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Save the Day, Turn Away

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The Hero has defeated the villains who Cursed Him With Awesome — saved his loved ones in the process, turned some cynics into optimists, and used the only antidote for his mutation to selflessly cure the Littlest Cancer Patient. His love interest still wants to be with him, even with his transformation and new powers... but he doesn't exist any more. He's a freak. He tells her the man she loved is gone, he's something else now, and he leaves. She cries his name as he walks away into the night - to save the innocent and help the helpless.

Type 1: The protagonist either is a newly-minted superhero or has transformed into a hideous yet benevolent creature. He must abandon his initial goals and romance to either walk the hero's path alone or find a means to counteract his current transformation (good luck with that). The hero must tell his love interest that the man she loved is gone; only the heroic persona or hideous yet benevolent creature remains.

The hero must abandon his love interest because his very presence will deprive her of the normal life the love interest deserves. In the more optimistic and less creature-related examples, he must also leave because their love interest will never be safe from villains if he stays.

Type 2: The hero purposefully denies or is denied acknowledgment of his actions for the greater good of society.

Whatever type is invoked, it's helpful if it is followed by an emotionally resonant and important monologue.

Compare But Now I Must Go (the hero is incapable of settling down and must move on to the next place he's needed) and No Place for Me There (the hero feels that his continued presence is undesirable or undeserved). It's sometimes coupled with That Man Is Dead.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The OVA Guyver: Out of Control features Sho Fukamachi playing a variant on type one. After rescuing his childhood friend Mizuki, he brings her to a small overlook where she awakens to see him, in Guyver form, and almost instantly manages to deduce who's behind that odd alien mask. (and bear in mind in Guyver form the guy is at least seven feet tall, not counting the horn on the head of the armor from all we can see) He stands up and looks into the sunset, then turns around, and walks off not saying a thing to her as she desperately screams/pleads for him to come back. The epilogue says Mizuki went back to school and was fine after that, but Sho himself is never seen again. Presumably he and Guyver III continue their war against Chronos in secret but nobody knows it.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Simon pulls a type two, leaving his more responsible friend in control of the government. It's left ambiguous if he's doing it because he's a wandering hero type or he doesn't want to accelerate the death of the universe by using more Spiral Energy.
    • The ending of the second Compilation Movie expands upon this, showing he has actually followed the Call to Agriculture and is going on a tour of farming villages to train them in the proper use of irrigation so that the world can recover from its desertified state.
  • Aya in Knight Hunters walks away from his beloved little sister and the girl who has a crush on him at the finale of the first series, after saving both of them from the Ancient Conspiracy and their Psychos for Hire, because it's the only way he can protect them from the life he leads as an assassin.
  • This happens all the time to the protagonist of One-Punch Man: Saitama one-shots an extremely powerful threat, but for whatever reason someone else (unwittingly) gets the credit, and he remains unknown to the greater public. Then with the Deep Sea King he finally does it in public, and after Deep Sea King proved his power by defeating many other heroes... And then, hearing an Ungrateful Bastard riling everyone else against the other heroes because he thought that Deep Sea King had to be weak to be defeated by Saitama, he claims the other heroes had already weakened the Deep Sea King and threatens the witnesses if they tell everyone anything but that he one-shotted the monster so that the heroes who risked their lives will get the respect they deserve.
    • He does it again when, having been suspected to be a serial killer and quickly cleared, he's in a police station talking with the chief about how heroes like him are stealing all the respect from the police when the serial killer, who is actually a Mysterious Being with a grudge with the police and too tough for guns, attacks and a Hero Association higher-up is making the police chief beg for help: having heard the phone call, Saitama kills the monster, dons a police uniform, and when the Hero Association task force arrives with journalists he marches out and silently throws the monster's body at their feet.

    Comic Books 
  • Inverted with Ben Grimm/The Thing of the Fantastic Four. He constantly deals with the fear, rejection and scorn of the world at large because of his rocky exterior, bur he found love after the transformation into the Thing with blind sculptress Alicia Masters. Though he is very protective of her, as a Super Villain's daughter her odds of an uneventful life are already low. Also, in at least a few stories, he's less likely to terrify passersby than he is to be mobbed by people wanting his autograph; being a member of one of Marvel's most prominent superhero teams for a couple decades does that to a person. Ben Grimm is often known as "The Idol of Millions", and is one of the most popular heroes in the Marvel Universe. His fear of rejection mostly stems from self-loathing due to his appearance, and early encounters before his fame took off.
  • At the conclusion of Batman: Year One, Batman (who is unmasked) saves Jim Gordon's baby. Jim Gordon has suspected Bruce Wayne of being Batman throughout the whole arc. Gordon tells Batman that he's blind without his glasses, and that Batman should leave him before the police arrive. Batman leaves. Whether Gordon was lying is unknown, although other stories hint that he might know.
  • This is typical in a day's work for Spider-Man, who will often rescue people from burning buildings or beat down a supervillain, only to have to swing away almost immediately after because he's a Hero with Bad Publicity, and because in his origin story, his lust for glory led to his uncle getting killed.
  • The original eight-page Swamp Thing story features Alex Olsen, turned into a shambling plant monster by his traitorous lab partner. Alex kills his partner before he can murder Alex's beloved, but she's terrified of him and he can't speak to explain himself; he sadly turns away and returns to the swamp.
  • In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe and Paperinik New Adventures this is Paperinik's true cross as a superhero: he knows that he could finally be respected and admired even in his civilian identity if he renounced his Secret Identity (and, given it's Donald Duck, that's something he really needs and deserve), but if he did so he'd endanger them, so he'll never take off the mask (and if someone finds out he'll wipe their memories).

    Fan Works 
  • Children of an Elder God: During the War, Shinji, Asuka, Rei and their teammates absorbed the powers of all Lovecraftian Eldritch Abominations killed by them until they became Humanoid Abominations. When they fought the Elder Gods for last time, Rei chose to seal herself with them forever, telling her friends that she'd never be capable of having a normal life. After saving the world, Shinji and Asuka left his friends and human civilization forever because they didn't belong with humans anymore (in a subversion, they left together).

    Films — Animation 
  • Puss in Boots: Puss saves his hometown and wins back the admiration of the townfolk, especially his adoptive mother Consuela. Yet he is still a criminal in the eyes of the law, so he must Walk the Earth as The Atoner.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Swamp Thing: Dr. Holland saved Alice and Jude, even killed Dr. Anton Arcane, but due to his botanical transformation Dr. Holland can never continue his work or be with Alice.
  • The Toxic Avenger subverts it optimistically, Melvin's transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength has improved his social life, his standing in the community, and is generally beloved and worshipped as the first superhero from New Jersey.
  • RoboCop 2: The movie begins with OCP's legal team forcing Murphy to turn away from his wife and kid. Murphy doesn't want to give up on trying to connect with them, but his family are freaked out by his visits to their home — and are threatening to sue OCP — so Murphy lies to his wife and convinces them that he isn't really her husband reborn as a warrior of living steel, but a robot built in honor of Murphy's memory.
  • Darkman:
    • In the original film, Darkman leaves Julie because he isn't Peyton anymore, he's Darkman now. Not because of his horrible burns, but because of the horrible things he had to do to take revenge for his injuries and to rescue her.
    • Happens again at the end of Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, where Darkman leaves after helping a child in the hospital.
  • Fluke: The hero having saved his child, he lets his ex-wife know that he was her husband. But he must leave his family because he is no longer Tom; he is a dog now.
  • Blade (1998): The Daywalker kills Deacon Frost and saves the girl. He refuses to take the serum to cure his special blend of vampirism because there are more vampires that need killing, and he's going to be the one to do it.
  • Spider-Man: Peter kisses Mary Jane and leaves her because he is Spider-Man now. As the sequels demonstrate, she loves Spider-Man too.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • Batman Begins: Inverted. Rachel leaves instead, because she realized that Bruce Wayne never came back to Gotham, only Batman.
    • The Dark Knight: Batman saves Gordon's family from Two-Face in a massive homage to Batman: Year One . Batman decides to take the blame for Two-Face's crimes as a means to maintain Dent's legacy. Gordon and his son plea with Batman not to take the blame but Batman flees into the night while Gordon's son calls Batman's name. Gordon helps cement the trope by delivering a heroic monologue on behalf of Batman.
    • The Dark Knight Rises: Batman/Bruce Wayne fakes his death in a spectacular fashion, because in order for Bruce Wayne to start a new life Batman would have to die a hero.
  • Speed Racer: To assume the Racer X identity, Rex Racer faked his death and underwent plastic surgery. Now, to keep his family safe, he decides not to reveal his identity.
  • Superman Returns: The Man of Steel realizes that his continued presence in Lois Lane's life would be problematic and confusing to their son.
  • Ghost Rider (2007): Johnny defeats Blackheart, but realizes that he can never have a normal life with the woman he loves. He use the spirit of vengeance to fight evil and walk the hero's path.
  • Watchmen: If there is to be peace, Dr. Manhattan must let the world think he is their enemy.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Max turns away from Joe's Citadel right after returning the wives and saving Furiosa's life, knowing he does not belong there.
  • The Searchers: A more subtle example, but after spending years searching for his niece and saving her from the Indian tribe that kidnapped her, protagonist Ethan Edwards lingers in the doorway of his family's house and then leaves, rather than join his family in the house to celebrate the girl's return. Even the shot composition illustrates that Ethan's dark Anti-Hero tendencies (not to mention the undercurrent of racism that drove his quest) won't allow him to live a normal, happy life.
  • Hancock: The entire movie is based on this trope. He had to do it prior to the movie, and has to do it again at the end.
  • The lead character played by Toshiro Mifune does this twice in Yojimbo and Sanjuro after singlehandedly slaughtering all the bad guys, with a simple "Abayo/See ya" to his comrades.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Specifically mentioned by the Count even as he subverts it for the first time in a while, having previously rewarded or punished people incognito. But since he's likely to never again see those people he helped again, he lets the truth slip.
    Like benefactors in romances, I should have left you without seeing you again, but that would have been a virtue beyond my strength, because I am a weak and vain man, fond of the tender, kind, and thankful glances of my fellow-creatures. On the eve of departure I carry my egotism so far as to say, ‘Do not forget me, my kind friends, for probably you will never see me again.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry's girlfriend Susan decides to leave after becoming a vampire, joining a band of other Friendly Neighborhood Vampires who are fighting their hunger as well as evil vampires. (Since Our Vampires Are Different, a person who has been turned doesn't become a full vampire until they feed for the first time. Until then, they're still themselves, and though the hunger is felt, they don't have to feed to survive.)
  • The end of Wind and Sparks by Alexey Pehov. The surviving heroes know too much of the secrets that were buried for centuries and can use Dark powers banned in their homeland.note  They decide not to take any credit for their actions, pretend they were killed in the war and emigrate. At least the Gray magicians live so long, they can wait until current leaders of Light die and hope the next ones would be more reasonable.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: It could be argued that the entire series has a form of this. In the first season, not long after he's gotten back together with his wife, Teri Bauer, she is kidnapped and almost murdered several times before Nina Myers coldly shoots her in the stomach in the first-season finale. From that point on, Jack deliberately pushes his romantic interests away to save them from his enemies, including Kate Warner (between seasons 2 and 3), Dianne Huxley (after hints of attraction between her and Jack) and Audrey Raines (who he realizes has been severely hurt by his actions over the last season, even though he saved her again). The series ends with Jack Bauer having to leave the woman he loves after he saves her, because she will always be in danger if he stays... That woman is America.
  • RoboCop: The Series: At the end of the pilot episode, Murphy saves the city and comes to the conclusion that his wife and son must never know that he is Robocop. He knows that he can never act as a husband and a father to them, but he can be their savior.
  • Every episode of The Incredible Hulk (1977) ends like this. Problem solved, Banner packs up and leaves as "The Lonely Man" plays in the background, in order to avoid getting innocent bystanders embroiled in the manhunt for the Hulk.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): The Dragon Reborn tries this at the end of season 1, firmly believing that they have become dangerous to their friends and family.
    The Dragon Reborn: I have a favor to ask you. Just one. Tell them I died here. Tell them I didn't make it back.
    Moiraine: I cannot lie.
    The Dragon Reborn: You'll work out a way.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, this is often the story for newly-exalted solars that lived in a culture steeped in the Immaculate doctrine.

    Video Games 
  • In Splinter Cell: Conviction, Sam pulls one on Anna after saving the president, though only if he refuses to kill the Big Bad. If he follows through, the scene immediately ends. Naturally, it doesn't take, since he's back for Splinter Cell: Blacklist.
  • Ryu does this at the end of Street Fighter II.
    • An interesting example, in that it's not for the greater good or anything...he's just anxious to get to the next fight. He's ALMOST True Neutral, if he didn't stick to fighting bad guys. Plus, he wasn't necessarily saving the world: he had simply won the tournament (which is run by the series' Big Bad, but still) and refused to receive the award.
  • A side quest in Mega Man Battle Network 6 is to act for an episode of a Show Within a Show called Cyber-Warrior Cybo. Mega Man (playing Cybo) vanquishes an enemy threatening a girl, but then the girl remarks on the hero's similarity to her dead brother... the correct response is to say that she's dreaming, and that her brother is dead. The show is cheesy enough that it's obviously a lie, and Mega Man even literally turns away as he's saying it!
  • The ending of Fallout. The journeys changed Vault Dweller so much, he is no longer accepted in his home vault, even if he looks the same on the surface.
    • This is ultimately subverted as Fallout 2 reveals that several other fellow vault residents left the vault in protest of his banishment and joined him to found the community of Arroyo.
  • Fallout 3 also had this when the player returns to Vault 101, which is basically in a state of civil war. Whether you kill the new dictatorial overseer or resolve the situation peacefully, you still have to leave.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight: After saving the Gotham from Scarecrow's terrorist attack, dealing with the Arkham Knight, and tying up all loose ends, Bruce Wayne goes straight home and blows up his house. Nobody knows exactly where he went to retire and/or what he was planning to fight next. Hell of a way to retire, but Batman's allies had finally leveled up enough to take on the Rogues Gallery on their own.

    Western Animation 
  • Todd McFarlane's Spawn: Spawn saved his widow Wanda's daughter Cyan from the clutches of pedophillic serial killer Billy Kincade, and defeated him without killing him. Spawn realizes Wanda is happy with her new husband and their daughter and that his dream of being present in Wanda's life would largely be a downer. So he lets go, but not before he hands Cyan his wedding ring, and tells her she should go to her mother. Wanda is reunited with Cyan who simply tells her that she was saved by "the sad man". Wanda finds that Cyan is holding onto the wedding ring, she realizes that somehow the "sad man" is her dead husband. Spawn watches Wanda's reaction from afar, and then executes a textbook example of turning away.
  • Parodied in American Dad!, when Steve takes up a secret identity in order to impress his dad by doing something heroic. After saving a mother's baby, puppy and bird in a car from colliding with a tanker, Steve walks off pleased knowing he was brave, even as the scene behind him explodes due to the mother tossing a cigarette to the ground.
  • Justice League Unlimited: In "The Greatest Story Never Told", Booster Gold spends the entire episode trying to woo the scientist on the side of stopping an experiment gone wrong. After he manages to save the day after having his pride struck down from repeatedly failing to do, he turns away from the relieved scientist despite Skeets telling him that was his cue. After an episode of Character Development, Booster responds that getting the girl is for heroes, which he doesn't believe he is. Fortunately, she catches up with him in the ending and she asks him out, which he accepts.

Alternative Title(s): Save The Day Walk Away