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When you fall, my friend,

Another friend will emerge

From the shadows

To take your place.

Our Hero and the Big Bad have finally come to blows. A titanic battle erupts, and when the smoke clears... well, the Big Bad has won. Instead of killing Our Hero, though, the Big Bad takes them hostage, and drags their broken body out for all the regular people to see. The villain assumes, of course, that seeing their champion broken will lead all the non-heroic civilians to automatically surrender. And for a second, it seems like it will.

...but there is one person who refuses to lay down and accept defeat, even with the hero down for the count. They'll step forward, even if they're no match for the villain, and say something to the effect of "As long as one person is left to oppose you, you'll never win." The other civilians, inspired by this person's bravery, also rise up in defiance of the villain. Usually in the process of the revolt, the hero recovers, and once again rises to challenge the villain.

Usually a hero's chances of this happening increase when they've trained the peaceful villagers.

This is often the result of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. The villain underestimated the effect the hero had on the people around him and it ultimately comes back to bite him when they don't.

See also: I Am Spartacus and Doomed Moral Victor. Compare Sedgwick Speech and Civilian Power. Contrast and compare As Long as There Is Evil and Evil Only Has to Win Once. Not to be confused with the scenario in Y: The Last Man - see Gendercide for that.

Examples of As Long as There Is One Man include:


Anime and Manga

  • Transformers Super God Masterforce Something like this happens. Mega tries to crush Ginrai between an asteroid and a tower, but then a little girl who Ginrai saved throws a rock at her. This inspires all the other kids to throw rocks, which pretty much defeats her.
  • In One Piece, after Boa Hancock petrifies Vice Captain Momonga's crew (except for Momonga who avoids that fate by stabbing himself to distract himself from her beauty), she mockingly remarks that his crew is now down to one. He replies that "one" is not the same as none.


Comic Books

  • Captain America does this to Galactic Conqueror Thanos during The Infinity Gauntlet crossover. Subverted in that the hero's defiant stand, along with his defeated team's futile assault, were unknowingly all part of an elaborate plan by Adam Warlock to elicit the villain's true defeat by exploiting his Achilles Heel.
    • Captain America had a habit of doing these speeches only to get stomped into the ground. He also did it in Avengers: Under Siege and the original Korvac Saga, possibly a few other times.
    • A straighter example happened with him sometime later after Korvac got hold of the Cosmic Cube. Korvac could have put the Captain under his power too, but left him free to demonstrate the impossibility of opposition. Cap repeatedly proves him wrong before the Reset Button each time, occasionally with things as small as protest t-shirts.

Film

  • Michael Collins This trope is repeatedly mentioned. When you're doing a movie about a revolution, you want to do this.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Will Turner says (with a nod to Jack Sparrow) that, "No cause is lost as long as there is one fool left to fight for it."
  • The Spider-Man movies.
  • Training Day The final showdown scene between Jake and Alonzo is somewhat similar to this.
  • In the climax of Let's Go Kamen Rider, the film celebrating 40 years of the metaseries, Os, Ankh and New Den-O are captured by Shocker and are planning to execute them in front of a large live audience. The Rider Scouts, with the help of the Double Riders, arrive to rally the people into rebelling against Shocker and help in freeing the captive Riders. But even having four Riders aren't enough to match against Shocker's forces. Cue Big Damn Heroes when the All Riders appear, heralded by the Owner of the DenLiner, who states that, even if Shocker has changed history, the Riders will never be gone as long the sense of justice remains in the people's hearts.


Literature

  • Animorphs A Genre Savvy Visser One notes that unlike Yeerks, humans will continue fighting even when it's completely illogical. This is her main argument for continuing her secret invasion of the planet as opposed to Visser Three's plan for all-out war. (Although she has other reasons.) She turns out to be totally right, the eventual full assault is a disaster.
  • The Light Fantastic Parodied when Cohen the Barbarian is surrounded by some of the rioting city men. One explains that although Cohen might defeat him, someone else will continue the fight until Cohen is dead. Cohen replies, "Yes, but that isn't the point, is it? The point is, you'll be dead". Suddenly they all decide not to mess with Cohen after all.
    • Parodied even more brutally in Guards Guards. One brave man stands up to the dragon and is immediately turned into a small pile of charcoal. This, unsurprisingly, does not inspire anyone. Later, The Hero (Lance-Constable Carrot) has to prevent the mob from kicking the dragon while it's down.
  • Harry Potter: Voldemort has apparently killed Harry (who's faking it, but that's not what's important here), and drags his body out for all the people in Hogwarts still fighting the Death Eaters to see. The fighters seem pretty cowed, until one person steps forward... Neville Longbottom, who's spent the entire series getting mocked, cursed, beaten, battered, and having his parents' misfortune thrown in his face. Voldemort offers to let Neville join his army, and Neville responds, "I'll join you when hell freezes over," followed by a battle cry. Voldemort isn't too impressed, though, and he puts Neville in a Body-Bind Curse and places the Sorting Hat on his head, then sets it on fire. Neville isn't burned by the fire, breaks free of the curse, pulls out Gryffindor's Sword from the hat, and uses it to kill Voldemort's pet snake and final Horcrux, thus rendering him mortal. Then reinforcements come, and it's kick Death Eater ass time.
  • Subverted in 1984. "If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man."
    • These were lies designed to demoralize Winston and facilitate his brainwashing but still relevant since the bad guys think it's important members of the resistance feel alone, isolated and the last of their kind.
  • The Stand by Stephen King, looks like it's going this way, but then subverts it. Near the end, when Flagg is preparing to crucify our heroes, one of his minions stands up and says "This isn't right! We used to be Americans!" We expect a revolt of sorts, but Flagg promptly kills the man, and no one else stands up. Then they're all killed by an unrelated nuclear bomb.
    • Well, sort of. the little ball of lightning Flagg conjures up to kill his minion doesn't go away once the man is dead. Instead, it grows and appears to form what another character sees as the Hand of God, which triggers the bomb. The man Flagg kills doesn't start a revolution, but he does contribute to Flagg's downfall, albeit in a very roundabout way.
    • Depending on your interpretation, this was a Xanatos Gambit on the part of God. The whole point of His sending our heroes to confront Flagg was to inspire people like this man to stand up to him as well. Sure, he died right after, but from a cosmic standpoint that's irrelevant: he reclaimed his soul before he died.
  • In Lord Foul's Bane this is the Lord's comfort in the final battle. As long as there is one soul who remembers the beauty of the Land evil has not triumphed. Considering the nature of the books this is pervasive throughout the series.
  • Villainious version in The Wind Singer. The Zars are infinite, mindless, and can only be permanently be killed by activating the titular Wind Singer. Seriously, the have enough to fill a practically bottomless gorge with their own dead and form a single line from Amaranth on the far side of the map all the way through the gigantic plains and everything all the way from the cave !!!

Live-Action TV

  • Babylon 5: The episode "Into the Fire" , where the Shadows and Vorlons attempt to break the coalition against them by simply destroying the protagonists' ship: "They will not follow you if you are dead." Two other ships take incoming missiles for them, with the rest ready to follow suit.
    • More openly in "Comes The Inquisitor". The questioning of Delenn by the Inquisitor results in him giving both Delenn and Sheridan a Sadistic Choice: to die or to let the other one die. Both are ready to sacrifice themselves and Delenn is so kind to elaborate: "If I fall, another will take my place, and another, and another."
  • Mentioned during the breather moment of "The Best of Both Worlds" on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard questions Guinan about the fate of humanity in the face of the Borg threat. Guinan, whose race was nearly wiped out by the Borg, assures Picard that as long as there are survivors, "humanity will prevail."
  • An episode of Psych had Shaun screw up an investigation against a deadly Russian mobster when he was recorded illegally searching the office of the mobster for evidence. He spends the whole episode trying to correct his error (and having weird It's a Wonderful Life dreams), but eventually is stymied when he can't come up with a new source of evidence or a witness against the mobster. He and Gus then give a Rallying Speech to the citizens who've been terrorized, stating that though they can't prove it, they'll testify that the mobster is a bad guy. This convinces one guy[1] to tell the citizens that he'll testify as well, and he is a witness. When the mobster states that he can take care of one witness, everyone else says they'll testify against the mobster, and he can't kill them all.

Music

  • The War of the Worlds Rock Opera. "The Spirit of Man": 'If one man can stand tall, there must be some hope for us all, somewhere in the spirit of man...' Nice pep rally, but It Got Worse.
  • Similarly, this trope is invoked tragically by The Protomen.
    • In their first album, Protoman, who became The Dragon because he saw that the humans won't stand up for themselves against Wily's tyranny, nevertheless still holds out hope that just one person will stand and fight. They don't, and Wily has the assembled crowd slaughtered anyway.
    • In the second half of the prequel album, the viewpoint character is Joe, a brave and rebellious young man who sees what the city is becoming under Wily's superficially benevolent rule. He ends up dying in the process of destroying the tower from which Wily spews constant propaganda, but his sacrifice becomes meaningless because Wily has backups and uses the attack as an excuse to unleash an army of robots to crush any further resistance before it can begin.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000: In the backstory, when the Emperor and Horus are having their final battle of a great galactic civil war, the Emperor is beaten and horrifically wounded, due to his refusal to kill Horus (who was his beloved son before being corrupted by Chaos). A lone warrior (sources say he was either an Ultramarine, a member of the Emperor's elite guard, or a lowly Imperial Guardsman) then sees the Emperor's broken body and attacks Horus in a rage. Horus simply flays him with a glance. Which then causes the Emperor (who sees that Horus is irredeemable) to completely annihilate Horus' soul.
    • Correction, sources keep bloody changing every time it's mentioned. It started as an Imperial Guardsman by the name Ollanius Pius (and who long term fans and Imperial Guard players still consider to be the canon one), and has since become a random Ultramarine and then a random Adeptus Custodes. This is likely for the gravity of Horus' power, since flaying a guardsman with a look is much less difficult than a Adeptus Custodes.
    • Conversely, and the reason fans insist it's Ollanius Pius, a human Guardsman standing up to a terrifying monster like Horus is more impressive and falls more in line with the spirit of the Guard than a fearless Marine or Custodes. Likewise, a Custodes or even a Marine might pose a legitimate threat to Horus, but a mere Guardsman.
      • In fact Horus killing a man who couldn't harm him in any way is the reason why the Emperor finally saw Horus as a Complete Monster and stopped holding back.

Video Games

  • The Crusader games. The backstory and other universe materials included indicates that the Global Resistance is quite aware it might fail in toppling the WEC. However, the propaganda they distribute to their own people cites this trope, and also states the (technical truth) that nothing can last forever, so that eventually, the WEC will be overthrown, even if the Resistance is long dead by that point.
  • Elite Beat Agents: At the end of the next to last mission, the music-hating Rhombulans zap the Agents with a petrification ray, turning them into statues. As all the people whom the Agents helped during the course of the game mourn, one of them, Lucy (the little girl who was the focus of the "sad" mission), starts clapping her hands and chanting. The other people join in, reviving the Agents to the tune of "Jumpin' Jack Flash".
    • Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Tamashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2. A similar scenario shows up. Just as it looks like the original "Evening City" Ouendan have been crushed by an icy meteor and the Earth is doomed to slowly freeze to death as the Sun goes out, a young boy stands up and starts cheering on the Ouendan. The rest of the crowd of people the Ouenda have helped, as well as the new "Morning City" Ouendan, joins in, and the original Ouendan break free of their icy prison. The Evening City and Morning City squads then proceed to team up in leading the world in cheering to the tune of "Sekai wa Sore wo Ai to Yobundaze" ("That's What the World Calls Love", the closing theme to Densha Otoko).
  • Star Wars : The Force Unleashed Palpatine seems to believe in this trope when he notes that Marek's Heroic Sacrifice in the Light side ending has given the Rebel Alliance a martyr.

 Palpatine: You must be relentless Vader. For if even one Rebel survives, this Alliance that we have unwittingly created will be our undoing.

  • In Live a Live, this is subverted horribly. Oersted continuously tells himself that as long as one person believes in him, he can continue to fight. Then it turns out that even she (Alicia) lost faith in him. He doesn't take it well.

Webcomics

  • Domain Tnemrot. Dae is one of the last living soldiers in a resistance war and has essentially become the leader by default.


Western Animation

  • The Simpsons Parodied. During a standoff between Homer, head of "Springshield", and Fat Tony:

 Homer: You can kill me, but someone will take my place. And if you kill him, then someone will take his place. And if you kill him... well, that's pretty much the end of it, the town will be yours.

  • Superman: The Animated Series: After Superman has been decisively defeated by Darkseid and presented as a trophy to the citizens of Metropolis, Dan Turpin (a police officer who had previously balked at Superman's crimestopping capers, feeling they made the police obsolete) walks forward and tells Darkseid that it'll take more than that to get them to surrender. He takes action to free Superman in the resulting chaos, leading to Darkseid killing him when he is forced to withdraw by Superman and the forces of New Genesis.
    • Resulting in what is possibly the most touching line in the series. "In the end, the world didn't really need a Super man... Just a brave one."
    • Turned around in the finale of the same series. Superman goes to Apokolips and decisively defeats Darkseid. He presents Darkseid's battered and broken body to the people of Apokolips, declaring them free... And they start carrying their master back to his palace to tend to his wounds.
  • Batman shows himself to be one, as Superman points out in the battle against Darkseid in Justice League Unlimited show. While Darkseid is invading the planet, Batman, a mere mortal, jumps on his back and becomes the first person to ever dodge his Omega Beam, prompting Superman to tell Darkseid that neither Batman, or any of the League, will quit as long as they can draw breath. He follows up with the trope-naming World of Cardboard Speech.
  • Happens in Batman the Brave And The Bold. General Zhal manages to kill the Doom Patrol by forcing them to make a Heroic Sacrifice. He thinks this will crush the world's faith in them. Cue the entire world chanting "We are the Doom Patrol!", having more belief in their heroes than ever. This causes Zhal to shut down and have a Villainous Breakdown, making no attempt to resist as Batman arrests him.


Real Life

  • While not exactly needing one man, when it comes to the Scottish...

  ...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself. Declaration of Arbroath, April 6th, 1320

Notes

  1. who had previously been trying to kill the mobster, but saw the light thanks to Shaun
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