian Starr, Adam Cole, Biff Busick, Antonio Thomas, and Vinny Marseglia).
  • In a variation, The Big Show (in early 2013) challenged all comers and several members of the locker room decided to come out like this. After a few matches, The Miz stood up from the announcer table where he was filling in and decided to take the challenge, whereupon Show decided enough was enough and went backstage to rest.
  • Chris Hero spent EVOLVE 25, 26 and 27 running the gauntlet against the best the promotion had to offer, as well as what was left of Dragon Gate USA.
  • In June 2015, following the Smash Kicks ALS event, Chris Hero decided to raise more money for the cause by willingly running the gauntlet thirty minutes to every five hundred dollars. He raised 3440, resulting in him wrestling for three hours and thirty minutes straight and him winning twelve out of seventeen matches.

    Video Games 
  • The entire Batman: Arkham Series:
    • Batman: Arkham Asylum: For the same reasons as A Serious House on Serious Earth. The Joker is either the leader of or leads Batman into confrontations with villains such as Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Bane, Victor Zsasz and Killer Croc.
    • Batman: Arkham City averts the trope somewhat: the villains aren't a unified force, but Batman still eventually fights half his Rogues Gallery in one night. The full list of everyone Batman takes down: Dr. Hugo Strange, The Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Ra's al-Ghul, Mr. Freeze, Clayface, Mad Hatter, Deadshot, Victor Zsasz, Bane and Solomon Grundy.
    • Batman: Arkham Origins plays it straight: now it's a team of assassins (Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Lady Shiva, Killer Croc, Firefly, Copperhead and the Electrocutioner) out for Batman's blood over the course of one night, under the banner of Black Mask. Or at least the Joker in disguise. And there are side-mission villains to fight too - Mad Hatter, the actual Black Mask, Anarky and Bird.
    • Batman: Arkham Knight has Scarecrow as the Big Bad this time, uniting Gotham's major villains under one banner. His team consists of Two-Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn, Riddler, Deathstroke, Firefly, and finally his partner, the mysterious Arkham Knight. Most of the villains follow the trope by committing a big crime each to wear Batman down, while the Knight and Scarecrow work on their Evil Plan. Other villains like Hush, Man-Bat, Deacon Blackfire and Professor Pyg are out doing their own thing, and to cap it all off Joker's infected blood manifests as the mad clown trying to take Batman's body for himself.
  • Dante's Inferno: The ten-part Eighth Circle of Hell from the epic is given a video game twist by having each ditch be a room full of enemy groups previously fought in the game. Each bolgia/ditch is made distinct by adding a handicap on Dante relating to the type of fraud punished there, like having his health slowly stolen away while in the bolgia for thieves.
  • Freedom Force: The game has you fight your entire Rogues Gallery before taking on Time Master.
  • Machine Hunter: Prior to you facing the Final Boss, sees you battling all 9 robot types you've encountered throughout the game, where they attack you three at a time (with one replacing any you destroyed instantly). Destroy all 9 and the portal leading to the boss opens.

  • In the final arc of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, all of the Dr.'s enemies seek the Doctor's head for Revenge, and King Radical, being as he is, deliberately sets up the trope in order to break and destroy the Dr. as DICE: The Cube That Changes Everythingas possible.
  • Run the Gauntlet: Ghost Challenge is a secret arena where Dongtae faces his memories for a chance of a bonus upgrade, which he can opt to do up to four in a row. These are Byungchul (Regret), all bullies at once (Fear), his past self (Doubt), and would be Eunju if he didn't leave early.
  • In Tower of God Phantaminum single handedly enters the palace of Jahad and defeats all who stand in his way (comprised of the strongest rankers in the tower) who then makes his way towards Jahad.

    Western Animation 
  • In the final episodes of Action Man (2000), Dr. X and his League of Doom kidnap Alex's team and put them in death traps in different parts of the world. Alex has to race from one place to the other to save his friends, fighting different members of the League along the way. This was also a Xanatos Gambit on the Big Bad's part, who ensured that Alex would be forced to overuse his Awesome by Analysis superpower so that he could copy it.
  • The Cool McCool finale "College of Crooks" pits McCool against his five series foes—the Owl, the Rattler, Hurricane Harry, Dr. Madcap and Greta Ghoul—at a disused college.
  • One episode of Justice League Unlimited centers around four of the Flash's rogues taking turns trying to kill him as Central City prepares to dedicate a museum to him. Eventually, however, Captain Cold decides that taking turns is dumb and says that they should all attack him at the museum's opening. The others (except for the Trickster) agree.
  • Used in the "bring on the bad guys" arc of Marvel's Spider-Man. While Spidey fights them all off, doing so leaves him tired enough for Doc Ock to body jack him, which was his real plan all along.
  • The two part finale of Mega Man: Fully Charged centers around Sgt. Night ordering all the Robot Masters under his command to challenge Mega Man to a final battle that is one of these. Notably, since they weren't affiliated with him, Ice Man, Wood Man, and Hypno Woman don't appear, and though she is working with him, Chaotique doesn't show up either. Also, Fire Man was too injured and doesn't show up. The episode is even titled "The Gauntlet" as well.
  • Teen Titans:
    • This was done for entire arc in the fifth and final season, culminating in an ultimate battle royale with every single hero facing off against every single villain ever to appear over the course of the series (yet surprisingly successfully).
    • Then they follow it up with every single hero fighting Dr. Light, which is the inverse of this trope. We don't learn the actual result, but we can safely assume Dr. Light won.
  • ThunderCats (1985): In the five-part episode "Lion-O's Anointment", Lion-O must prove he's worthy of being Lord of the Thundercats by taking on and defeating each of the other Thundercats in contests that favor them: a trial of strength against Panthro, of speed against Cheetara, etc. The final trial is to defeat his greatest enemy, Mumm-Ra, alone and without the Sword of Omens.