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And just what is the "it" which is to him "up" and which he can perhaps "handle"?

The lead has been captured by the bad guys and imprisoned, drugged or otherwise immobilized. The Sidekick and/or Plucky Comic Relief are forced to step up, apply what they learned from their hero, and pull his hiney out of the fire.

Don't worry, once the main character has been rescued, the sidekicks will return to their standard incompetent, moronic form, leaving you to wonder if perhaps the main character shouldn't trade up.

On the flip side, when the allies of the hero truly show they're worthy of being in the group, you can have a Let's Get Dangerous moment.

A common plot of Filler episodes, especially those of the A Day in the Limelight variety. A side-effect of It's Up to You.

Examples of All Up to You include:

Anime and Manga

  • There's an interesting example in D.N.Angel, where instead of the Sidekick having to save The Hero, a boy has to save his alter-ego. When Dark is trapped in a dream world by Satoshi, Daisuke (the mostly normal boy that just happens to turn into Dark) has to enter it and save him.
  • Dragonball Z. This is the ENTIRE POINT of the Cell Saga.
    • That, and seeing how long you can stretch a monologue.
    • Earlier when Goku was too injured from his fight against Vegeta to continue, it was up to Krillin, Gohan, and Yajirobe to stop the Saiyan.
  • Digimon Adventure in the Dark Masters arc of season 01. Everyone but 8-year-old Takeru and Hikari (or T.K. and Kari as they're known in the U.S.) along with Angemon are captured and turned into keychains. The last older kid standing, Sora, makes T.K. promise to protect Kari, and gives him the keychain of his brother, Yamato (Matt), in hopes of giving the little boy the strength he needed to fight Piedmon. (Naturally, it does)
    • To be fair, this is Digimon, specially the digital world, where a person's beliefs can directly effect how great or weak a power they can manifest in that world. So having a symbolic link to his brother helped to give T.K. the emotional fortitude he needed to get Angemon to digivolve. And take on the villain.

Comic Books

  • Happened so often to Dick Grayson's Robin that when he left to be Nightwing, Batman couldn't succeed without him (eventually necessitating Jason Todd and Tim Drake to step up).
  • In the Marvel Transformers Generation 1 comic, at the end of the initial 4-issue intro, Shockwave arrived and killed all the Autobots, except for Ratchet who happened to be delivering Sparkplug to the hospital at the time. For several issues thereafter, Ratchet was entirely responsible for resisting the Decepticons, and even when he resurrected some of the other Autobots, he still served as leader until they could regain Optimus Prime's head.


  • In Constantine, Keanu Reeves' Sidekick briefly takes a surprisingly heroic action, only to then be blown away while he is monologing.
    • The Chaz in the source material was a married man distinguished by taking longer than John's other friends to get killed. But Shea only plays one character.
  • The plot of the recent Thunderbirds movie.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman was at the mercy of the Joker after the former refused to run down the latter, but then Commissioner Gordon (who was originally thought to have died by Taking the Bullet for the mayor) manages to save Batman from Joker and arrest him. Of course, this is later revealed to be all part of the plan..


  • In Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy, prince Sameth is much more talented than anyone realizes, but has a self-deprecating view of his own abilities. However, when Lirael takes a couple of long-term journeys into Death, Sam has to protect her frozen, soulless body, giving him a whole chapter to come to terms with himself.
  • Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter books, especially book 7, proves himself quite capable of holding down the fort at Hogwarts, even when it looks like everything's going to hell.
  • In JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the hero's sidekick, Sam Gamgee, continually demonstrates bravery, insight and loyalty exceeding that of the hero, Frodo. It's often joked about that if Sam had been chosen to bear the ring, the story would only be about 20 pages long. Of course, it could have been even shorter.

Live Action TV

  • In one episode of Alias, Marshall, normally the Mission Control, was late to work, got locked out when the base went into lockdown, and consequently was the only one available to rescue Sydney, who had been exposed, captured, and Buried Alive. Because she'd been exposed, he had to finish her mission even after he rescued her, which involved accidentally shooting a bad guy, then having to gouge his eye out with a spork to use it in a retinal scanner.

Marshall: "Oh, oh, it's oozing, it's oozing everywhere, sir!"
Jack: "That means you've punctured the sclera. That eye is useless; move on to the next one."

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, several times when Buffy is out of commission it is up to Xander Harris to save the day, despite having no special powers himself.
    • Including but not limited to bringing Buffy back from the dead. Twice.
  • In the new Doctor Who, Rose Tyler's effectiveness appears to be almost exactly inversely proportional to her proximity to the Doctor - especially notable when she near-singlehandedly saves the world at the end of season one... but in "The Christmas Invasion", which occurs less than twenty-four hours later, claims (and proves) to be completely useless on her own.
    • This is, however, justified by the fact that at the end of series one, she absorbed the time vortex, rendering her immensely powerful, while in The Christmas Invasion, that power is gone, she is completely on her own, and she doesn't really know what to do.
    • Even more true in series 4 in that she A. warns the doctor of the impending end of the universe B. sends Donna to the main Doctor Who dimension and C. kicks some Dalek can with her BFG all while having been trapped in an alternate dimension leading to several Crowning Moments of Awesome.
    • Also in Doctor Who, the episode "Blink" has the Doctor trapped in 1969, only being able to saved by ordinary girl Sally Sparrow. Indeed, the Doctor even tells her "It's all up to you. Good luck."
  • It's mainly an ensemble show but a good 1/4 of all Power Rangers / Super Sentai episodes tend to be about how 4 members of the team are poisoned/brainwashed/eaten etc by the gimmick of the monster of the week with the one remaining member who is either conveniently not there when stuff goes down, or immune to it for whatever reason needing to save them.
  • "Out of Time", the final episode of the sixth season of Red Dwarf sees each each of the main characters killed by their future selves until the only one left is the cowardly Rimmer, who must save the day all by himself... and remarkably, shows the cojones to do so.
  • Somewhat parodied in the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Other Guys", in which a pair of scientists (Felger and Coombs) think it's up to them to save SG-1, but in reality the team had allowed themselves to be captured to meet up with an agent. Only to be really captured when said agent is caught.
  • In one X-Files, the Lone Gunmen are required to go in the field to save Mulder.
  • In Season 3 of Glee, Rachel Berry, who has been the "Lead Female" in every competition, is suspended and banned from the next competition. Thus leaving the next competition up to the back ups.

Video Games

  • The basic plot of both the Edutainment game Mario Is Missing and the more serious game Luigi's Mansion is that of Mario being captured, and having to be saved by Luigi.
  • Subverted in Metal Gear Solid, in which a captured Solid Snake attempts to get Otacon to spring him from captivity. What he gets is...a pack of ketchup and some food, and Otacon adamantly refuses to take out the guard despite Snake's request. Played straight in that he brought you the pack of ketchup so Snake can fake death.
  • Princess Peach, the historic Damsel in Distress of the Super Mario games, steps up in Super Princess Peach when Mario and Luigi are kidnapped.
  • This actually can be averted in the multiplayer of Neverwinter Nights, especially the first chapter. When searching for the 4 reagents, if a player other than you finds a reagent and turns it in, Aribeth will tell you that someone else has already discovered it. In other words, it's quite possible to sit your lazy ass back and allow the other players to find the cure while you watch...and you'll still possibly advance.

Web Originals

Western Animation

  • Danny Phantom episode "King Tuck" where only the Plucky Comic Relief Tucker can commend the giant sphinx that's beating up the main hero. He later sics the creature on the main villain.
  • The Justice League Unlimited episode "Divided We Fall" has the entire original core seven completely trounced by Brainthor... except for The Flash who then proceeds to circle the globe in a matter of seconds in order to build up the momentum to beat the everloving crap out of him.

Brainthor: Are you going to fight me, boy? (Hell, yes.)

  • Happens frequently on Kim Possible. It seems that as often as Kim saves the world from devastation, her sidekick, her sidekick's pet rodent, her brothers, grandmother, parents, homeroom teacher, or cheerleading squad-mates must pull her cookies out of the oven just as often. Usually, this teaches Kim a lesson about everyone having hidden talents and skills, and adds a bit of believability to the show's premise (no one person, no matter how talented, can do it all alone), albeit at the expense of robbing the protagonist of everything that gives her the right to be the protagonist.
    • The worst offender of this trope in the show is the episode with Felix, where Kim, due to the Compressed Vice of the episode, spends the entire episode giving Felix special treatment because he sits in a wheelchair. But when the mission is on, Kim spends the entire fight needing rescue while Felix somehow shows that he'd be more competent at saving the world with his wheelchair than Kim.
      • That's actually pretty justified considering . . . well, have you SEEN THIS THING?! It's like Dr. Octopus ON WHEELS!
  • In Static Shock, Richie officially broke the Sidekick Glass Ceiling and became the superhero Gear when he had to rescue Static, who couldn't bust out himself without exposing his Secret Identity, from Ebon and his gang.
  • Children's cartoons (such as Superfriends) often use this device to show that kids can be heroes too.
  • In the final episode before the series finale of Teen Titans, Beast Boy is the last member of the original team not to have been captured by the Brotherhood of Evil. He and a group of second-stringers have to rescue the rest of the teen heroes.
  • Thundercats: Mumm-Ra once captured all of them and it was up to Snarf to do the needful. He stepped up to the plate, and as the trope explains, went back to being his irritating self.
  • In the Danger Mouse episode "Beware Of Mexicans Delivering Milk," Colonel K puts the burden of the assignment on Penfold after DM's energy is sapped from spiked milk.
  • Episode 14 of Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated has Scooby and the mascots from Jabberjaw, Speed Buggy, Captain Caveman and The Funky Phantom teaming up to find their kidnapped teenage pals. Episode 26 has Scooby vowing to get the gang back together and hunt down Professor Pericles after revelations about Fred's past and the two parts of the Planispheric Disc are brought up and cause the gang to break up acrimoniously.
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, XR has at least 2 instances of this:
    • The episode "Enemy Without A Face", where the entire Star Command base is infected with parasites that make whoever they attach to violently hot-tempered towards others; as a robot, he is the only one unaffected and has to find the cure.
    • The episode "Devolutionaries", where his entire team is exposed to a gas that makes them devolve into their respective species primative forms (Buzz a caveman, Booster a giant Triceratops and Mira a slime...thing); again, he is unaffected due to being a robot, and has to defeat Warp (the villian responsible for all this) and get the antidote.