Elsa is exposed to the public as a "monster" with her ice powers. Peter Parker fades away in Mr. Starks arms as he is erased from the universe. Mulan is exposed to the Chinese military as a woman, and is shunned by her male allies, even though she single-handedly defeated the Huns. Dumbledore dies.
What do all of these moments have in common? They're key aspects of despair, defeat, and depression that the character face in the worst time possible, heightened by a train-wreck of events. Up to eleven if they were events beyond their control. This key moment is what I coin "The Fall"—and yes, the "The" is capitalized. It's this display of complete vulnerability and physical, verbal, emotional, or psychological trauma—or a cocktail of all four—that demonstrates the penultimate struggle before the closing act. The character comes so far, so close, only for the glass under their feet to collapse.
I'd differ this moment than others, because The Fall occurs with an empathetic character, one that we see grow and root for their victory. For anyone else, specifically one that we could love to hate and see fall hard, that's called "schadenfreude." These moments are heartbreaking, to the point where they become cringe-worthy to continue to observe. This certain unfairness that arises from this moment is utterly crushing. We can easily relate The Fall to our lives, as we have felt immense disappointment and failure.
From a devastating defeat in battle, to being betrayed by a trusted individual, to even falling to a personal demon, there is one crucial question follows this moment:
"What happens next?"
Maybe they find redemption. Maybe they might carry on the fight. Maybe they might succumb to their own demons. Maybe they might even fall more. Maybe they give up. Maybe they don't. As the audience, we are waiting to see what happens next, and hope that our hopes come true. Maybe they do. Maybe they are brutally crushed. Despite any feedback from any allies or demerits from villains, it's ultimately up to them to decide whether to stand back up, or exit stage left. This is a key moment where any major character development could occur—for the best, for the worst, or perhaps both.
Because there is a timer when The Fall begins, and at this point, this is where the sidewalk ends…for now.