"I wonder if that silly duck'll remember that he can fly? *THUD!* Guess not."When a character has the Idiot Ball slipped into their pocket while they weren't looking, causing them to forget to properly use their abilities or powers to stop a villain or get out of a situation, even though they may have used the ability in similar situations before (often many times). As the title indicates this often happens with superheroes. This is used quite a bit when characters have extremely useful or increasingly powerful abilities or equipment, and some unfortunates tend to have this inflicted on them all the time, turning a Genius Bruiser or Badass Bookworm into a garden-variety Bruiser or Badass. Only some lines of technological jargon or displays of useless gadgetry will remind the reader that they have more brains than they normally use. Some might consider this a form of Informed Ability, with the "ability" being genius-level intelligence. It's especially bad when the power being forgotten about is an innate ability that the character was born with, which makes it roughly akin to a Muggle forgetting he can walk. Amnesia Danger is a variant of this trope, when it's justified using convenient amnesia. The heroic version of Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?, except while at least villains don't have to answer to their actions, heroes should be obligated to stop evil-doers or disasters as quickly and efficiently as possible. See Fridge Logic for when it occurs to the viewers a little later what the character could've/should've easily done. See Remembered I Could Fly when it occurs to the character Just in Time what he should've done long before. Plot-Sensitive Snooping Skills is a particular variant/sub-trope. If a device is discovered once, never becomes part of a character's standard bag of tricks, and is forgotten that is Forgotten Phlebotinum. Hollywood Tactics are a usual result. Compare Drama-Preserving Handicap. As mentioned, this is a sister trope to Idiot Ball, the distinction being that Idiot Ball is when a character does something stupid to further the Plot, while with Forgot About His Powers the plot depends on a character failing to take an action they would normally take or that would make the most sense to solve the current crisis. Compare Reed Richards Is Useless, where a character with superhuman abilities or ridiculously advanced technology reserves it for equally advanced problems and never applies it to mundane difficulties, and Superman Stays out of Gotham in which another character in the same universe is conveniently not around to easily solve the problem for the protagonist. Contrast Took a Level in Badass and Dumbass No More.
"I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can swim? *Splash* ... Nope!"
"I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can swim? *Splash* ... Nope!"
— Bugs Bunny, The Million Hare
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- This happens pretty frequently with Accelerator in A Certain Magical Index, most notably in his fights with Touma and Kihara Amata. Given his displayed abilities, despite the fact that they can both bypass his Attack Reflector powers, there was absolutely nothing stopping him from standing back and throwing cars at them. Made all the more egregious because in one of the later books he does exactly that when he needs to shut down a Power Nullifier from outside its range. Justified in that his powers are normally so unstoppable that he's never had to think strategically, and using his powers in inventive, intelligent ways is a bit new to him.
- In the New Vestroia season of Bakugan Battle Brawlers, our BBEG King Zenoheld wielded a Giant Mecha Bakugan called "Farbros" which could merge with more parts and become virtually unstoppable. So what does he do when the good guys arrive to confront him halfway through the series? Blow up his own machine. Without fusing to the special parts. For no adequately explained reason...
- Along with Heroic Second Wind, this is probably the #1 reason anyone gets beaten in Bleach. Bad guys fighting the main heroes, or the Shinigami, will usually get killed because they suddenly forget that with the several seconds of warning they receive from their screaming opponents, they could have just Flash Stepped out of the way. It gets just plain ridiculous in the anime version because all fights take several times longer. The only time this is seemingly avoided is when Soifon decides to stop wasting time Obfuscating Stupidity and just Two hit KO her opponent with a Flash Step attack while he's doing his power up sequence.
- In the Bount arc, Orihime spends the episode panicking about Rukia being under a Bount's control before resolving the issue with her healing power. This is despite having already used the same solution on Tatsuki at an earlier date.
- In the Vandereich arc, Ichigo's bankai is broken and he's told that it can't be perfectly restored to how it was. Despite this, nobody considers having Orihime work on it, even though she has the explicit ability to restore things to an earlier state.
- The reinstated Visored captains don't use their Hollow powers when fighting the Vandenreich, which leads to them getting curb stomped. It's especially odd because it was revealed to the Shinigami that Hollow essence is toxic to Quincies. While the Visored's powers may not have been able to take advantage of that, it probably would've been worth a shot.
- Aizen completely forgoes his gamebreaker illusions in favor of relying on the much more finicky Hogyokou. He also never seems to consider using his bankai during his fight with Ichigo, even though it may have evened the odds.
- Blue Gender is one giant Wallbanger for many viewers because of this. Humanity knows The Blue can't swim or fly very well. (Hello there, aircraft carriers!) Humanity controls at least one giant orbiting space station. (Colony Drop!) Humanity also has literal Blue-detecting radar. And nukes. Does humanity use any of these advantages to fight the Blue? Nope! They'd rather take the Blue on in catastrophically designed, weaponless mechs.
- Kaminashi from Choujin Sensen somehow got stabbed in the leg by Sasamura despite using intangibility to escape from his prison earlier.
- This happens countless times with Tsuzuki from Descendants of Darkness. Even though he's supposed to be one of the most powerful ancient Gods of Death, he is rendered completely helpless when Muraki is around. He's not even able to throw a decent punch at the guy, and is made into a whining and crying wimp in his presence just for plot's sake. Example: Muraki is flying away on a helicopter, and Tsuzuki forgets that he can always summon or cast a spell that could blow the helicopter down. Stupid or... has a self destructive streak TEN MILES HIGH.
- In Detective Conan, one episode featured Conan attempting to stop a murder by "Shocking" the murderer into giving up. He shows up Just in Time and shows a plant that holds sentimental value to the murderer, causing her to break down and cry, saving the intended victim. What our diminutive detective seems to forget is that he wears a watch that shoots tranquilizer darts! Why risk the killer ignoring this when he could just tranq her?
- Dragon Ball Z:
- The entirety of Dragon Ball Z's plot tension results from the heroes forgetting that they have access to a magical wish giving dragon whose limitations are relatively small. There are limits to what Shenron and Porunga can do (reviving someone who has been killed more than once, reviving multiple people at a time, killing powerful people, reviving people who died of 'natural deaths'... and so on), but the heroes never ever seem to use the dragon's abilities in order to nullify threats. Granted, this is partially due to Goku and Vegeta's desire to fight more powerful opponents, but still.
- Most of the heroes have extra-sensory awareness, in particular the ability to sense energy and therefore detect opponents they can't see. However, whenever a person has been shrouded by clouds of dust after another person's fierce barrage of attacks, they smile triumphantly until the dust clears and the enemy is unharmed, despite how they should have been able to sense this immediately. This also seems to happen when an opponent moves too fast for them to follow, but then stops still out of their line of sight, resulting in a few moments of desperately looking around for where they went, despite, again, being able to sense where they are.
- In Goku's fight against Cell, there's a part where Goku knocks Cell out of the sky and he hits the ground hard. Future Trunks and a few of the other heroes excitedly think Cell is finished. Annoyed, Vegeta asks them if they forgot how to sense energy; if they would apply it, they would be able to tell Cell isn't even hurt.
- This is further Lampshaded in the Abridged Series: after using copious energy attacks on Frieza, Krillin wonders whether they got him. Gohan reminds him that they can sense energy and are well aware that Frieza is fine. Krillin says he keeps asking simply because he is an optimist.
- Most movies are guilty of this, during which all Saiyan characters will magically forget to become Super Saiyan for the duration of the movie, or until then end.
- There's a scene in the Lord Slug movie where Piccolo, who is being held in the grasp of a giant enemy, is desperately reaching out to Goku so that he can give him his energy. Piccolo completely forgets that he can stretch his arms to impossible lengths, not to mention become a giant himself.
- In one filler scene during the Goku vs. Freeza fight, Freeza opens the ground under Goku, who hangs on the edge as the lava rises from underground. Goku tries to climb, fails and gets his butt burnt by the lava in a comical manner. Except that Goku, like damn near everyone in the show, can fly.
- Krillin doesn't use his Kienzan as often as his should, despite it being one of the most broken abilities in the franchise. It is one of the most powerful attacks that doesn't take several seconds/minutes to charge, and one good hit from it would've killed Nappa, Vegeta, likely even Freeza. The big problem with this attack, that it is slow and can be easily dodged if someone sees it coming. This could be gotten around if the characters realize that they can use the Solar Flare to blind their enemies before using the Kienzan to cut them to pieces.
- In Bojack Unbound, there's a martial arts tournament out in the ocean taking place on platforms. If you fall into the water, you're eliminated. Yamcha winds up falling off a platform, but doesn't fly back up to prevent falling in the ocean.
- Yamcha forgets he can fly again during the Majin Buu Saga when he does nothing to prevent his plane from crashing. Thankfully, Android 18 remembers her powers and saves the day.
- In movie 11, Bio-Broly, there's a scene where Goten and Trunks are standing on each others' shoulders to see into a window. Goten complains that he wants a turn to to see... both of them forgetting that they can fly.
- In Fairy Tail, Sting and Rogue are two of the only dragon slayers able to access their Super Mode at will. Yet outside of their fight with Natsu and Gajeel, they never use it, even when they are getting their butts kicked and are in mortal peril.
- InuYasha: In episode 52, when the fully demonized Inuyasha is going on a bloody rampage against a group of bandits, Kagome ineffectually runs after him while desperately shouting at him to stop. It never once occurs to her that she could simply give Inuyasha the "sit" command to get him to stop, especially since doing so succeeded successfully restrained his full demon form twice before.
- Subverted with the eponymous Kotoura-san. She is aware of her always-on Telepathy, but she can still be deceived because it also averts Conveniently Coherent Thoughts. Ergo, she cannot reach into someone's Hidden Depths automatically and is quite susceptible to Psychic Static and Poke in the Third Eye. Probably the most exemplary case is in Episode 11, where the ESP Research Society is trying to catch a criminal who commits random acts of violence to high school girls. As it turns out, the culprit is Tsukino's Enemy Within, in whose house Kotoura has stayed for the better part of an afternoon. Yet in all that time, she doesn't suspect anything until the culprit is almost on top of her because the Enemy Within Tsukino had taken over while the latter was creeping up behind Kotoura.
- The anime adaptation of Magic Knight Rayearth has a tendency to do this. In one example, Fuu stops Hikaru from using a fire spell on a monster that's abducted Umi, but she gives no thought to the spell that she herself invented a few episodes ago specifically to restrain without injury.
- Virtually the entire cast should be able to transform into anything or make illusionary clones of themselves. The latest times these abilities are brought up are when Temari plans to use a clone to act as a diversion then strike immediately after (which is implied to win her the battle had she been able to carry it out) and Naruto transforming clones into rocks to hide them (which is very successful against even a VERY powerful opponent). It's clear these abilities would still be useful even at Kage level confrontations, but instead all characters stick to their gimmick and their gimmick alone.
- After Naruto reveals that he has Super Speed bordering on Flash Step, he promptly never uses it again despite how incredibly useful it is to be so fast he can travel roughly fifty feet in the time it takes the second fastest man alive to punch him, or to escape being captured by Tobi during his and Bee's fight with him and the other Jinchuuriki. Luckily, Kakashi and Gai got there just in time to save him. He then re-conveniences his Flash Step to deflect Tailed Beast Bombs.
- Madara Uchiha is very much guilty of this: Ever since his introduction, Madara has revealed to be able to use an incredible amount of techniques and jutsus, including, but not limited, to creating massive walls of fire, using Susanoo in more than one form (the final form being a hundred-foot-tall one), using Rinnegan and its derivative techniques (Chakra Absorption, and a stronger variation of Shinra Tensei), summoning meteors, using massively powerful Wood Release techniques, and the list goes on. However, many times he only uses a technique once, and it's never even mentioned again. It's even more jarring when he becomes the Ten-Tails Jinchuuriki, as he focuses only on using the Ten-Tails's black substance instead of using any other technique, even if it would help him in the fight (such as Susanoo, which is later shown to be even more powerful with the Tailed Beasts' combined chakra). No wonder Guy handed him his ass in their fight.
- The probably most egregious example of is Final Boss Kaguya Ōtsutsuki who has chakra levels transcending anything that's even remotely fair and the abilities of all other ninjas in the world, but only uses a bare handful of abilities, and none of them all that intelligently. She started the fight by transporting Team 7 to a lava cavern, and they only survive through sheer luck. She never even tries to send them back after they escape.
- One Piece:
- There are numerous situations in which Chopper forgets he has a certain ability, and it's played for comedy, but a lot of times he could defeat his enemies in Heavy Point, but chooses to stay in Brain Point, his physically weaker form.
- Luffy, Chopper and Brook sometimes forget that their devil fruit powers include Super Drowning Skills. This is purely played for comedy, and their crew mates are always pissed at their idiocy.
- Team Rocket manages to capture Pikachu (and ONLY Pikachu) nearly Once per Episode, and Ash forgets half of the time that he has FIVE OTHER POKEMON that he could use to just blast Team Rocket's balloon halfway to Jupiter.
- Team Rocket themselves bring out fire proof uniforms or rubber suits or whatever to render one or more of Ash's Pokémon useless, but they only use them for specific plans instead of using them for pretty much every attempt. Worse, they get overconfident and frequently remove their Pokémon proof measures mid plan allowing them to get electrocuted/burned/etc. anyway later.
- It is annoyingly common for Ash to randomly forget type advantages and other basic rules about capturing and battling Pokémon when the writers feel it necessary to add some extra drama or explanation to the show. Ash has been known to come up with some pretty impressive strategies from time to time, but when the plot dictates that Ash must lose a battle, the Idiot Ball is practically tied around his neck.
- In Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions, Ash forgets that he has arguably the strongest team he's ever had in a movie. Aside from one instance with Infernape in the beginning and Pikachu in general, he never uses any of them. The sheer raw power they packed would have made a huge difference against Kodai.
- In the third episode of the Best Wishes series, there is a scene with a group of Pokémon stranded on a disintegrating island in the middle of a lake of boiling water. Some of these Pokémon are Flying-types. They're birds that remember they can fly when they are persuaded to cross a bridge the heroes make so that they can get to safety and that then proceed to FLY AWAY.
- In the same episode, he almost orders Pikachu to use Thunderbolt on a grounded Sandile, who has Iris' Axew in its mouth. The only thing that stops him from going through with this plan is Iris reminding him that the attack would hurt Axew, not the fact that the Ground-type Sandile is outright immune to electricity. Sometimes, when he actually remembers them, the kid forgets how to properly use his powers.
- In Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, Ash and co. are thrown into a cell. A simple, no-tech cell. They wait around in it for god knows how long for a Pokémon to retrieve the key when they could've, I dunno, used their Pokémon to bust their way out. And because of this stall, Arceus gets killed. Not permanently, though.
- Along with the "trapped in the cell with a ton of super-powered animals" situation like in Arceus, Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns has these moments in spades. One moment in particular was when Ash and Brock were trying to take down a machine that was weakening Mewtwo, and none of the main cast realizes that they would have a much easier time disabling it using, you know, their Pokémon.
- And speaking of Team Rocket, they've recently been rejoined by their Wobbuffet, whose gimmick is that it acts as an Attack Reflector. Unfortunately for them, this skill is rarely used, leading to them repeatedly getting blasted into orbit.
- There's also Ash's ability to use Aura (basically a renamed Force). In the eighth movie Ash begins to develop these and it's even brought up once or twice in the Sinnoh Arc. Absolute squat comes of it. They might as well have painted a sign that says Fanfic Fuel.
- In Ranma ˝ Japanese version during the Gambling King Arc. Ranma was supposedly so stupid that he can't lie to anyone and got a poker face that any kid can read. This is contradicted by Ranma playing cards with his friends in the past several times and winning based on his expression (and Ranma being perfectly able to lie and play pretend in several other schemes of his whenever it suited him). Ranma went on later after the arc and to win at cards decisively against Nabiki and Akane. The American version changed all those incidents to Ranma losing so that they can remove the inconsistency.
- Sailor Moon:
- Usagi often used her disguise pen in the first season to get into areas where access was forbidden otherwise. In later seasons, it was completely forgotten... except for one odd season three episode when Minako borrowed Usagi's pen to act as an Identity Impersonator for Sailor Moon. And even in the first season one episode has her entering a swimsuit contest wearing a torn bathing suit that she covers up with bows. (Note that Minako had her own disguise compact in the Codename wa Sailor V manga and in the Sailor Moon manga, although the fact that it was never shown in the anime may mean it simply doesn't exist in this continuity.)
- In the manga, both Usagi and Minako have devices (a mask and a compact respectively) that can reveal the disguised enemies' true forms; these conveniently get forgotten when it comes to fighting Witches 5 or the Dead Moon Circus, who do disguise themselves as normal people in areas that are known to have connection to the enemies.
- In the first episode we see that she has super hearing through the gems in her hair and we never get to see her use them again ... ever. In the same episode, her scream/cry is also shown to be some sort of sonic weapon, boosted by her magic, which she also uses one more time in the fourth season, when she and Chibi-Usa both use it while being menaced by an evil dentist.
- In a season two episode all the girls sans Mercury (who was supposed to be on a plane to leave) get trapped in a freezer with an ice monster. Their game plan is to wait there indefinitely until Mercury conveniently decides not to go and comes to the rescue. One wonders why Sailor Mars didn't think to use her own powers which are...you know...based on fire.
- Slayers: Lina, Ameria, and Zelgadis all know Ray Wing, spell that lets them fly, faster than they can run. Yet they will frequently run away from enemies (including ones who can't fly), or stand around watching flying opponents as if they could not reach them. Even if they cast Ray Wing, there's a good chance they'd still fly parallel to the ground until Lina realizes this second layer of stupid.
- Keep in mind Ray Wing requires energy and by the time they desperately need to flee their foes they'd already depleted their magic from using high level spells and some foes don't justify using energy because they can be outran. On top of that many of the places they visit tend to be dungeons and ruines with relatively little space to fly around.
- Often when the robot characters in Transformers Energon need to get to someplace really quick or escape from danger, they simply run, even if they can transform into a superfast vehicle.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's:
- In the first season, there is a duel where this is Zigzagged, and a character forgets how to use one right. In Rua's duel with Devack, he equips his copy of Megamorph to his Power Tool Dragon, thinking it will double PTD's Attack Score. He forgets that, because he and Devack currently have equal Life Points, the card won't do anything. (But to be honest, what player in the actual game has not made that mistake when using Megamorph?)
- In Season 2, Yusei desperately tries to find a way to deal with the Meklord Emperor monsters that can absorb Synchro Monsters. He finds the Accel Synchro, but Yusei already has a card that can deal with them, and he has it since the beginning of the series: Turbo Warrior. A Synchro Monster that cannot be targeted by monsters with Level 6 or lower, and the Meklord Emperors are Level 1note . However, he never uses Turbo Warrior against them and he relies on his Accel Synchro Summon.
- Doraemon's manga format ensures the title character having countless gadgets that could have been used as weapons if applied during the numerous movies. Only recurring few are usedNote while the rest only pop in from time to time.
- Sgt. Frog: Natsumi, taking on Keroro — a clearly amphibious lifeform — in a swimming contest. Cue Keroro's first Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Ironically, Natsumi still benefitted since nobody but her could see Keroro, and struggling to beat him allowed her to beat everyone else.
- In the dub at least it was not so plot induced as it was youthful pride and not thinking induced, and to her credit it does hit her pretty fast just how bad an idea it was.
- Nearly any situation should be easily solvable by The Flash, since he can move hundreds and hundreds of times faster than anything else on earth. Yet he constantly forgets to use the full potential of his superpowers until it's time to end the story. Abilities the Flash consistently forgets he has: running faster than light, speed stealing, infinite mass punch, etc. On one occasion the villains destroyed a bridge, Flash runs to a university, teaches himself civil engineering, rushes back to the site of the collapsing bridge, scavenges for parts and builds an entire new bridge to replace the old one, all in the blink of an eye. This trope is the only reason anyone is able to beat him.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, since it's revealed that while the Flash can do all these things and more, he doesn't phase through things because it's fairly dangerous, and he can't approach his upper limits because the plot says it would kill him. Luthor, on the other hand, isn't so worried about it when his mind ends up in Flash's body.
- It becomes even more ridiculous given the fact that at one point the Flash was able to (within a small fraction of a second) save a city from nuclear annihilation by carrying its half a million person population to a hill miles away one person at a time. And yet Central City's banks still get robbed on his watch.
- To be fair, the ground beneath after he's finished is a smoking ruin, implying that doing so regularly would leave Central City a lava-filled crater.
- In the 4 issue alternate universe DC tale, Kingdom Come, The Flash does become an unstoppable one man war on crime, where he never slows down and has made Keystone City a crime-less utopia. To the point where he moves so fast, not only can he run through the air, he simultaneously exists in the physical and metaphysical planes. However, it's also revealed he's Blessed with Suck as he can no longer communicate with anyone (save Superman) and cannot stop.
- In Convergence: Speed Force #2, Wally West is drawn into a fight with Flashpoint Wonder Woman and can't get her to stop hitting him or chasing him... Except Wally has the ability to drain speed from others, effectively making them statues. And you can't even say this was him before he gained that ability, because his children exist, and he had that power before they were born.
- Obviously, Superman suffers from the same forgetfulness both in the comics and in Smallville. Specifically, he frequently forgets to use his super speed while attacking. At it's most ridiculous in the Silver Age, Superman has nearly god like powers (name any ability, put the word super in front of it, Supes has it) and will conveniently forget them between issues as the plot demands. However, he is in the habit of standing and taking shots to intimidate his opponents so it's not always a case of forgetting. And how anyone ever manages to sneak up on him when he has super hearing is a complete mystery. Except for Batman, because he has active noise cancellation technology built into his costume for just such an occasion. Somewhat justified in that while he has super speed, he doesn't have super agility (usually) so, while he can fly fast in a straight line or a curve, it's not that useful to him in combat. As Batman once put it when comparing Superman's speed to Wonder Woman's: "Who's faster, Usain Bolt or Bruce Lee?"
- Martian Manhunter often forgets to use his intangibility so that his enemies can land a punch on him. He also often forgets about his ability to change size and the advanced uses of his Telepathy.
- Marvel's The Vision has occasionally fallen victim to similar attacks (though it's rarer). In one issue of What If?, he was killed by a parasitic alien vine that grew into his bodily systems. A fan wrote in to ask what was up; the editors eagerly latched onto his suggestion that "the plant in question isn't entirely tangible itself, and that's why the villain used it". An Avengers comic had Vision, along with The Mighty Thor and Iron Man, taken out by knockout gas. Hmm, a Physical God who can control winds, an unbreathing android, and a guy in a sealed combat suit? No problem. The criminal masterminds who took them out so easily?... Well, you've got to see this one for yourself.
- The Essential Silver Surfer is full of this. When he meets a scientist who invents a device that might let him leave Earth but needs money to make it, the Surfer decides to get a job. He can't (because he doesn't have a Social Security number, he's not in the union, and he's funny-looking) so almost robs a bank in desperation, forgetting he can manipulate matter and could just make the scientist's gear for him. He spends about eight comics looking for someone who won't hate him for being "a silver-skinned freak" before he remembers that the Fantastic Four were quite friendly... need I go on?
- In Marvel Zombies, the zombies are attacking Doctor Doom's castle and the Scarlet Witch is infected by the Punisher. Gee, Scarlet Witch, did it never occur to you you could just teleport him and the other zombies away like you did with Ash earlier? Or teleport Enchantress away earlier so Dazzler wouldn't be infected?
- The last frame of the Spider-Man comic featuring the defeat of the Sinister Six in their first appearance had Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, and Sandman sitting in a police jail cell complaining about being defeated. How could the Sandman, a being who can turn into sand, be trapped in a common jail cell?
- An example involving a power that the character literally cannot forget but writers seem to, many a comic involving Spidey losing to someone generally involves the Spider-Sense not triggering in instances where it absolutely would. Rather blatant examples include the "Confederacy of Dunces" arc in The Punisher (where Spidey is trapped by Frank using a bunch of trigger explosives that weren't actually armed) and Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, where Dreadpool shoots him point-blank, which the Spider-Sense should have immediately detected and allowed Spider-Man to notice and act before Dreadpool could have even moved the gun into position.
- Green Lanterns have been variously shown as being able to warp time, move faster than light, contain supernovas, fight toe to toe with Superman, alter their own DNA, read minds, find subatomic aliens... Scratch that, if it's a superpower of any sort any given GL has used it at least twice. Now here's the thing. There are creatures other than Gods that bother them. Funny huh? It's somewhat justified in their case as their power require willpower and concentration to make anything happen. A GL who is having a bad day, is unfocused or demoralized will be less effective and the GL's are essentially human without their rings (or at least the human ones are.) Plus, their rings require a periodic recharge and anything yellow or anyone whose fast enough or crafty enough to remove a ring is a threat. Still, the idiot plot is somewhat less excusable in the case of veterans like Hal Jordan (or really, any of the Earth based GL's these days) as he is both experienced, and extremely strong willed.
- The drama that drives the character of Adam Strange hinges on a concept that makes little sense in the context of the shared DC Universe. Adam is a human adventurer from Earth who gets transported to the planet Rann (located in the Alpha Centauri solar system, the closest to Earth) by zeta beams. Once the effect of a zeta beam wears off, Adam gets transported back to Earth and has to wait for the next zeta beam to transport him back to Rann once again. This creates drama (Adam can't stay on Rann indefinitely), and even though every once in a while, writers come up with super-powerful zeta beams that have a permanent effect, eventually another writer may find a reason to undo the effect, leaving Adam stranded on Earth once again. However, it makes little sense in the context of the wider DCU, where there are various more conventional means of traveling the (comparably laughable) distance to Rann. A particularly glaring example occurs in JLA #20-21 (written by Mark Waid), where the Justice League gets transported to Rann and has to help Adam fend off an invasion. Ultimately, Adam drives off the invaders by sacrificing the zeta beam radiation stored inside his body, which results in him getting transported back to Earth. There are at least three ways to get him back to Rann immediately: First, in the first part of the story, Adam mentions a previous visit to Rann by JLA member Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), who traveled there simply using the power of his ring. Second, the JLA has White Martian jumpships at their disposal, which are used to travel through space several times over the course of the series. And third, the JLA's ranks at that time include Orion and Big Barda of the New Gods, who have access to Boom Tubes, which can also travel vast distances. All of these methods would allow Adam to return to Rann in a short amount of time, without that pesky temporary effect of the zeta beams. Eventually, this was corrected by placing Rann multiple billions of light-years from Earth, too far for most other methods of travel to reach.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
- The chronic and widespread amnesia over the Iron Queen's Magitek is one of the main causes of the Idiot Plot that is The Iron Dominion Saga; the Freedom Fighters are constantly clueless to the fact that their enemy can control machines with her mind, and wind up being shocked each time one of their cyborg or mechanical allies gets turned against them by her. They also keep forgetting that they have a counteragent to her spell right in their own backyard. And in case you're wondering, there's actually a time in the saga where the Iron Queen herself forgets that she has this power, and has to be reminded that the Freedom Fighters are holed up in a Grey Goo city that she can manipulate... after she successfully infiltrated and messed it up with her powers.
- Tails had an uncle who was skilled enough in magic to, among other things, teleport and activate his Super Mode. Unless there's an unexplained limitation on that second spell, Dr. Eggman really shouldn't have been a threat for so long.
- Doctor Strange. Speaking of the Sorcerer Supreme, he is repeatedly in situations where his virtually unlimited mystic abilities could resolve the plot, or at least make it much simpler. Alas, the good Doctor's imagination is often limited to that of those who write him.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW):
- The giant mutant cockatrices who attacks Canterlot in the short in Issue #4 of don't seem to be able to turn anypony to stone, like they do in the show.
- Appears in Issue #18. The mane 6 are locked up in a dungeon. When Twilight Sparkle is stumped about how they are going to get out, Pinkie Pie gives her a glare and knocks her horn - the prison bars are absolutely no match for the mighty alicorn magic.
- Justified by Snowbird in Alpha Flight. While in animal form, she is dropped from a great height, so she shapechanges into an owl without changing to human form first — something she rarely does because its very painful. But, as the narrator points out, "In her animal panic, she had forgotten that her human form can also fly."
- Avengers Arena:
- In the very beginning, the kids try to Zerg Rush Arcade, and he summarily inflicts a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on everyone who tried it (while commending the handful who were smart enough not to).
- After establishing that X-23 is constantly studying in her surroundings and determining the best way of killing everyone around her, in #10 she blindly charges into a fight with Apex without preparation. Despite arguably being the most dangerous fighter of all the kids, she of course gets her ass kicked as a result.
- She then passes the Idiot Ball to Apex, who completely forgets about Laura's Healing Factor and fails to make sure she's actually down for good.
- Captain Alcohol is supposed to have Super Strength. However, this is only used in the first issue and never used again even when it could help him.
- Jesse Custer in Preacher forgets about his Word of God more and more as the series goes on, which could have immediately solved many problems much faster by simply telling people "Stop!" or "Tell The Truth!" While early encounters include enemies who are immune to his power for a number of reasons, such as being given immunity by God or not understanding English, writer Garth Ennis apparently got tired of thinking up ways around the power and simply had Jesse stop using it, preferring to use his nigh-superhuman fighting skills instead. The trope is even lampshaded when Tulip asks him why he hadn't used the Word to defeat a group of enemies and Jesse just admits that he forgot about it.
- All the various telepaths in the X-Men could probably stop a hell of a lot of battles and villainous plots by simply mentally knocking out MANY of their enemies that don't have any kind of mind shield, but they often don't for unexplained reasons.
- As noted elsewhere, Wolverine has super senses like hearing and smell, but they apparently only work when Wolverine needs them to solve a plot point. Otherwise he seems to be suffering from a recurring healing factor-resistant head cold.
- As The Comics Curmudgeon is fond of pointing out, newspaper comics Spider-Man's spidey sense is notoriously unreliable, as he's been shown to get snuck up behind and knocked out by regular humans, and once a RANDOM FALLING BRICK.
- During the first 20 years of his existence, Magneto occasionally used his magnetic powers to control the minds of people by controlling the iron in their blood; see this page◊ from the The Vision and Scarlet Witch miniseries for one example. Since then, he seems to have completely forgotten about this power, even though it would've been incredibly useful in many occasions.
- In Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow?, Superwoman is amongst the heroes trying to break through the forcefield surrounding the Fortress of Solitude. She's capable of teleporting and walking through walls but maybe the forcefield somehow blocks these.
- In Getting Back on Your Hooves Trixie is feeding animals as part of a job working for Fluttershy, ending up falling down a steep bank and getting the list of animals she needed to feed muddy, resulting in a run in with a skunk. As she's getting cleaned up, this trope is lampshaded;
Spike: Uh, Trixie, one thing.
Trixie: Yes, what?
Spike: Why didn't you just use your magic to float the food down to the animals?
Trixie: (slams her head into the side of the tub)
- In Manchester Lost and its sequel, Paradise Thwarted, resident Cloud Cuckoo Lander Uriel tends to forget all sorts of things, including, at times, the fact that he has wings.
- In Dusk's Dawn Donut abandons most of his armor when invading the castle for no reason.
- Ojamajo Doremi: Witches at World's End (sequel to Ojamajo Doremi Rise Of The Shadows): The Queen doesn't use her Super Mode when Black Queen attacks the witch World, even though the Queen has mastered it AND it is more than capable of curbstomping Black Queen.
- A meta example occurs in Princess of the Blacks when Jen is spotted after murdering Tracey's grandfather because the author forgot she could turn invisible.
Films — Animation
- Some of The Land Before Time sequels have this problem, neglecting the fact that Petrie can fly.
- In Peter Pan the climax involves several characters being threatened with Walk the Plank despite the fact that they can fly.
- In Frozen, when her ice palace is under attack, Elsa seems to completely forget all the things she has already done with her powers that would allow her to hold off the attackers indefinitely, such as causing the staircase to sprout ice spikes, creating more Snowlems to back up Marshmallow, hammering them with a blizzard or simply sealing the entrances to the palace with solid ice walls.
- In the first film, Onua causes a cave-in, so he and Pohatu start running, but get buried under rubble. This, despite that they had masterful control over the elements of earth and stone respectively — Onua even uses his power to levitate some giant rocks in a later scene. Pohatu also wore the Mask of Speed (which Onua had access to, too) that would have let them vibrate their bodies through the rock, or just plain run faster. Both could even have summoned their Mask of Shielding to protect themselves. The climax also involves some running and heavy objects falling, but nobody thinks of using their powers to save themselves or help Takutanuva who gets crushed under a gate.
- In the third film, Matau is about to fall to his death from atop the Coliseum balcony, but Vakama saves him with a bungee-cord made out of spider webbing. A cool and heartwarming scene, except that Matau got up there by flying in the first place, or technically, grabbing onto an energy-disk that he could fire at any moment.
Films — Live-Action
- The Mobile Infantry in Starship Troopers have rifles that come with underbarrel shotguns and nuclear rocket launchers, yet they seem to rely almost entirely on their rifles' regular firing mode — even when faced with instances where such weapons would be most effective, such as close combat with the Bugs or when facing a horde of thousands of bunched-together aliens charging their fixed positions. Justified since the movie satirizes Hollywood Tactics.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Gandalf rescues Faramir and his retreating troops by using his staff to shine a bright light at the Nazgûl, which scares them away. One might wonder how come he doesn't do that every other time the Nazgûl are around. Commented by several cast members on the audio commentary; Ian McKellen mentions bringing the trope up to Peter Jackson, who shrugged and told him he used up all the batteries when he saved Faramir, and the shops in Minas Tirith were all out. This is probably the reason why, in the extended edition, Peter Jackson had the Witch-king destroy Gandalf's staff shortly afterwards, something that could not have happened in the book.
- The official in-universe explanation, according to Tokien, is that Gandalf is an Istari, basically an angelic being and servant of the lesser gods who is explicitly forbidden from using his powers to shape change in Middle Earth lest the beings of Middle Earth become too dependent on them. Other Istari like Sauron and Saruman obviously ignored this edict.
- In The Neverending Story 2 Bastian has to save Fantasia with the help of the Auryn, which can grant him any wish he wants. He never thinks to wish for weapons, or an army, or even that Fantasia just be saved. Instead he wishes for things like a can of spray paint and individual steps to climb a huge cliff. And he only has a limited number of wishes before running out of memories (each wish removes a memory though at the time he gets it he was unaware of this so he had no reason to limit his wishes at the time).
- Star Wars
- The prequels retroactively introduce this trope to the original trilogy by establishing that R2-D2 has the ability to fly and torch his opponents, something he never does in the original trilogy even though it would have been useful to do so. Word of God has it that R2's rocket boosters broke at some point in the intervening years, and Industrial Automaton (the company that makes R2 units) no longer manufactures that part.
- The Jedi seem to be constantly forgetting what powers they are supposed to have. Of particular note is the whole "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them." principle, when it generally seems as though Jedi characters can rarely sense impending danger through the Force and are often unaware of it until they can actually see, or hear, it coming. There are innumerable instances of this in the movies. Jedi also seem very inclined to forget that they're telekinetic.
- The Last Airbender:
- The Fire Nation imprisonment of the Earth-benders. In the cartoon that the film was based upon, their not doing any bending was completely justified as they were on a metallic platform in the middle of the ocean, with no earth in convenient distance. In the movie, they're at a mine. As in, surrounded by dirt and rocks. And they outnumber their Fire Nation guards by a minimum of a dozen to one. The very weak "their spirits are broken" excuse is washed away by a speech that boils down to "You're Earth-benders. You're completely surrounded by dirt and rocks. DO SOMETHING." They effectively imprisoned a bunch of soldiers, made them use their loaded guns to dig holes, and the soldiers never thought to shoot.
- And likewise in the other direction, firebenders were reworked to require a source of their element to bend like everyone else which prompts the need for a large container of burning fuel to exist at the camp. No one ever tries to put it out which would render the firebenders completely powerless. For that matter, despite this really major change in how firebenders work, no one ever tries to defeat them this rather simple way.
- X-Men Film Series:
- X2: X-Men United: Wolverine realizes that Mystique is disguised as Jean Grey by feeling the scars on her belly rather than by her smell, which he was established to be able to do in the first film when she tried the same trick with Storm.
- X-Men: Apocalypse: Quicksilver is able to spot Xavier's mansion in the process of blowing up and use his super-speed to save everyone, yet in the very next scene, he watches a bunch of armed men take aim at the students and fire without reacting.
- I Am Number Four John is an alien with a wide variety of superhuman powers, including super strength. While he uses it once early on to put down a bully, he conveniently forgets his wide variety of powers for the rest of the movie so that Jerk Jock Mark can push him around. When John finally does remember he has powers, he slaps down Mark's whole gang.
- Bruce Almighty: After Bruce was caught kissing Susan by his girlfriend Grace, he seemed to forget that he was near-omnipotent, so he could just wipe her memory of the event, or re-write history to make it that it never happened.
- In Dragonball Evolution, Piccolo demonstrates telekinesis powerful enough to crush a house, but never uses it again, even to try to retrieve a Dragonball that was rolling away.
- In Godzilla (2014), Big G only uses his atomic breath twice, and doesn't think to use it on the flying MUTO (which he can't attack otherwise when it's flying away) or when he was getting pummeled by both MUTOs at the same time.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-1000 confronts Sarah Connor in the Steel Mill and tells her to "call for John" to lure out John Connor, apparently forgetting it has the ability to mimic anyone's voice and could easily do it himself. However humans had already seen through his disguise once, and after his liquid nitrogen bath he started malfunctioning, so it may also be that he didn't trust himself to sound convincing.
- In Spider-Man 2 Dr. Octopus fights Spiderman by repeatedly grabbing him with his robot tentacles and slamming him into walls and such. A few moments later it is reavealed that at least one of those tentacles contained a long retractable blade which he could've simply stabbed the wall-crawler with. He goes for a single swing with this blade, misses, and never uses it again.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron, Quicksilver is fully capable of being able to be as fast or a little slower than Ultron's lasers and even stopping bullets midair yet in the last scenes, he was shot down by them.
- In Lone Wolf, you have powers that can be useful in certain situation, but sometimes, the author forgets that the possibility you have that power may exist, and doesn't give you a choice to use the power. More commonly, the series has three levels of powers: Kai, Magnakai, and Grand Master. Most of the powers of one tier have lower powered equivalents amongst the lower tier. Similarly, someone of a higher tier always has all the powers of the lower tier, but only a select few of their given tier. This results in your character often being asked if he has a certain power appropriate for his tier (and bad stuff happening if you do not), but the author forgetting that there is no reason the lower tier equivalent — which everyone should have — could not be every bit as effective.
Theoretically, at least, if the higher Discipline is required, it's for something that the lesser Discipline can't handle for some reason (you see this all the time in Grand Master, particularly with Kai-screen). Justified, for the most part... simple Mind over Matter should not allow you to grab a big, heavy key on the opposite side of the room while you're behind a locked door. Still, there are numerous instances where you SHOULD be able to use Pathsmanship, or Huntmastery, or (most often) Divination, or at least get some explanation as to why you can't. (You don't need Telegnosis to spirit-walk, it just makes it easier.) And then there's the issue of the myriad Combat Skill and Endurance benefits you get from certain Disciplines, all of which need to be properly balanced... and some of which, unfortunately, don't make a lot of sense (in New Grand Master, you have the same Combat Skill whether or not you're armed). As you might imagine, it's not exactly easy to write these things.
- Harry Potter:
- An example occurs in "The Philosopher's Stone". When Harry, Ron, and Hermione are trapped in the Devil's Snare (a constricting plant which can only be defeated via light) a panicking, Muggleborn Hermione comments that it would be difficult to light a fire in their current position.
"HAVE YOU GONE MAD?" Ron bellowed. "ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?"
- Called back to in a reversed situation in the final book, when Ron has a momentary lapse of judgement by proclaiming that Crookshanks isn't there to press the knob on the tree's trunk to let them into the passage. Hermione yells at him, "Are you a wizard or not!?"
- Also in the first book, the Big Bad suddenly resorts to grabbing the hero with bare hands, even though seconds earlier he entangled him with conjured ropes. Because touching the hero burned him, he would've certainly won if he had decided to use magic.
- In the fourth book, Harry uses Accio to summon his broom to get past the dragon in the first task when he could have used the same spell to summon the dragon's egg he was trying to get or summon his broom to fly over the maze in the third task.
- While never explicitly stated, it is reasonable to believe that the egg would have been protected against the simplest summoning magic, or the task would have turned into a joke. Similarly, while flying over the maze sounds like a cool, out of the box idea, one assumes the judges would have been less than amused.
- When we first meet Harry, he has experienced ten years of abuse and mistreatment at the hands of the Dursleys. He has become quite perceptive and adept at reading their behavior, and is able to occasionally get his way by settings up his requests in such a manner that they view the best option for them is to give him what he wants. He is also usually extremly patient with their abuse and vitriol. Essentially, he makes the best of a bad situation by manipulating people who hate him. However, whenever he is at Hogwards, Harry is completely clueless at social interaction, or understanding the larger picture. He often misses social cues, and repeatedly gets himself into trouble by letting himself be goaded by the likes of Malfoy, Snape, and Umbridge.
- An example occurs in "The Philosopher's Stone". When Harry, Ron, and Hermione are trapped in the Devil's Snare (a constricting plant which can only be defeated via light) a panicking, Muggleborn Hermione comments that it would be difficult to light a fire in their current position.
- This happens quite a bit in the Ancient Indian epic poem the "Ramayana". As an avatar of Vishnu, Rama should be completely over-powered in the human realm. Instead, Rama seems to forget that he is a god until the other gods remind him. In the original version of the poem, Valmiki's version, this happens more than once.
- Flinx of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series gets hit with this a lot in the novels after Flinx in Flux. Having been established as: (a) streetwise, (b) adept at survival, (c) having a ton of money, (d) being able to defeat just about any enemy with a combination of his Emotion Bomb and Superpower Meltdown powers; at least half of the scrapes he gets himself into are caused by a combination of him deliberately walking unprepared into lethal environments or conveniently forgetting about one or more of his Psychic Powers in order to allow a different character to get a Big Damn Heroes moment. There's also at least one scene in Trouble Magnet where he does rely on his Emotion Bomb power to get himself out of a scrape, only to have it not work on him thanks to Power Incontinence... a fact he really ought to have taken into account considering how frequently it happens to him.
- In The Belgariad the power they use requires the sorcerer being able to steel themselves against the forces involved (otherwise they could literally push themselves into the ground -or worse), and takes a toll on their more-than-mortal but still-limited minds and bodies. Sometimes a lot of power has to be used at once; Belgarath ran head-first into trouble by literally working himself to magic-use exhaustion. But many times they just don't use a simple possibility they have, rather going for an incredibly contrived method that somehow seems like a genius idea. In the Malloreon, Belgarath, Belgarion, and Zakath have to fight a dragon, which is immune to direct sorcery. He makes Garion and Zaketh immune to fire to face the dragon, and has no doubts that this will work, demonstrating that indirect sorcery can be used. Despite this and 7000 years of experience, the idea of translocating large rocks above the dragon's head, or something similar, never occurs to him.
- In Time Cat, Jason and Gareth are often captured and held somewhere against their will. Despite having the power to travel to any point in space or time, Gareth never uses his magic to allow them to both escape.
- The Vampire Chronicles:
- Lestat is a skilled computer hacker in Tale of the Body Thief, but doesn't know how to use email when it becomes a plot point in Blood Canticle.
- When Louis falls improbably in love with Merrick, it never occurs to David that something supernatural is going on, even though he's an expert in magic and he knows she's a witch.
- Used in a subtle and clever way in The Dresden Files novel Small Favor. Harry has a small arsenal of magical tools on him (staff, shield bracelet, force rings, blasting rod, and various other odds-and-ends), and he has a wide range of spells he can draw from (bursts of flame, blasts of force, lightning bolts, wind, etc). Therefore, unless the reader is paying very close attention, they'll miss something important: Throughout the novel, Harry uses most of his gear and most of his spells, but he doesn't use either fire magic or his blasting rod beyond the initial brawl in the first chapter. It isn't until later on that the reason becomes apparent: Mab, queen of the Winter Court, took his blasting rod and put a lock in Harry's mind that kept him from using fire magic, so that the fire-based Summer Court couldn't track him down and kill him.
- In the Animorphs entry The Familiar, which features Jake flung into a Bad Future ten years later, the climax of the book forces Jake to choose between destroying a Yeerk superweapon that will consolidate their power on Earth or saving his girlfriend who's just been flung from a tower. The conflict becomes a lot less believable when you remember that Cassie could just morph to bird and save herself. Justified since it turns out to have been a dream Jake was having, possibly at the instigation of some alien that was never mentioned again and Jake noticed the many oddities to realize this.
- Happens to the wigmonsters in John Dies at the End, who forget they can go through walls. David reminds them.
- In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, inverted. Two depowered superheroes forgot that they had had Boxing Lessons for Superman, and are still Badass Normal because of them.
- Laurel Lance in Arrow is generally portrayed as a tough, no-nonsense cop's daughter with reasonable self-defense skills. But in the first two-and-a-half seasons, anytime the plot calls for a Damsel in Distress, she will suddenly become incompetent: She has a shotgun during a home invasion!...with only one shell? She ambushes a drunk man with a baseball-bat!...and is promptly overwhelmed? The reason she doesn't qualify as a Faux Action Girl is because numerous times, she demonstrates a high degree of competence for an Action Survivor or Action Girl; it's only when she needs to lose that she suddenly becomes feeble.
- Babylon 5:
- In an example that lasts the entire fifth season, a major mystery is stretched tenuously over multiple episodes because Sheridan forgets that he has seen Centauri Prime's future. (This is possibly as a result of Executive Meddling forcing many plot threads to be completed one season too early.)
- Sheridan seems to have assumed that particular future was averted by the outcomes of earlier seasons.
- In the early episode, "The War Prayer", the Home Guard members emerge at a meeting with two members of the command staff having been disguised using Black Light Camouflage, which renders them effectively invisible. However, in the ensuing gunfight, they choose to go with "hiding behind the crates" as their method of concealment.
- In an example that lasts the entire fifth season, a major mystery is stretched tenuously over multiple episodes because Sheridan forgets that he has seen Centauri Prime's future. (This is possibly as a result of Executive Meddling forcing many plot threads to be completed one season too early.)
- As Piper develops her explosive power, she uses her freezing power less and less, trying to blow up every enemy when freezing them would've been more helpful (some enemies are too strong to be blown up). Phoebe's premonitions were originally intended to help innocents, but she even stopped having them unless they were about herself.
- The most jarring example is from Season 6 "Hyde School Reunion", in which one of Phoebe's old high school friends, who is now a criminal, threatens Phoebe with a gun unless Paige gives him a disguise. Instead of simply orbing the gun away, Paige glamours him into Chris, who was being targeted by demons at the time, and the demons end up killing him. They just killed a human being, something they had sworn to never do in the past, and Paige even told Phoebe that they had no choice.
- On a less serious note, the levitation power that Whitelighters possess (i.e. the power that gets Leo caught out as a Whitelighter in the first place) is forgotten on several occasions where it could be potentially useful. It is justified that Paige can't use it yet; she's not a full Whitelighter, but Leo has no such excuse until he loses his powers, that is.
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The Snowmen," the Doctor has stopped traveling through time and space after losing Amy and is living on a cloud (literally). He then shows the TARDIS to a new potential companion, Clara. While showing her the new TARDIS console, he turns around, allowing the ice woman to grab Clara from behind and fall with her from the cloud. As the Doctor helplessly watches Clara fall, he forgets that, fairly recently, he had no problems materializing the TARDIS in the path of River Song, falling in a similar manner.
- The Doctor has several handy abilities, like the ability to go into a temporary death-like state of suspended animation (although at great physical effort) and the ability to read minds that virtually never show up when faking his own death or identifying the killer in a mystery would be useful. He also sometimes loses skills between regenerations, like his Third incarnation's trademark Venusian aikido being replaced with the Fourth Doctor's general brawling. He has also demonstrated that he has Hypnotic Eyes, especially in his Fourth incarnation, but almost never uses the ability in later incarnations. Writers are likewise prone to forget that he is supposed to have Super Reflexes. His precognition ability has only been used twice - once in the same story it was revealed in, and another time in The Movie in a really weird moment that didn't appear to have much thought behind it.
- In "City of Death", the Doctor and Romana are able to fly. How useful would that have been?
- Frequently enough for it to be a character trait, the Doctor and various other Time Lords have displayed something akin to face blindness (in "The Mind Robber" the Doctor struggles to recognise his best friend's facial features, in "Inferno" he can't identify the Brigadier in a photo, in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" he fails to notice a man is Chinese, he can't tell if women are supposed to be beautiful or not in "City of Death"...), but also displayed the ability to immediately tell who another Time Lord is even after regeneration (in "The War Games" and "The Deadly Assassin"). These abilities/handicaps are entirely dependent on if they would be funny or plot-relevant to have this week - virtually any disguised-Master plot is dependent on the idea that the Doctor can't tell who he/she is, and some Doctors are attuned enough to faces to be quite obsessed with them when they're not struggling to work out if people have makeup on for comic effect.
- In Fringe an episode pertaining to a flash forward tries to portray Olivia Dunham as having mastered her abilities by showing off her telekinesis. Dunham, a generally already battle hardened cop with lightning reflexes and an inexplicable penchant for headshots (before any brainwashing) is confronted by Walternate, brandishing a gun, and is promptly shot in the face after failing to react.
- In the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Judgment Day", Hercules loses his Super Strength, but still manages to get the upper hand on Strife and beat him up. Strife begs Ares for help. Ares loses his temper and replies, "Fight him, you pathetic little fool. You're a god. USE YOUR POWERS!"
- Hiro Nakamura is one of the most powerful characters in the series with the ability to stop time and teleport; he's just too much of a dork to think of using it when he needs to defend himself. This was even given a nod in the series when his friend, Ando, deliberately antagonized a group of peeved gamblers, assuming Hiro would use his power to put them all down. Hiro, not comprehending the situation, was almost immediately KO'ed by a punch to the face. And when Hiro and his friend have to find out what's in a safe, finally get it open, only to have the document stolen by a woman with super-speed powers, Hiro spends several episodes trying to chase her so they can get the document back and see what it says. It never occurred to Hiro that he could have gone back yesterday and opened the safe and read the document before the thief stole it. He then could have replaced the document if he didn't want to cause a paradox or even replaced the document with a fake if he were really smart. This is also immediately after Hiro spent some time idly making time pass forward and backwards just to see a clock's hands move.
- Peter Petrelli is far worse than Hiro when it comes to being handed the Idiot Ball, as he has basically every power ever. In the final episode of Season 2, Peter is using up immense amounts of telekinetic energy to break into a vault with a solid 24-inch thick riveted steel door. As impressive as this may have been for the special effects, he can walk through solid objects and could have saved himself a lot of time and exhaustion. This also caused issues with his trust of Adam Monroe, as numerous other characters warn Peter that Adam is using him and can't be trusted, Peter forgetting he can read minds. The best example comes in season 3, where in a Mexican-standoff hostage situation, rather than using telekinesis or time-stopping, he uses newly acquired super-speed to attack one of the enemies.
- In contrast, in Season 4 Hiro expends considerable time and effort using his powers to solve a problem that he easily could have solved without them. He meets a distraught cubicle worker on the roof, who wants to jump because he was fired for photocopying his butt. So Hiro travels back in time to sabotage the copier, only for the guy to do it again at the next opportunity. And again. And again. While it was a Crowning Moment of Funny, one wonders if there was another way Hiro could have saved the guy's job at a company of which Hiro was CEO and 51% owner.
- At the end of Season 3, when Nathan is killed by Serial Killer Sylar, Nathan's own daughter, Claire, is nearby and has blood that can bring him back to life. Yet, for some unknown reason, Angela and Noah send away Claire and Peter - who are unaware of Nathan’s death - to “look” for Nathan. Curiously, Noah, Claire's adoptive father, does not mention how Claire's blood can bring people back to life (having been brought back to life with her blood himself) but instead goes along with Angela's crazy plan to pretend Nathan is alive. They shape-shift Nathan's murderer, Sylar, into Nathan's likeness and pump him full of Nathan's memories to make him believe he is Nathan. Needless to say, the whole thing falls apart and Peter and Claire, who were in the dark about this own insane plan, are exceptionally pissed when they learn Nathan is dead and it was Sylar who was masqueraded as their brother and father.
- Knight Rider tended to both play to and avert this trope. There were lots of things demonstrated that were used only once or twice and then never used again that would have been very helpful (usually involving scanning something, sensing something, or nearly-telekinetic power). On the other hand, sometimes functions would be brought back after a couple seasons and suddenly used again. A few functions were explicitly mentioned as removed, such as the laser and water hydroplaner, but by and large KITT's functions were a fluid thing and you never knew which new thing might pop up.
- In an episode of Lois and Clark, Superman tries to stop a martial artist who has super strength and is defeated because of his foe's superior skill. Superman decides his only option is to take a crash course in kung fu, which pays off during the rematch. It never occurs to him to use his super speed, heat vision, or super breath.
- In Merlin, Merlin deserves an honorable mention for deciding that POISONING Arthur is necessary to fake his death, when there have to be a million other ways to do it. Arthur gets bonus points for going along with it. After the first few episodes, Merlin also completely forgets his original innate power of stopping time and telekinesis with nothing but a glare. As soon as he starts learning some spells that don't even have a fraction of this power, he only uses spells which could have him executed if anyone listens to his muttering. (Although time stopping can fall under Coconut Superpowers.) Lampshaded in "The Darkest Hour", when Merlin uses a spell to light the fire while the other knights are gathered around. Lancelot, the only knight who knows about his magic, glares at him. As we saw in series 2, Merlin can light a fire just by moving his hand and there is no need to risk the knights overhearing him.
- Nathan Young started the show with Resurrective Immortality and later trades it in for Reality Warper powers. He never takes advantage of his powers when it is important. For example, he cheats at a casino by changing his dice results. When the casino finds out and sends guards to apprehend him, he runs away, and when he runs into a dead end, lamely tries to distract them by pulling a rabbit out of his anus, and is eventually caught and arrested. He doesn't even consider using his powers to escape. In his case, it's justified because he's a complete moron.
- In one Season 2 episode this is discussed. A man who believes he's in a video game thinks that one of the Misfits is an undercover cop that he has to dismember. Simon suggests that Nathan say he's the undercover cop because he's immortal. However Nathan points out that it's easy for Simon to say that since he's not the one that will be dismembered.
- Jess gets this every other episode in the last season. In one case she nearly takes a nail to the eye by using a peephole when she knows she's being pursued by an attacker. Her power is X-ray vision.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 invokes this in the Gamera Vs Zigra episode when Gamera finishes off Zigra with a blast of fire, Crow commenting "Now why couldn't he have done this in the first place? Did he forget he can do this?"
- In No Ordinary Family Stephanie seems to constantly forget that she has superspeed and could solve their problem in a fraction of a second. It doesn't help that when not using her powers she doesn't seem to have any kind of Super Reflexes, and terrible normal reflexes, so she's been hit by attacks that even most non-speedsters could dodge. One particularly notable example comes in the finale, when they're encircled by men with guns and after about 30 seconds of them talking and trying to find another way out, she remembers that she can just punch them out before they do anything, and does.
- In episode 9 of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland the Red Queen is easily kidnapped and almost killed by the local inhabitants. She never use the magic to defend herself.
- Vampires on The Originals tend to rather frequently forget that they can move faster than the eye can see and are strong enough to snap the necks of people with less effort than it takes to snap a twig, and because of this just stand there and let humans and witches that they could easily kill capture and do whatever they want to them all the time.
- From Power Rangers Turbo, the explanation for the Turbo powers being used as opposed to the Zeo powers was to go to an island to stop Divatox from summoning a big monster. Yet, after that, they never think to use their Zeo powers ever again. This is especially stupid when you remember that the Zeo powers are always supposed to be getting stronger.
- In Quantum Leap, there are several episodes in which Sam has to keep someone from being kidnapped, and the obvious solution — have Al stay with the victim at all times until something happens — rarely if ever occurs to them.note Generally speaking, Al's potential for spying is greatly underused. The novels handwaved this by saying that events and people tied closely to That Which Must Be Set Right become ambiguous the closer Sam comes to the moment he has to save them and that Ziggy can't lock Al on to events to witness them. (Which also covered why Al popped in a few times on where the savee is supposed to be only to find out they had disappeared.)
- In Smallville, Clark Kent, all the time. Like in "Legion" when he basically stands there as the Persuader pummels him. There are many cases in which he could have solved problems with Super Speed, X-Ray Vision, superhearing, telescopic vision or a combination thereof. The worst case is probably flight. It is shown in "Crusade" (season 4 premier) that he physically can fly (and he has unconsciously floated before). Thanks to Executive Meddling, lame excuses are made to explain why he is completely incapable of flight until the finale. That is seven. Years. Later.
- The various Star Trek series regularly do this. It's the 23rd or 24th century, yet the crew is frequently in peril from threats that even 20th century technology could handle. They repeatedly forget that their own warp drive, shields, transporters, phasers, replicators, holodecks, sickbay, etc., etc., can perform miracles.
- This is especially jarring in episodes in which transporter failure ("The Enemy Within") drives the plot. No one seems to recall the shuttles, the shuttles' transporters, or the cargo bay transporter system.
- In any scene where there is a man-to-man on the ship/station, they could put the transporter to work, simply beaming the enemies into the brig or even just erasing their patterns without bothering to reconstitute them.
- Intentionally done in the episode "By Any Other Name", when Kirk makes the Kelvan leader Rojan jealous by cozying up to Kelinda, until Rojan gets so angry that he completely forgets about his superior weapons that gave him the advantage in their first confrontation and attacks Kirk in rage using his fists, where Kirk is the one with the advantage this time, and manages to subdue him.
- Another Deep Space Nine example, in the second season finale (which introduced the Dominion formally, with the Jem'Hadar and the Vorta), a Vorta is able to use a powerful psychic telekinetic attack in combat and to escape from a holding cell. No mention of these abilities are ever made again, let alone actually used by a Vorta, even in situations where it could have been a huge advantage for them. Word of God says that only that particular Vorta was given those powers.
- The variable effectiveness of phasers is a common plot hole in Star Trek, especially the later series. In the Star Trek: The Original Series a small handheld phaser the size of a smart phone could potentially disintegrate a person or blow the side off a building. In Star Trek: The Next Generation Data once vaporized all the water in an aqueduct system stretching miles up a mountain using one. But in Deep Space Nine Federation troops fighting the Dominion are lugging around these huge phaser rifles that fire little bullet-like pops of energy that can barely put a hole in a wall, leading to many combat scenes distinctly similar to their major competing franchise.
- Cloaking technology is a major source of tension, particularly between the Federation and the Romulon and Klingon Empires, who both use it extensively. The fact that the Federation could potentially counter the utility of cloaking devices by simply recruiting more members of telepathic races such as Betazoids into Starfleet seems to have somehow escaped their thought processes entirely.
- Deanna Troi's abilities vary wildly over the course of the show. In some episodes she can easily sense beings on other ships or on a planet's surface while she is on the Enterprise in orbit. But when this kind of power would eliminate suspense from the plot, she mysteriously becomes unable to sense people she knows very well, even if they are relatively close by.
- Geordi LaForge can see a large part of the EM spectrum with his visor, yet in the episode :Disaster" he can't see a plasma fire behind a panel - Dr Crusher has to tell him that the wall is hot. And yet, in First Contact, he uses his new bionic eyes to find Cochran from far away.
- In Star Trek: Generations, the Enterprise D sustains fatal damage when the Duras sisters manage to get hold of its shield frequency, allowing their weapons to pierce the Enterprise's shields. It never occurs to any of the main characters to simply change the shield frequency when this happens, even though it was the first thing they tried during a similar situation in "The Best Of Both Worlds Part 1" (and in that case, Data was able to rotate the shield frequencies so quickly even the Borg couldn't keep up with him, forcing them to drain the shields instead — something the decrepit old Bird of Prey the Duras sisters were using couldn't have managed). The real reason behind this is the producers wanted to destroy the D so that they could build a new Enterprise that would look better in the cinema format for the next film, but they could have come up with a better way to do it.
- In the episode The Doomsday Machine, Kirk destroys the machine by getting the Constellation's impulse engines to overload and detonate when Kirk pilots the ship into it, but no one ever thinks of firing phasers or photon torpedoes into the opening rather than at its hull, which would have accomplished the same thing and would have been much easier.
- M-16 users in Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 never once use the M-203 grenade launchers that are usually attached to their M-16s, even when faced with squads of Jaffa. In addition, the standard hand-held grenades are almost never used, despite multiple situations throughout both series where a single M67 grenade would eliminate their opposition. Even the M67 grenades "forget their powers" when the one grenade explosion in SGA Season 3, Phantoms, doesn't even damage Shepard, despite the 6 sticks of dynamite equivalent of the grenade and the blast being less than 15 feet away and nothing between the metal fragments lofted by the blast and Shepard. (At that close range, the effect would be somewhat like a hummingbird being hit by a 12 gauge shotgun blast.)
- In the sixth season finale, Castiel needs a way to ensure that Sam, Dean, and Bobby do not interfere with his plan to open a door to Purgatory. He has the power to render people unconscious with a touch. He could also teleport them to the other side of the planet, so they're too far away to get back in time to stop him. Or he could Reality Warp them into a room with no doors, windows, or other exits, trapping them there until he decides to release them. If he was feeling particularly pragmatic, he could even just kill them and then resurrect them afterwards. All of these are abilities he has previously demonstrated. So instead he decides to tear down the wall Death built in Sam's head to protect him from his memories of Lucifer's cage, leaving him stuck in a Battle in the Center of the Mind, and then tries to blackmail Dean and Bobby into not interfering by threatening not to heal Sam if they do. Of course, this doesn't work, Dean and Bobby interfere anyway and even Sam is able to overcome it at the last moment.
- Season 9 has a subplot where Sam is possessed by an angel and doesn't know it. As the season progresses he slowly starts realizing something is up due to strange occurrences like blocks of time he can't remember and Dean calling him Zeke. Problem is, angels possess the ability to both wipe memories and create new ones. Ezekiel could easily just delete anything that might make Sam suspicious and replace it with something benign, but he doesn't because Sam needs to be suspicious so the show can meet it's angst quota.
- In True Blood, Sookie has the ability to read most people's thoughts. There are many times where a character is able to trick her or give her false information, because she doesn't seem to remember this ability. Especially since early episodes imply that she can't turn it off. Possibly justified. Season 5 reveals that the overuse of her powers has caused them to weaken, and she mentions that her telepathy has not been as effective recently.
- In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Escape Clause", Walter Bedeker is given immortality and is unable to feel pain. Instead of setting out to have a long and happy life, he defrauds several businesses and confesses to killing his wife, which he didn't do. In court, he works to get himself convicted so he could try out the electric chair, but is then given life in prison instead, although it's not explained what he would have done after going to the electric chair. It is at this point that he uses the "Escape Clause" which causes his own death rather than face life in prison. At this point, he has apparently forgotten that in addition to being ageless, he is also invulnerable. How easy would it then be to escape from prison if he doesn't have to fear injury or death? He could wait for an opportunity and make a break for the barbed wire or electrified fence and just climb over it. What are guard dogs or gunshots to someone who is invulnerable? In the very least, he could wait it out.
- Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries uses an ability to create fog in the first few episodes and then never does it again. He also seems to have an ability to compel someone from far away which he also never uses again.
- Warehouse 13:
- Jynx is supposed to be able to detect when people are lying to him. Soon he begins to get lied to as much as the other characters without detecting anything. This ends up getting him killed, although he gets better.
- The season 2 finale has a nice subversion. H.G. Wells betrays the team, the kind of thing Pete's vibes should have picked up on as they have before. Myka later confronts him about it, and realizes that he did have such vibes, but didn't voice them because Myka trusted H.G. Wells.
- In the failed Wonder Woman TV Pilot, Wonder Woman tortures a patient for information. Couldn't she have just used, oh, I don't know....HER FREAKING MAGIC LASSO THAT MAKES PEOPLE TELL THE TRUTH?! She even throws it on the bed beforehand, and it's outright stated that her lasso can make people tell the truth! Although, depending on the particular incarnation, the lasso's powers have varied from outright forcing them to tell the truth, to being unable to lie (but they weren't compelled to answer at all), or merely letting Wonder Woman know when she's being lied to/deceived.
- In Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, the Demon Lord Kostchtchie, a brute with influence over cold, rage, and frost giants, has many powerful spell-like abilities at his disposal, including Harm, Ice Storm, Unholy Blight, and Greater Dispel Magic. But despite how powerful and useful they are, according to one source, he has such a rotten temper that he often forgets about them completely and just charges into battle with his warhammer. (Of course, with a title like The Prince of Wrath, it isn't surprising.)
- This happens in general to Dungeons & Dragons players, especially as they high higher levels and have amassed a big catalog of magical artifacts, spells, and such. Forgetting about fantastic powers and resorting to mundane utility is one of the many jokes surround the 10-foot pole.
- Exalted players, especially in high-Essence games, can have characters with so many Charms that they can't remember all of the ones they have, let alone what all of them do. This can result in players realizing, after the fact, that the mess they just got themselves into could have been completely avoided if only they'd used a Charm they forgot about.
- An article in Dragon #135 described an incident in a Marvel Super Heroes RPG campaign where a supervillain had captured all the PCs, neutralized their known powers, and was preparing to use them as a power source for a magical ritual. At the very last minute, one of the players remembered their character had a Psychic Link with a hawk that they rarely, if ever, used. The GM ruled that since the player almost forgot about that ability, the villains didn't know about it (and hence didn't neutralize it). The player had the hawk fly into the villain's headquarters and free one of the heroes, who freed the rest of the team, and the newly released heroes defeated the surprised villains.
- The 4th Edition era Champions supplament Golden Age Heroes includes a superman expy that had, among his other powers, super intelligence that only kicked in if he made an intelligence roll at his normal default. It was explained that he had to remember he had super-intelligence in order to use it.
- A particularly egregious example at the very beginning of Red Faction: Armageddon. The terrorist Adam Hale, who Darius Mason was sent to stop, detonates Mars' terraformer which reduces the surface of Mars to an uninhabitable wasteland. This also indirectly leads to the release of the Plague (and starts the plot). It all happens immediately after the tutorial, where Mason was instructed on how to use his wrist-mounted repair tool. Mason doesn't think to just use it to repair the Terraformer, and his commander doesn't suggest it at all. Neither does the AI living in the repair tool itself. At the very end of the game, your wrist-mounted AI friend tells you that you can go up and repair the terraformer, which would conveniently kill off the Plague as well. No reason is given as to why Mason couldn't have done that at the very beginning.
- In Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, Maya never thinks to try channeling any spirits for assistance during the group's stay in Labyrinthia. Granted, she could very easily be accused of witchcraft and executed if she was spotted channeling by the wrong person, so it's probably for the best in this case, but knowing how exciteable Maya gets about helping, it's a wonder she never brought the idea up.
- At one point in Chrono Trigger, the characters are disarmed and rendered helpless. Ayla can still fight with her fists, but Robo forgets about his inbuilt lasers, and the rest of the party forgets how to use MAGIC until they're rearmed.
- Fate/stay night:
- It's not entirely Lancer's fault considering he's been ordered not to just kill everyone, but he never does net a kill with his Noble Phantasm — the only time he kills someone (Shirou in the intro, himself and Kotomine in UBW) is when he's doing regular stabbing.
- Gilgamesh is the king of this trope, but it's justified due to his massive pride: He just never considers anyone 'worthy' of going all out on.
- How many times can Spyro the Dragon forget he can breathe flames at the start of a new game in his series?
- Silver Surfer in the game of the same name for NES. The guy obviously forgets that he has cosmic powers, and tries to attack the bad guys normally. And is a One-Hit-Point Wonder. The result is legendary even among the Nintendo Hard games of the era. It's almost Bullet Hell with none of that genre's saving graces.
- Daikatana: "You can't attack me, this is the same sword from two different parts of time and will destroy the universe!" "Damn, if only I had some other weapons on me..."
- During the climax scene of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Sveta briefly forgets she's an Adept and has to be prompted to use her powers by Tyrell.
- Max Payne:
- In 2's Chapter 2, Max will single-handedly clear out an abandoned office building full of cleaners. Then he's forced to leap out a window to avoid an explosion, and the rest of the chapter is spent playing as Mona providing cover fire for Max. He'll get pinned down behind barriers several times over the next several levels and will be helpless until Mona can take out the lone man firing on him.
- In 3 Max finally tracks down Fabiana as wells as Marcello, both held hostage by multiple gangsters, as he knew they would be throughout his entire investigation. He has the element of surprise, is heavily armed, and he's...well, Max Payne, a dynamite gun fighter who makes Time Itself his bitch when he has to. He walks directly into the room, gets disarmed, captured, and his failure gets both of the siblings murdered in front of him. He even acknowledges that he's kind of a screw-up.
- Also in 3, there's a portion where you have to take a sniper rifle and guard Passos as he runs from paramilitary thugs. Somehow, Passos forgets that he's a perfectly capable gunman and doesn't bother picking up any of the guns the dead goons drop.
- At the very end of Dead Space 3 Isaac and Carver meet the leader of Unitology who is holding Ellie hostage, threatening to kill her. To dissuade him, Carver gives him the MacGuffin, allowing the maniac to free the Eldritch Abomination, potentially dooming the entire humankind. Now, what about using the damn stasis? You know, that power that allows them to almost freeze the target for an easy kill?.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, this is an actual plot point. Due to being mind-wiped by the Jedi Council, the protagonist aren't aware of how they are able to understand so many languages, are so good with technology, and have to slowly rediscover their force abilities throughout the game.
- Mass Effect:
- This happens a few times with a tech/biotic Shepard. Due to being the leader, they tend to assign squadmates to a task instead, which perhaps makes sense when you have an AI that can hack anything, or a centuries-old asari biotics master. However, there are a few occasions where Shep really would benefit from using their powers, and doesn't. There is literally only one aversion in the entire series; in Mass Effect 3's "Omega" DLC, an Engineer Shepard can use a Paragon Interrupt to Take a Third Option when presented with a certain Sadistic Choice.
- One occasion where it seems particularly silly is during Lair of the Shadow Broker, when Tela Vasir plunges out of a window with Shepard. She uses biotic pulses to push Shep away, causing them to smack into the ground while she floats down safetly. A biotic Shepard should at least be able to try and counter this. One small, but pleasant aversion is that sometimes in cutscenes, when the party threatens someone, most members pull a gun, but the biotics often glow. Occasionally, biotic Shepard will be included.
- Kaidan likewise tends to forget his biotics in cutscenes. This is because remembering them would cause his character arc to deviate too much from Ashley's.
- Dragon Age:
- Dragon Age: Origins sometimes has the Warden forget their own abilities, and the rest of the world forget them too. For example - Wynne and Morrigan can suggest alternative healing options for Brother Genitivi's injured leg, but a Spirit Healer Warden can't. Likewise in the sequel, Hawke often forgets if s/he is a blood mage. Fortunately, Hawke often remembers his/her class in general though.
- A Dalish Elf Inquisitor in Dragon Age: Inquisition will forget they can read Dalish perfectly well and don't need either Morrigan or Solas to translate Dalish murals for them. Word of God is that this was caused by a scripting error.
- Shiki tends to forget that his Mystic Eyes allow him to kill anything in Kagetsu Tohya. While most of it can be justified (it does cause damage to his physical and metal state when he uses it) there are a few moments where he would be in a worse scenario than if he didn't use them.
- In The Binding of Isaac, it's quite easy for the player to forget that they can fly, or shoot through solid rock, or effortlessly take out an entire roomful of enemies every six rooms, because they're so used to not having those abilities.
- In Xenogears, there are several occasions where gears are shown as being capable of flight. Not just short bursts either, but for prolonged periods. It would have REALLY been helpful if ANYONE in your party remembered that prior to the hair-pulling, rage-inducing vertical platforming in the Tower of Babel. Because they sure as Hell remember it RIGHT AFTERWARDS...
- Tales of Destiny 2: Karell Berselius gets impaled fighting Miktran and dies of his wounds after a prolonged death speech when TWO healers were standing right in front of him, apparently helpless to act. Harold does have the excuse of being warned her brother had to die to preserve history, but Atwight does not.
- An odd version in Star Wars: The Old Republic brought on by Going Through the Motions. Player characters often draw their weapons in cutscenes, but typically forget their offhand weapons if they have them (partially because only two out of eight advanced classes dual wield in the first place). In the worst case, a Gunslinger's/Mercenary's second pistol or a Sentinel's/Marauder's second lightsaber is visibly sitting there on their hip as they prepare for battle or execute a downed enemy.
- A common problem in Crypt Of The Necrodancer. Because you need to move with the beat, it's easy to completely forget that you, say, have food or a spell that can save you in the heat of the moment.
- Played for Laughs in Fire Emblem Awakening, in Nah's Paralogue. She gets freaked out by a statue and then runs from a Risen... only to calm down and tell herself, "Wait a minute, this is silly. I can turn into a dragon."
- Admit it, you do this if you play modern video games. Think about it. How many times has your character been killed because of an enemy or obstacle you could have gotten past with an item that was in your inventory?
There's an insidious thought that frequently goes through the minds of gamers [...] that goes, "But I might need it later" — the niggling little doubt that prevents you from using all your most powerful insurance policies in case there's some kind of no-claims bonus at the end of it all. So we have scenarios where you're sitting on a nuclear stockpile to shame North Korea and are throwing peas at a giant robot crab on the off-chance that there might be a bigger giant robot crab just around the corner.
- In Pooh's Adventures, if Pooh has anyone with superpowers, expect them to forget about those when the time is right.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged lampshades this whenever possible, given how many times the source material did it.
(Piccolo stretches his arms to attack an enemy)
Nail: Whoa! I didn't know we could do that!
Piccolo: Yeah, I forget about it sometimes too.
- And further lampshaded in Super Android 13 Abridged.
Gohan: Uh, why did it take so long for them to [go Super Saiyan]?
Krillin: You know, I stopped asking that question a long time ago.
- And further lampshaded in Super Android 13 Abridged.
- In Enter The Farside it's averted and justified with the main protagonist Shaun Larson. Shaun has never had an opportunity to use his powers in his day to day life, because he simply has never needed to. After some training, Shaun is beginning to understand what else he can be capable of.
- Looney Tunes:
Bugs: I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can fly. (crash) Nope, I guess not.
- When's the last time Daffy Duck flew under his own power? This was lampshaded in the short The Million Hare, as Bugs Bunny witnesses Daffy plunging off a cliff, which was recycled so John Madden could make the same observation in Big Game XXIX.
Madden: That's a good observation by Bugs. Why isn't Daffy using his God-given abilities?
- Similarly, in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Daffy feels he's helpless and wishes that Duck Dodgers was there to save the day. Then he remembers that he's Duck Dodgers.
- And the flying thing gets lampshaded again in the Duck Dodgers episode "The Green Loontern". With the power of a Green Lantern ring, Dodgers makes a speech about how he now has the ability to fly, which his ancestors could only dream of ... while a flock of ducks pass behind him.
- On a related note, Woody Woodpecker would do the same thing. In one cartoon, he actually commented that sometimes he forgets he's a bird.
- Kim Possible. In the episode "Blush" the "Wade-bot" launches itself off a cliff in the Amazon with Ron and Rufus, however Wade only remembers after the leap that he forgot to install the parachute. Just a few minutes earlier in the same episode the Wade-bot had a hang-glider attachment to save Ron and Rufus from plummeting down a waterfall, and conveniently forgets about this gizmo once its could be useful again.
- In one episode of Xiaolin Showdown, where Dojo is under the madness that strikes him every 600 years, he swallows the monks, Jack, and Wuya. Eventually, the monks find the two villains in Dojo's cavernous stomach, Jack being close to panic. Jack asks Wuya why she, being a spirit, can't just fly out; Wuya thinks about it, says "Good point," and does so. (Leaving Jack behind, much to his regret.)
- To move the Idiot Plot of a typical episode of The Fairly OddParents, either Cosmo and Wanda's magical wands are stolen, or more commonly Timmy has to stupidly forget that he is able to alter reality on a whim. Naturally this has been lampshaded quite a few times. For example, in the episode "Where's Wanda" Timmy proceeds to turn the world into Film Noir and become a detective in order to track Wanda down... when he could have easily just wished her back. He notes, "All I had was my trenchcoat, hat, and an unlimited supply of magical wishes. The odds were against me." Also lampshaded in "Nectar of the Odds": Timmy unsuccessfully tries to make his lemonade taste better using cheese, taco sauce, peas, and chocolate laxatives. While Timmy goes to the bathroom (after trying the laxatives), Wanda wonders why he doesn't just wish for sweeter lemonade.
- Father Time is probably the most egregious example. If Timmy had simply wished for his father's trophy to be unmelted by heat vision, the episode's plot could've been resolved in five seconds.
- Similarly, there are too many times to count in Danny Phantom where Danny seemingly forgets that he has the ability to become invisible or intangible at will. Early on it made sense due to it being clear he was still getting used to his abilities, and sometimes it was played for humor, but it seemed strange he would still sometimes forget this fact even in the later episodes.
- Justice League:
- While this was a regular occurrence for characters, the Martian Manhunter is the king of this trope. He has the ability to transform into whatever Super Strong forms he can imagine — an ability he uses three times in the entire series. He'll stare at incoming projectiles with a surprised look on his face instead of turning intangible, or super solid or transforming into a form that cannot be so easily hit. In the season finale, Brainiac is holding everyone in an iron grip with tentacles. They struggle for an unreasonable time before J'onn remembers that he can turn intangible at will. In the Silver Age comics, he had even more powers, with new ones popping up all the time. Somehow, he just never used them with the slightest tactical sense. On the other hand, with powers ranging from Super Strength to making ice cream with your mind, it's hard to create conflict.
- Superman never, ever remembers he has super speed, period. The many, many instances where Superman would be felled by an electrical field, despite the fact that he is supposed to be invulnerable. This got to be so bad that in the second season the writers actually started to show less of Superman getting taken out by an electrical shock or something along those lines, and more of his invulnerable side. There's also the many times when he and Supergirl could easily solve a problem by just using heat vision. Even when their opponent is nonliving they seem to forget that they're capable of this.
- In one episode, Flash has most of his body encased in ice by a villain. Too bad he was too distracted trading barbs with the villain to remember he could vibrate his limbs at super speed and would be able to melt the ice.
- And if you think the above examples are bad, you should watch the old Superfriends some time. "Gee, Jayna, here we are trapped under the foot of a giant space monster, touching each other. If only we had, I don't know, some kind of superpower that would allow you to turn into a small animal and me into something which could flow through the claws, we could escape!" Seanbaby, as you can assume, mocked this liberally.
"Don't be too quick to judge Superman's alzheimers problems, though. You probably forget about your powers sometimes too. You can't fly, but you have the ability to learn to waterski, bake, watch baseball, and put objects in your ass. If Lex Luthor came at you with a mind deconfribrulator, you'd be so scared you'd totally forget to learn to waterski. Also, you probably wouldn't jam anything into your ass. See? You forgot about at least TWO super powers, smartass."
- In Teen Titans, Raven is easily the most overpowered of the five, which is made glaringly obvious in season 4. As such, this is the only way to keep the entire team necessary. Raven often conveniently forgets that she can fly, and teleport in situations where those powers would be highly useful, and stop time. She also rarely uses her telekinesis to restrain opponents or hurl them away from the scene of a battle, rather than just tossing debris at them. She's done it before, to both allies and enemies, so it's not an issue of being unable. There's only one episode where she concentrates and simply cuts the baddie's armor with her power. One. Several times she's proven to be much more powerful than the entire Green Lantern Corp put together, other times she's almost helpless. It's not helped by one episode explicitly stating that her powers go haywire if her emotions do, and despite her stoic facade her emotions are often tempestuous.
- No matter how many missions the characters in Code Lyoko go on, they always seem to forget that, first and foremost, while on Lyoko one cannot die from lasers and swords, they can only be devirtualized. They will also forget their most important abilities at the worst times.
- For example, Aelita could use her Creativity power to create terrain barriers around herself, but even in dangerous situations where she has enough time, she quite often forgets that she can do this. She is the most obvious offender, but the others are often guilty as well. Aelita also forgets that XANA will NOT kill her starting with Season 2, despite this being proven in the first third of the season. The "dying" thing is somewhat justified though. While they do just devirtualize, it's implied they can't go right back into Lyoko. It's also implied that Aelita using her powers too often or to make something really big exhausts her. It's not so much that she forgets her power, it's that using Creativity is Cast from Hit Points and each use costs 50 of her 100 points. Though this is more an Informed Flaw than anything else.
- Ulrich is a much worst offender. When he was first introduced, his Triplicata allowed him to summon two illusion of himself to trick the enemy. In season 2, it was upgraded so they could fight and hurt enemies of their own, with Ulrich once defeating an entire army of monsters thanks to it. Comes season 4, he forgets the upgrade when fighting William (who easily devirtualizes the real one) before forgetting the power altogether for the whole season. He doesn't uses it again until Code Lyoko: Evolution, and when he does, it's portrayed as just the illusion trick.
- In one episode of Darkwing Duck, Nega-Duck uses a device to steal the powers from the other four members of the Fearsome Five, and then escapes from the presumed escape-proof super-villain prison by using the Liquidator's control of water to part the waters of the bay and walk to the mainland. As Darkwing and the four villains watch, the Liquidator remarks, "Now why didn't I think of that?"
- This seems to be a staple of Drawn Together, especially in regards to Captain Hero, who takes this to The Ditz levels. More often than not though, he is just sociopathic.
- In The Mighty Hercules cartoon series of the 1960's, Hercules had a magic ring that would endow him "with the strength of ten ordinary men" (according to his theme song). Along with invulnerability and superhuman reflexes. In each episode, Hercules would go to fight the episode's monster and get the snot beaten out of him. And then he would remember he has the ring.
- Cheetara from The ThunderCats (2011) constantly forgets her Super Speed that can instantly defeat most of their enemies. 1980s Cheetara forgets the same thing. Partially justified in that her Anointment Trial episode shows her having a limited upper endurance. But most of the battles aren't that long.
- Winx Club:
- Apparently Bloom forgot about her healing powers in the 24th episode of the fourth season, since she didn't do anything to try to save Nabu.
- The Winx get backed off a cliff in the Omega Dimension in season three. No explanation is given for why they don't use their wings.
- There's also an episode in the first season (towards the end) where the girls go to Domino/Sparx. At the end of the first part (it's a two-part episode), Bloom, who's currently powerless, is about to fall into a chasm. Stella was transformed at this time and could've easily flown over and grabbed Bloom, yet she didn't! Or could have used the Telekinesis she only showed once.
- Darcy has proved herself strong enough to open a fissure in the ground by stomping and capable to create fires that Bloom (who has the explicit power as the most powerful fire user of the series) can't put off (the only other time this happens it's by use of the fire part of the all-powerful Spell of Elements). She never repeated either performance.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars. All too often the Jedi Knights seem to forget that they have the ability to lift anything as heavy as a spaceship without touching it, jump high distances, and possess lightning quick reflexes. Curiously these bouts of stupidity come up when they're fighting a Badass Normal character such as Cad Bane (who seems to have the unofficial power of handing the Idiot Ball to anybody he's fighting at the moment), whom you think a Jedi could reduce to a pile of disembodied limbs within seconds. And of course it is not a coincidence that this always happens when around the series' original characters.
- Parodied on The Powerpuff Girls when the townspeople chase Buttercup. She starts running from them before reassessing the situation and flying away.
- Played painfully straight in the very first episode of the 2016 series: the earth shatters and the girls fall down into the resulting chasm. Once again, the Powerpuff Girls, who can not only fly, but fly fast enough to rupture space-time, fall into a pit.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series,
- In one episode Doctor Octopus kidnaps Felicia Hardy and J. Jonah Jameson and holds them for ransom. Despite Super Strength explicitly being one of his powers, Spider-Man tries to untie the ropes instead of just breaking them, giving Doc Ock time to step in and stop him.
- The same thing happens in the "Partners" storyline. Smythe has Black Cat bound and gagged in an electrified bubble, with the gag obviously preventing her from warning Spider-Man about the trap. She doesn't think to use her razor sharp claws to remove the ropes and gag until after the trap has already rendered Spidey unconscious.
- The Fantastic Four (1978) had Magneto unable to use his magnetic powers against a (fake wooden) gun. He suddenly concludes that his powers are gone. This is stupid enough itself, but he fails to use them even after being told it was a trick and the cops are arresting him. Cops with real guns, handcuffs and police cars.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- Twilight Sparkle is an extremely gifted and versatile magician but constantly seemingly forgets spells she's used in the past without any trouble that certainly seem applicable.
- In the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen". Twilight Sparkle is forced to take a leap of faith off a cliff to escape a Hydra when she mysteriously forgets she can teleport, as has been seen in at least two previous episodes, including the pilot. This happens anytime the plot requires her to be threatened by some impending doom. It is occasionally justified by her being under a great deal or stress at the time, such as a later example where she is blocked by a simple locked gate. While she can still teleport while under stress (indeed, she does it a lot in one case), her ability to make sound judgments has a tendency to nosedive under certain circumstances, usually those that involve her losing control or worrying too much.
- In Putting Your Hoof Down, Fluttershy once again forgets that she can fly, getting stuck behind two ponies blocking the bridge over the river she needs to cross.
- More a case of Forgot About Her Reputation, but in "It's About Time", it never occurred to Twilight that, as the personal student of the ruler of Equestria, that she would have free access to the royal library. Instead, she tries to sneak in. Of course, Twilight is the only one who forgets this, and when she is recognized by a guard, he amiably greets her and unlocks the door to the restricted section of the library for her. As noted above, this one can be excused by the fact that she hasn't slept for several days and is deep into a nervous breakdown at this point. Paranoid delusions would not be surprising in that state.
- The changelings from A Canterlot Wedding on their own are basically watered-down alicorns, having both flight and magic-based attacks. They seemingly forget this when they decide to attack the Mane 6 by shapeshifting into them, which disables one or both of these abilities depending on who they have turned into. To make matters worse, their shapeshifting works too well as the Changelings seem to be unable to tell themselves apart from the real deals, and when you're trying to find just six real ponies among dozens of imposters, it isn't easy. It wasn't until they actually dumped this strategy that they were finally able to overwhelm and defeat the Mane Six.
- In "The Crystal Empire, part 2" Twilight and Spike need to climb an incredibly long stair-case, and was complaining about it. Just as the viewers are wondering why she doesn't teleport, or at least levitate herself upwards, she decides to instead use a new power; gravity reversal!
- In "Bats!" both Rarity and Twilight should have been able to yank Flutterbat out of the sky with telekinesis rather than chasing her around and finally relying on an elaborate trap. Of course, they never do. What makes it even worse is that they are clearly shown using telekinesis other times in the very same episode.
- Parodied in "Wonderbolts Academy" when Fluttershy, the one pegasus from the hot air balloon, needs to be rescued from the fall along with her friends. Cue her sheepishly fluttering away from her rescuer who is also nnoyed when they notice her wings. This is consistent with past demonstrations that her wings lock when she's sufficiently scared, in a strange inversion of what seems to be a normal Pegasus reaction of raised wings.
- In "Rarity takes Manehattan" Twilight doesn't even try using her princess authority to help Rarity get a taxi. Or teleport her around. Rainbow doesn't try to fly her, or Applejack pull her in a cart...
- Even Discord, arguably Equestria's World's Strongest Man (that is, on his own, and not from an Amplifier Artifact, Energy Absorption, etc.), tends to just become a deer in headlights whenever seriously caught off-guard. Though he does try to subvert this at the end of "Three's a Crowd" — in a Freeze-Frame Bonus, he apparently overcomes his shock from the Tatzlwurm's Jump Scare appearance enough to go for a Badass Fingersnap (his main spellcasting method), though the beast sneezes on him and makes him seriously ill before he can follow through in time.
- At the beginning of "Stranger Than Fan Fiction", Daring Do seemingly forgets she can fly, reacting fearfully when the rickety Rope Bridge she is crossing starts breaking. Of course, as soon as it collapses, she just flies the rest of the way. This is later lampshaded with Rainbow Dash in the same episode (unfortunately, Quibble Pants can't fly).
- This happens to a number of characters in X-Men: Evolution. The worst offender is Kitty, who seems to forget that she can become intangible with some regularity. Xavier also seems to forget that he has telepathy sometimes. Wolverine is constantly surprised by people sneaking up on him even through he can smell people from a distance.
- Jake the Dog from Adventure Time often forgets that he has the seemingly unlimited ability to grow, shrink, stretch, and otherwise change his shape. Which would solve the central conflict of many episodes very easily. Unlike most examples of this trope, this is justified: he is an idiot. Jake provides an alternative justification in "Box Prince", where he explains to BMO that he doesn't always use stretching when it could solve his problems because then he wouldn't have enough challenges in his life for it to be interesting.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Toph, despite having highly toned senses through Earthbending, can't figure out that the group is walking into a trap at Lake Laogai or that it's actually Azula and not Ozai waiting for them in "The Day of Black Sun", despite both the trap and Azula being in caves made mostly of rock and dirt. Admittedly there are Earthbenders in both traps, who have a similar sense, so they might know of a way to mask themselves.
- The sequel series, The Legend of Korra, has Mako, who is fully capable of lightning bending but only rarely actually uses that ability.
- You could be forgiven for forgetting that metal bending is a specialized version of earth bending, because the metal bending police force certainly has. They seem so entirely focused on using their metal tethers that they are completely useless against a threat they cannot physically restrain. Resulting in scenes in the first season where a dozen or so expert earth benders are being defeated by mechs because they forget they have better powers in their arsenal than simply wrapping metal ropes around it and hoping their fleshy human bodies are enough to stop it.
- Ben 10:
- Ben starts out with 10 possible alien forms, each one with their own powers, and only got more as the story went on. Sometimes, the trope is justified by the Omnitrix screwing with him by not giving him the right form, but others he just seems to fail to realize one form would be more fitting than another for a specific situation. Ben 10: Omniverse puts it further, where he seemed to have forgotten he can just watch the dial to see what form he is about to use.
- It used to be that once Ben transformed, he was stuck that way until the Omnitrix timed out. As the series progressed, he gained the ability to change directly from one form to another, or to manually revert back to human and select a different alien (as the cooldown time is typically ignored when it's not necessary to the plot). Yet he will still often change into an alien he doesn't want and just ride it out rather than reselect. While this could be chalked up to the Omnitrix's temperamental nature preventing him from switching, Word of God says there are no such problems with the model he has in Omniverse.
- Humongousaur stands out as a particular offender. When first introduced, he was a Size Shifter capable of growing to incredible sizes. This ability apparently was forgotten after Vengeance of Vilgax. This may have been to keep the character from having too much role overlap with Way Big.
- This trope wasn't limited to Ben, either. Gwen had a serious tendency to forget she could fly and had telekinesis in Alien Force and Omniverse, focusing more on just creating shields and energy blasts. In Omniverse, when she gains the Charm of Bezel granting her telekinesis, she reacts in awe like if this was something completely new, even though at this point she has already shown several times she can easily do that of her own.
- A particularly ridiculous case in the Galactic Monster story arc of Omniverse. Zs'Skayr gets several occasions where he could easily possess Ben and doesn't bother even trying, even though this was the whole point of his goal in all his previous appearance, and, when his mind-controlled minions seize him, struggles using his scythe to get out of their graps even though he has the ability to turn intangible. Later, the climax ends up being a fight between Ghostfreak's minions and Ben's allies, where two characters involved have Make Me Wanna Shout abilities, one has Shock and Awe and another has a whole body made of Combat Tentacles. They spend the entire fight brawling like regular humans.
- Thanks to Fanderson's Chris Bentley for this one - let's take a look at "The Legend" from Gerry Anderson's Lavender Castle, about a spaceship whose crew is searching for the titular pink-ish abode. If you are a spaceship captain and know where the castle can be seen at a specific time, do you a) have your ship fly directly to that location and wait, or b) have them set you down and walk miles to it? If you said a), you are not Captain Thrice. No wonder Anderson didn't care much for the series.
- Dexter's Laboratory. Dexter often winds up feeling some karmic justice when he involves himself directly in things he could probably just invent his way around (for instance trying to find out what Dee Dee was doing up in the tree; rather than building some kind of spybot that could go up into the tree on his behalf he instead dresses up as a bird and gets himself trapped, giving Dee Dee the pretense necessary to screw around in his lab).
- On Archer, Ray Gilette acquires bionic legs early in the fourth season, and on at least one occasion, forgets that he has them when they might come in handy. At one point, this leads to him screwing up his back while trying to lift something heavy, because he had tried to lift with his back.
- During a Flashback in Transformers Prime, Arcee and Cliffjumper decide to run into a Space Bridge to escape a collapsing lair, instead of transforming into vehicles and driving towards it. There is an out-of-universe reason for this: the scene takes place on Cybertron when they still turned into their original alien vehicle forms, and the characters were only designed with an Earth-based vehicle mode. But it still makes little sense in-universe.
- Fantastic Voyage:
- The team members have small Comm Links that they sometimes use to communicate with each other when separated. However, in a number of episodes they completely forget about them and don't use them even though it would be beneficial to do so.
- The Voyager (the Cool Plane the team travels around in) is shown in various episodes as having both missiles and beam weapons. In many episodes the team doesn't even think of using them in dangerous situations even though they would have been very helpful.
- The team's equipment includes Jet Packs that allow them to fly. However, in quite a few episodes the team forgets they have them and ends up having to walk around or climb high objects while miniaturized, even though the Jet Packs were available.
- Once lampshaded hilariously in an episode of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy. Eddy's response to taking the simple solution?
"What? And ruin the plot?"
- The Crystal Gems in Steven Universe forget all about their ranged attacks, and even throwing Amethyst, whenever Peridot activates her Pericopter to escape. When asked on Twitter, writer Matt Burnett admitted that the Gems could have caught her, but they have a lot more episodes to fill. The Gems finally learn their lesson in time for "Catch & Release".
- In the season finale of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Star calls the police when Marco gets kidnapped by her enemies, but the officer who comes doesn't believe her story and thinks she's just a little girl playing pretend, talks down to her, and leaves. A frustrated Star just lets him leave and decides to rescue Marco herself. It never occurs to her to demonstrate her powers to him.
- In the two-part episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) episode where the Snake Men are freed, the villains retake Snake Mountain in all of five minutes, with Snake-Face using his powers to turn Skeletor's henchmen into stone with his gaze. However, when the Snake Men storm Greyskull later, Snake-Face, for some unfathomable reason, delays using this lethal ability until he goes up against He-Man, choosing to fight Mekanek with Good Old Fisticuffs. Say what? (To drive home the point on how absurd this was, the comic book adaptation changed it, and he did use his gaze on Mek; fortunately, in this case, when his gaze was reflected back on him by He-Man and he got a taste of his own medicine, the effect on his victims wore off.
- Uncle Grandpa: Uncle Grandpa constantly forgets that he can be in two places at the same time. Other characters repeatedly take his being in one place as proof that he isn't also in another place.