This is it. The end of the line. The final confrontation with the Big Bad awaits and almost every one of the Good Guys is rarin' to go.
All but one.
One person has decided he isn't going to take part in the upcoming finale. Whether he's merely choosing not to cross the Line in the Sand or simply declaring "Screw This, I'm Outta Here." He's stepping down and leaving it to the rest of the group. The reasons for this can range from acknowledging that he Can't Catch Up and would only be a hindrance to personal feelings interfering with their ability to do battle against the Big Bad. It could also be a mentor Passing the Torch. Or perhaps things have simply gone too far and he just can't take it anymore.
On the arguably more selfish end of the scale, this character could just want to be normal and use a chance to get away from the craziness once it's presented. Or realize that his goals no longer line up with those of the heroes and thus decide he has no reason to remain with them. There might also be a falling out or conflict of ideals with the rest of the group that convinces the person he's better off out of it. They could also just be a Dirty Coward.
Opting Out typically means the end of this character's role in the story and will usually result in their being Put on a Bus. It can be used to show how serious a situation has become, if the reasons for the character leaving are in the "Can't Catch Up" or "Can't Take it Anymore" range. The specific reasons can also determine whether or not the character's decision is right, wrong, wise, selfish, or anyplace in between.
As often as not, an Opting Out character is allowed to leave and go as he pleases. His teammates may not necessarily be happy about this turn of events, and they may or may not hold this choice against him. On the flip side, an evil character may Kick the Dog and kill a character on his side attempting to Opt Out, showing just how evil that character is because his Mooks remain where they are out of fear of what will happen to them if they leave.
See also Shoo Out the Clowns, which this trope may overlap with, depending on the character. Both tropes can serve to show how serious the situation has become; though a character who Opts Out is usually making the decision of their own accord.
Also compare Changed My Mind, Kid, which many characters who appear to Opt Out ultimately pull. However, this trope is specific to when a character Opts Out and means it. Also compare I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, which can be a romantic version of Opting Out. Crossing a Line in the Sand is the version where the leader gives their people the option to opt-out without dishonor before engaging on a deadly mission. See also You Can Turn Back, when the Hero tries to convince his companions to Opt Out. Finally, see Screw This, I'm Outta Here for a generally negative take Opting Out, usually because it occurs at the worst possible moment or in an act of pure cowardice.
Anime and Manga
- Eita Tanaka of Shakugan no Shana eventually chooses normal life over supporting the Flame Haze after he very nearly loses the girl he loves due to the fighting. Most ultimately support his decision, though close friend Keisaku argues with him over it briefly.
- An odd example of this in the main character is Son Goku in Dragonball Z. At the end of the Cell Saga, Goku intentionally gave up his fight with Cell to let Gohan take the spotlight. When, at the end of it all, Goku was dead, he just as deliberately opted to not be revived with the Dragon Balls, for fear of attracting more trouble to Earth. Other examples are Chiaozu, who Tienshinhan made opt out of the fight with the Androids, and Yajirobe, who tried to do this in the Saiyan Saga but wound up getting caught up in things anyway.
- Princess Vivi of One Piece wanted to join the Straw Hat pirates permanently, but Opted Out when she decided her responsibilities to her country were more important.
- Admiral Sengoku does this, when the World Government says they aren't gonna tell the world about a huge threat.
- Used in-universe in the novel/series of light novels Brave Story. In Wataru's video game, his favorite character, Neena the fairy, does this. Wataru, who didn't get the cutscene that hinted at her departure, had spent the whole time levelling her and had to start all over when he didn't have her for the final boss. Miyuki Miyabe definitely knows what JRPGs are like.
- In Yu Yu Hakusho, Kazuma Kuwabara doesn't even participate in the last story arc. This is even though he ended up being the strongest human alive and the only human in the hero's main group by the time the arc started. Of course, in this series, that didn't mean much anyway.
- Fumie in Dennou Coil, after an encounter with Illegals towards the end, tells Yasako she wants nothing more to do with researching them. From then on Yasako ends up working alongside another character, Isako.
- In Gundam Seed, Kuzzey and ten other crewmembers do this when the Archangel decides to defend Orb against the Atlantic Federation, and The Captain had given anyone who didn't want to fight against their former army the chance to leave. He actually tries to go back on it when he finds out that Miriallia and Sai aren't leaving, but Sai convinces him to leave since he'd not the type that's suited to battle.
- The Liar Game literally banks on this, as those in charge of the game make their profits by requiring any winners wanting to Opt Out to forfeit half of their winnings to do so.
- Keroyon of 20th Century Boys ignored Kenji's call to action to fight Friend. He regretted this years later and Jumped At the Call when he stumbled into leads to Kenji's sister.
- In the third Sound Stage of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, Subaru gets a visit from her father in the hospital, who suggests that she withdraw from the case now that her sister Ginga has been kidnapped. Subaru, however, insists on fighting to finish what she's started, and her father respects her decision, making this an aversion.
- Boyz N the Hood is particularly unusual in that the Opt Out is the right choice. By refusing to fight the gangbangers who killed Ricky, Tre allows himself to escape from the Cycle of Revenge and start a new life. Doughboy fights them without him, and kills them all, but is murdered in turn two weeks later.
- Bobby Pendragon himself pulls a dramatic one of these at the end of The Pilgrims of Rayne by blowing up his only door off the territory, cutting himself off but trapping the bad guy with him, with the full intention of staying there forever. It doesn't stick.
- Stu Redmond in The Stand is forced to Opt Out of the final confrontation when he's injured during the trek to Vegas.
- In the last book of Animorphs, before the final battle, most of the Auxiliary Animorphs try to opt out. Jake makes it clear that this isn't an option.
- Also, Cassie opts out and comes back earlier in the series.
- As someone who never wanted to be there in the first place, Rincewind emphatically does this in Interesting Times. While the big battle begins, Rincewind is several miles away, and accelerating.
- In Harry Potter books Six & Seven, Harry tries to convince his friends to do this, but they refuse.
- In Stephen King's IT, Stan Uris dramatically (and lethally) opts out of the final confrontation with the titular monster by climbing into a bathtub and slitting his own wrists.
Live Action TV
- Lorne (The Host) Opted Out at the end of Angel: he said he'd do the one thing (kill Lindsey) but wouldn't come back for the big fight at the end.
- J. Michael Straczynski deliberately had an extra opt-out in Babylon 5, when Sheridan gave an "Anyone who is uncomfortable with what we're doing, leave now" speech.
- He also had several security extras opt out when ordered to join Night Watch or resign.
- Soon after the end of the Shadow War, Garibaldi quit as security chief, apparently out of disenchantment with Sheridan's leadership. He was being mentally manipulated by Bester.
- Anya in the "Graduation Day" season 3 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The fact that she doesn't do this in fifth or seventh seasons is used to show her moral growth.
- Buffy herself tried to do this at the end of season one. She changed her mind.
- In the short lived reality show Cha$e, this was an option to the players when brought up in the middle of the game with a small cash prize as a consolation.
- Rimmer from Red Dwarf does this all. The. Time.
- Even when no-one offers him the chance to opt out. He's got a longer yellow streak than a herd of diarrhetic camels.
- In Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, Lacey steps away from the Rider/The Men in Black alliance at the end. Having been drawn into the Masquerade just recently, she wasn't dealing well with the weirdness; and unlike her Conspiracy Theorist friends (an Intrepid Reporter and a Hollywood Hacker) she didn't have a skillset that could help.
- The Adventures of Pete and Pete: When little Pete and his friends decide to answer the payphone that's been ringing for thirty years (and has most of the townspeople frightened), his friends start to drop out for various reasons- one says he's caught in a force field, and another says she's just too chicken.
- At the end of the 2004 version of The Bard's Tale, this is the eponymous Bard's third option That's right; the player can choose to not bother with a Final Boss battle for either side, and just go straight for the Neutral Ending.
- Happens in WarCraft III at the start of "The Culling". Arthas issues a grave ultimatum to Uther: help him to purge Stratholme of its infected citizenry or leave the kingdom's service. Uther and his followers leave, with Uther telling Arthas that he is crossing a terrible line. Jaina also leaves Arthas' side, telling him she can't watch him do it. In the end, it's just Arthas and his men performing the grisly task of killing innocent people before Mal'Ganis can convert them into zombies.
- If you choose not to accept Morrigan's Dark Ritual before the final battle of Dragon Age, Morrigan will decide Screw This, I'm Outta Here and leave. Also, if you choose to spare and recruit Loghain at the Landsmeet, near the end of the game, Alistair will be outraged and see him as a Karma Houdini, and will leave. If he has been hardened, you may be able to convince him to stay as king; otherwise, he will become a homeless drunk or be executed.
- Similarly, in the sequel, if you spare Anders, Sebastian will leave. Depending on your approval, anyone in your party besides Varric and Isabella (if she has not already left) may leave if they don't like your decision of whom to support in the Mage-Templar conflict.
- At the end of the prologue in Neverwinter Nights, your Guest Star Party Member Pavel will say that the life of an adventurer is not for him and quit the quest to cure the Wailing Death.
- Muir in Oban Star Racers, upon learning the Ultimate Prize would not fulfill the goal he entered the Great Race of Oban for, is the only racer to not show up for the final contest.
- On a smaller scale, see the page quote above from The Emperors New Groove
- It was also parodied in an episode of The Venture Brothers where agents assigned to guarding a yard sale were given the "leave now" speech, and then the one guy that left was killed.
- Done by Captain Marvel in Justice League Unlimited. When the League doesn't live up to his expectations (Marvel's so idealistic he makes the Blue Boy Scout look cynical), he tells them how disappointed he is and resigns.
- In the South Park episode "Return of the Lord of the Rings to the Two Towers", Token volunteers to watch the One Tape to see what's wrong with it, and then quits playing "Lord of the Rings" due to the trauma.