Created By: bulmabriefs144 on February 24, 2013 Last Edited By: TwoGunAngel on June 20, 2014

Doomed Cellmate

If there's a cell next door in a prison, something bad will happen to them

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Trope
The main character in a prison cell. No, in this story, generally the main character isn't guilty of an actual crime. They're arrested as a flimsy excuse, in fact, the flimsier the better. Actually, they're likely test subjects for a mad scientific experiment that crosses some line or other, or an equally evil or insane magical ritual.

You want to reveal this. But you don't want to sacrifice your main character, since you have, after all, devoted hours of screen time (or hundreds of pages). So, you introduce a Doomed Cellmate. All you need her is a name and a face, and a few lines of backstory. The next day, something will happen to them.


Examples:

Live Action TV
  • In Starhunter, Dante's niece Percy gets arrested. They talk about how some of the prisoners are in "demand" by males, and she shrugs it off. Later, one of the other prisoners gets hauled off to be raped to drive the point home...

Film
  • In Snow White and the Huntsman, the title character is in a cell near a young girl. After the witch gets through with her, she's an old hag.
  • Subverted in Legend. Jack and his friends slide down the tunnel into a cell in Darkness' dungeons. They find a fellow prisoner: a fairy who worked for Darkness but betrayed him and was punished by being put in a cell. While they're talking to him one of Darkness' minions enters his cell and takes him out to be baked in a pie (no blackbirds, though). They eventually rescue him before he meets his fate.

Literature
  • In Players of Gor, Tarl is imprisoned with Nim-Nim, a member of the Urt People. (Urts are giant rats about the size of a small pony. Urt People are humans who live within a herd of urts, are vaguely urt-like in appearance, and can "speak" urt.) Nim-Nim "helps" Tarl to escape, which turns out to be a joke on the part of the Big Bad, who planned the escape so that Tarl will be killed by the urt herd that Nim-Nim brings Tarl to. Nim-Nim excitedly rejoins the herd, but during his time in prison he has lost the herd scent, so he is descended upon and killed as an outsider - which is also Tarl's intended fate. Instead, Tarl kills an urt and uses its carcass to make the other urts think he's an urt, at least long enough to cross the herd and escape unscathed on the other side.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel. Kip is being held prisoner in the Wormfaces' base on Pluto. Two of his cellmates are the enemy's human minions who are going to be Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves because the Wormfaces decide that they have outlived their usefulness. First one of them is removed from the cell, then the other. The second one to go told Kip their fate: to be cooked and eaten by the Wormfaces.

Comic Books
  • Inversion: Anytime The Punisher goes to prison, his cellmate dies very fast -- usually at his hands.
    • This usually is the case for Ghost Rider too. Anyone who doesn't measure up to his standards of innocence gets the Penance Stare.

Tabletop Games
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "The City Without A Name". If the investigators are captured in the title location they will be put in individual prison cells. Each day one of them will be taken and fed to the immature chthonians.

Video Games
  • Castle Wolfenstein (1981). The introductory screens have information given by the PC's cellmate. It ends with the other prisoner screaming as he's being dragged away by the Nazis to be tortured.
  • In Tales of Legendia Shirles meets a friend in the cell adjacent to her. She soon gets dragged off.
    • This turns out to be an inversion. She's the one who eventually gets used for an experiment.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Zelda mentions something happened to the other princesses, before Link saves her.

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • February 25, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature

    Tabletop Games
    • Call Of Cthulhu supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "The City Without A Name". If the investigators are captured in the title location they will be put in individual prison cells. Each day one of them will be taken and fed to the immature chthonians.

    Video Games
    • Castle Wolfenstein (1981). The introductory screens have information given by the PC's cellmate. It ends with the other prisoner screaming as he's being dragged away by the Nazis to be tortured.
  • February 25, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Players of Gor Tarl is imprisoned with Nim-Nim, a member of the Urt People. (Urts are giant rats about the size of a small pony. Urt People are humans who live within a herd of urts, are vaguely urt-like in appearance, and can "speak" urt.) Nim-Nim "helps" Tarl to escape, which turns out to be a joke on the part of the Big Bad, who planned the escape so that Tarl will be killed by the urt herd that Nim-Nim brings Tarl to. Nim-Nim excitedly rejoins the herd, but during his time in prison he has lost the herd scent, so he is descended upon and killed as an outsider - which is also Tarl's intended fate. Instead, Tarl kills an urt and uses its carcass to make the other urts think he's an urt, at least long enough to cross the herd and escape unscathed on the other side.
  • February 26, 2013
    Koveras
    Probably related to You All Meet In A Cell.

    • Doubly Subverted in The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion: Valen Dreth, who occupies the cell next to you in the prologue, never has anything bad happen to him despite being a huge jerk. That is, during the prologue. If you follow the Dark Brotherhood quest line, you get to sneak back in and assassinate him.
  • March 1, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    Shows up in the episode of Supernatural that's set in a prison, naturally.
  • March 2, 2013
    lakingsif
    In I Love You Phillip Morris, the Screamer is introduced and then beaten up the next day.
  • March 2, 2013
    Larkmarn
    • In Transformers The Movie, Kup and Hot Rod are imprisoned on the Quintesson planet. Next cell over is Kranix, who gets fed to the Sharkticons in order to show the Quintesson's "justice" system.
  • March 2, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Inversion: Anytime The Punisher goes to prison, his cellmate dies very fast.
    • The Damnation Crusade comic shows us exactly how badly the Space Marine's genetic enhancement process can go wrong. The four savages (including our hero Raclaw) are deemed fit for inclusion into the Black Templars, and are put in separate cells as the process begins. One of Raclaw's fellow clanmembers rejects the implants, turning him into a ravenous monster, and he is told to end it as part of his initiation.
  • April 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Subverted in Legend. Jack and his friends slide down the tunnel into a cell in Darkness' dungeons. They find a fellow prisoner: a fairy who worked for Darkness but betrayed him and was punished by being put in a cell. While they're talking to him one of Darkness' minions enters his cell and takes him out to be baked in a pie (no blackbirds, though). They eventually rescue him before he meets his fate.
  • April 19, 2013
    Bisected8
    • In the opening cutscene of The Suffering, the player character's cellmate (and...pretty much everyone else in the block) has the dubious honour of being the first victim of the monsters.
  • April 19, 2013
    Leaper
    Someone in a cell next door isn't a "cellmate." If the Laconic is supposed to be the controlling thing here, I suggest expanding slightly to fit the inevitable misuse.
  • April 19, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    I too am confused about whether this is strictly for "the prisoner in the cell next door" or also includes prisoners in the same cell as the main character.

    Because of this, Punisher and Ghost Rider may not be inversions, or else the examples need clarification (are they inversions because the protagonists are doing the damage instead of the personnel?)

    In the first paragraph, "...in this story, generally..." sounds like a paradox because it suggests a specific story, then shifts to imply a type of story.
  • April 19, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    Geez, overanalysis. It's whatever works for the story. Some stories have one person per cell, in which case it's the next door (or facing) cell. Some stories have a bunch of people crammed in the same cell. Are you really gonna split hairs over whether or not they're the same cell? They're imprisoned together, and interact with each other, and then something horrible happens to the other person to demonstrate "this is a bad prison"

    Ghost Rider and Punisher are inversions, because normally the cellmate is threatened from outside the cell. In this case they have more to fear from the person sharing space with them.
  • April 20, 2013
    DracMonster
    Actually I agree with the nitpick. Doomed Fellow Inmate might be a better title.
  • April 20, 2013
    CompletelyDifferent
    I like Doomed Fellow Inmate as well.

    • In Theatre/Chicago, the only one of the Merry Murderesses who is actually executed is the innocent one, who pleaded non-guilty but no-one believed because she was Hungarian.
  • April 20, 2013
    1810072342
    The Law Of Conservation Of Detail is probably to blame - I mean, if something like this wasn't going to happen it wouldn't be mentioned, would it?
  • April 20, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    I want to ensure that the title, laconic, and description are consistent so that the scope is clearly defined. Thanks for the clarification on the comic book examples; Ghost Rider is clear enough in that regard, though in the current writeup the Punisher's is ambiguous whether he or someone else is doing the killing.

    As for contributing directly to the examples, the Link to the Past example is later subverted when Zelda is recaptured and suffers the same fate as the maidens: being banished to the Dark World.
  • May 2, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons, module X4 Master of the Desert Nomads. If the bhuts capture the PC party they will chain all of them inside cells. Each night they will take away one of the prisoners (starting with any NPCs) and eat them.
  • June 19, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • June 20, 2014
    henke37
    • In one of the Team Fortress 2 comics Spy and Scout share a jail cell with thug. Said thug ends up with a knife in the back within three pages.
  • June 20, 2014
    JonnyB
    • Inverted in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. When the Black Pearl attacks Port Royal, the pirates in the neighboring cell are freed by a cannonball knocking down the wall, but Jack is still stuck in his cell.
      "My sympathies, friend. You've no manner of luck at all."
  • June 20, 2014
    dalek955
    ^Made especially ironic given that the freed prisoners had just seconds ago been speaking in horror about how the Pearl's raids leave no survivors.
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