Pursued Protagonist

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Must... warn... the president... giant... spider!"
Messenger in Wild Wild West

This is a standard opening for a movie, book, or cartoon—have a Spear Carrier or other protagonist in the adventure pursued by relentless, shadowy figures who outnumber them, whether it's on Hellish Horseback, spaceships, cars, roofhopping, or any of a thousand methods of pursuit. If the Spear Carrier has escorts, expect them to wear copious amounts of red. If he is critically injured, he will inevitably survive just long enough to alert others.

The Pursued Protagonist has a 50/50 chance of survival, much less escaping capture. However, they have a 100% chance of keeping their cargo out of enemy hands. Enter the real Hero who has been Easing Into the Adventure and becomes the Pursued Protagonists' last desperate hope to keep their cargo safe, by handing them the MacGuffin, Phlebotinum, or a Fetch Quest Delivery Quest with little explanation of what exactly he's got in his hands, much less gotten into. Will he resist or embrace The Call to adventure?

If the pursued protagonist survives, they will likely either become a mentor to the hero, Love Interest, or otherwise become a steadfast ally. It's not uncommon for said Protagonist to require rescuing as one of the heroes' first tasks, either, for which they may need to gather allies. Bonus points if they're a Princess!

Usually begins In Medias Res. If the hero gets pursued later in the story, expect a character briefly introduced earlier to rescue him, thus ending the chase.

Can overlap with Dramatic Chase Opening. Compare Bring News Back.

Sub-Trope of Herald.

Examples of Pursued Protagonist include:

Anime and Manga

  • The first action scene in Full Metal Panic! starts with Sousuke rescuing a woman who carries a CD containing vital information.
  • Outlaw Star opens with the Space Pirates in hot pursuit of Hilda.
  • Episode 15 of Samurai Champloo begins with a Ninja spy fleeing from a counterfeiter's enforcers. The ninja is actually caught, but not before tossing his evidence into a nearby pond, where the Power Trio finds it.
  • The second major Myth Arc of Kateikyo Hitman Reborn begins with Basil being pursued by Squalo as he attempts to deliver the Vongola half rings to Tsuna. Slight subversion in that Squalo grabs the rings right out of Tsuna's hands. Fortunately, unbeknownst to Basil, he had been given fake rings to serve as a decoy so that Dino could deliver the real rings with no interference from Varia.
  • In the opening episode of Code Geass, Lelouch has a run-in with a truck manned by Nagata and Kallen carrying a payload stolen from a Britannian facility, with the military hot on their trail.


  • The opening chase with Trinity and the agents in The Matrix.
    • Jue of Final Flight of the Osiris in The Animatrix is a version of this. She's a strange example because she is delivering a message inside the Matrix while her crew mates are pursued by sentinels in the real world. Although this isn't the beginning of her story, it kicks off the Enter the Matrix video game and the second film.
  • The film version of Wild Wild West opened this way; see the page quote. One of the kidnapped scientists was fleeing through a forest, being pursued by a giant flying buzzsaw. Seconds later it chops off his head.
  • Octopussy had Agent 009 in a clown costume, pursued by a knife thrower, before dying in the British Embassy with the MacGuffin in his hand.
  • A New Hope opens this way, with Leia being pursued by a Star Destroyer on her way to deliver the plans of the Death Star to the rebellion. She passes them on to R2, who gets them to Farm Boy Luke and kick starts the adventure.
  • Marv's story in Sin City begins this way with a SWAT team moving in to capture the hero.
  • Subverted in The Thing: It starts off with a husky being pursued be Norwegians in a helicopter who are throwing sticks of dynamite. In retrospect, offering sanctuary to the pursued was probably not in the best interests of the protagonists.


  • The novel Green Rider opens with a messenger who's been shot in the back trying to escape pursuit. He meets the heroine and makes her swear to deliver his message, then dies on the spot.
    • And then goes on to save the heroine's life several times despite being DOA (Dead On Arrival)
  • The prologue of Christopher Paolini's Eragon. The MacGuffin gets teleported at the last minute.
  • Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters begins (not in the very first scene but very soon after) with a palace guard rushing to escape, er, other palace guards while trying to spirit the baby prince out of the castle following the king's death. When who should he meet, before dying of an arrow wound, but the three witches...
  • Wizards First Rule started out like this, with the protagonist Richard helping Kahlan (his eventual love interest) save herself from a Quad, four assassins who have been chasing her.
  • Gandalf is like this at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Elfangor in Animorphs crash-landed after a battle in orbit around Earth. He then met a group of teenagers, gave them powers, and immediately got killed off.
  • The first Maximum Ride book opens with Max being pursued by bloodthirsty wolfmen called Erasers. It turns out to be a dream, but also a good indication of her life and the events to come.
  • The prologue to the Matthew Hawkwood novel Rapscallion features Lieutenant Sark being chased through the marshes by unknown pursuers with dogs. He does not survive the experience.

Live Action TV

  • Firefly: The Tams are this in the pilot. A similar incident happens in the episode "The Message".
  • Magnum, P.I.: several of Magnum's clients are this. In one notable episode Magnum's girlfriend turns out to be from a family who has an ancient tradition of guarding a Chinese vase and she is pursued by an assassin.
  • Marcus Cole in the first episode of season three Babylon 5. G'kar in one season two episode.
  • Midsomer Murders: "The Night of the Stag" opens with the first Victim of the Week being chased through an orchard at night.

Video Games

  • Mega Man Zero opens with Ciel being chased by Neo Arcadian forces. They chase her into the lab where Zero is in suspended animation. Cue ass-kicking.
  • Skies of Arcadia begins with Mysterious Waif Fina fleeing from a Valuan warship.
  • Rondo of Swords opens with the main character and his two retainers fleeing from their capital city... with the entire enemy army on their heels.
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has as its prologue Eirika and Seth escaping from Renais before the invading Grado army sacks it.
  • Descent Free Space opens with a terrified human pilot fleeing the Shivans, a new enemy intruding into an existing war. Because no-one believes his distress call and he then gets killed, the Shivans are a surprise to everyone else when they show up part-way into the campaign.
  • Final Fantasy II opens with Frionel, Guy, Maria, and Leon being chased by the Empire's Knights after their hometown's destruction. The Knights catch up anyway and leave the protagonists for dead in the woods.
  • Emperor Uriel Septim qualfies in Oblivion. The old guy is surprising Genre Savvy and isn't very concerned about his impending demise. His guards drop one by one, and he pushes the MacGuffin into the player's hands before being killed from behind by a crazed assassin.
  • The opening mission of Yggdra Union has the titular character being pursued by Imperial force.
    • It's a bit of a subversion, though, as she's assisted by the Decoy Protagonist and takes her rightful place as the main character only two stages later.
  • This is how Arcanum begins. The player is on board a dirigible, notices a peculiar gnome among the passengers, when suddenly the zeppelin is attacked by planes and shot down. Upon awakening among the crash debris, they see the gnome again, who barely has time to hand them a mysterious ring and some vague ominous warning before snuffing it.
  • The founding of Durotar campaign in Warcraft 3 begins with Rexxar encountering an Orc messenger chased by Quilboars. The messenger doesn't survive, so it's up to Rexxar to carry on his message to Thrall.
  • This is actually how the original Legend of Zelda begins, as explained in the game's manual. Impa, nursemaid to Princess Zelda, has been charged with finding a hero who can save Hyrule from Ganon. She is pursued in the forest by Ganon's mooks, only to be rescued most conveniently by the soon-to-be-Kid Hero.

Western Animation

  • Princess Tekla in the pilot for Shadow Raiders, fighting off her pursuers is what gets Graveheart and King Kryos to realize they haver a rather literal Enemy Mine on their hands.
    • And once the Beast arrives at the Planet Cluster, and the heroes discover the World Engines, the rest of the series is spent fleeing their enemy. It catches up once, and snacks on one of the four main planets of the Cluster.
  • Treasure Planet has one of these, where a turtle-alien thing in a spaceship crashed, mutters about a cyborg, asserts that "He'll have to pry the chest from Old Billy Bones' cold, dead hands!" He dies soon after, leaving the MacGuffin in the possession of young Jim Hawkins.