Late to the Realization

"The audience loves the slow thinker."

In any form of comedy and/or drama, whether it be Eastern or Western, important characters will be painfully oblivious to the events that are occurring right in front of him or her. Usually but not always happens to main characters, it is up to the rest of the cast, way before the revelation is necessary, to figure out the painfully obvious characteristic of the new personality, or find out a clue so shocking, that it canít refuse to be overlooked. Instinctively, said support will try any which way to get the information known to the leading man/woman, with unsuccessful results. When the main character eventually does find out what the others have been trying to tell him/her, one of the two outcomes will happen, depending on the situation:

  1. If in a comedy, the character will step back, stunned, and contemplate the news before properly freaking out.
  2. If in a drama, the character will usually be confronted by the villain, who will deliver a pre-mortem or James Bond-esque zinger, with the main character attempting a desperate What the Hell, Hero? or "The Reason You Suck" Speech, with results that vary wildly with each work.

Subtrope of Idiot Hero, Too Dumb to Live, Late to the Punchline and Genre Blindness. May involve some elements of Failure Is the Only Option, and might become a Running Gag if used on more than one occasion. For the romantic varieties of this, see Everyone Can See It ("It" being the fact that a couple is in love/attracted to each other, which is a known fact to everyone except the couple) and Oblivious to Love (where one person is oblivious to either someone else's affections, or the stirrings of their own heart.) If it becomes the entire character's mindset, it is destined to become Flanderization.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime And Manga  

  • A visual example in the first episode of Ouran High School Host Club, Tamaki was the very last person to figure out that Haruhi was a girl, visualized by the six lightbulbs, Tamaki's being the sixth and final one to light up, at which point the camera pulls back to show that the bulbs spell out the kanji for woman. The rest of the Host Club had a hell of a good time making fun of him for that.
  • Gourry from Slayers becomes known for doing this a few times across the series. It'll take him numerous episodes for him to make the connection that someone is the bad guy. This length of time almost crosses into Brick Joke territory for taking so long.
  • In his debut episode in Axis Powers Hetalia, Sealand went for a whole 3/4's of the episode believing that the countries were ignoring him just to be jerks. It takes him to the last quarter of the episode, while nicely enjoying a meal with himself, that the reason that the other countries ignored him is because he hasn't been recognized as a country himself.
  • The thirteenth episode of Baccano!! ends with Isaac and Miria finally catching on to the fact that they've stopped aging... after seventy-two years.
  • In One Piece
    • At the start of the Drum Island arc, most of the crew realize that the temperatures were dropping as they approached the winter-seasoned island and take appropriate measures to keep themselves warm before they even reach the dock. At first they spend a little time in the village so they get to know what is going on around the island and gather supplies for the long trip up to the mountain in the center of the island. After leaving the village, roughly three hours into the trek up the mountain, Luffy finally realizes that its cold.
    • Surprisingly both played straight, subverted, and averted within the span of a few minutes during the halfway point of Luffy and Foxy's match during the Groggy Boxing round of the Davy Back Fight. While hunting down Foxy in his own cabin, who (Foxy) had just used his Foxy Face Transformation in an attempt to throw Luffy off. Luffy runs into a random room where he crosses paths with Foxy, who is donning a ridiculously-oversized Paper-Thin Disguise of a woman's mask. Luffy, being the Idiot Hero that he is, actually falls for it, only to walk out for a few seconds and then put the connection that the "woman" had the same chin as Foxy, bringing his own train of thought to the conclusion that the "woman" that he just encountered was Foxy's sister. Luffy still holds on to this belief, even after Foxy launches a surprise attack and makes a break for it right in front of his face,believing that Foxy's "sister" was purposely distracting Luffy from Foxy's "true whereabouts.".
  • In SD Gundam Force episode "Undercover Mission! Learn the Gundam Force's Secrets!", a pair of Zako Soldiers show up at Shute's house, both in a Paper-Thin Disguise, claiming that they are reporters who want to interview the Gundam Force. The Force quickly sees through their act...except for Bakunetsumaru, who's tickled pink to be on television. Later, after the Zako throw off their 'disguises'...
    Bakunetsumaru: They are Zako Soldiers in disguise!
    Captain: (While Zero and Shute Face Fault) Are you saying that you just figured that out?

     Fan Works  

  • In Spots Off, Adrien tells Marinette that he's been in love with Ladybug, and by extension, her, since Stoneheart, and she responds by leaning in to kiss him. But it's not until a few minutes later, when he sees his photo in a collage on her computer desktop, that he starts to realise just how long she's liked him back. She privately acknowledges that a kiss isn't quite the same thing as a confession, but it still should have clued him in. She then clarifies that she's had a crush on him since just after the gum incident, and to his credit he does manage to make the connection with the time he gave her his umbrella.


  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End:
    • When Tia Dalma uses her sand crabs to locate and bring Jack back to the crew of the Black Pearl, it takes a while for "Witty Jack" to figure out that his ship is suddenly being ferried, without effort, across Davy Jones' Locker. It takes even longer for him to realize that the ship is moving at breakneck speed, and he will soon be left behind if he does not catch up.
    • Also, at the end, Jack is taking his ladies to see the Black Pearl, but they only find a dinghy. It takes him a moment to realize his ship is missing. Again.
      Scarlet: Is that it? The Black Pearl. Not very big.
      Jack Sparrow: Love, that is a dinghy. My vessel is magnificent and fierce and huge-ish... And gone. Why is it gone?


     Live-Action TV  

  • Very common on Friends with Joey, complete with the other five watching him work through the concept they all got two minutes ago.
  • Doctor Who
    • In the episode "The Pandorica Opens" the Doctor spends some time complaining to Roman Centurion Rory Williams that he's missing something obvious and that he can't quite get what it is. The fact that he's talking to someone who was erased from existence a few episodes ago and has seemingly come back to life as a Roman only hits him a few minutes later.
    • In the episode "A Good Man Goes to War", the Doctor, usually the first one to twig to what's going on in any particular situation, is the very last person to realize the implications of Amy and Rory's daughter having Time Lord DNA, having to be led through a "birds and bees" explanation by Vastra before he even understands the question being asked. Next, he fails to realize the obvious fact that his capture of Demon's Run was too easy and their recovery of said baby is a trap, having to be told by the villain. And finally, River Song has to literally hold his hand through the final reveal of her identity.
    • In the episode "Let's Kill Hitler", Mels makes a Running Gag out of the main characters not realizing what's going on with her "penny in the air", "penny drops" line. First is in the introductory flashback when Amy finally realizes that Rory is in love with her. Second is when Mels reveals to the Doctor and company what they really should have figured out a while ago: she's Melody Pond, Amy and Rory's daughter, in a new regeneration. To the Doctor's credit, he immediately recognizes the implications of this and takes precautions against her.
  • Father Ted: "THOSE WOMEN WERE IN THE NIP!!!"

     Video Games  

  • In Tales of the Drunken Paladin, we get this line from our Idiot Hero Anebriate, some time well after meeting with a new character named Karla.
    Karla: Zhat is correct, paladin. But zhat is not even zhe peculiar zhing. After zhat, zhe man stood up and valked avay.
    Anebriate: Wait, wait wait... did you just say "valked?"
    Karla: ... Yes, he valked avay. Zhat is vhat I zaid.'
  • In Psychonauts, it's only after the fight with the first brain tank that Raz realizes Oleander is the villain.
  • At one point during the "Future" arc in Tales of Graces it's revealed that Hubert has an Arranged Marriage he doesn't really want to go through with. While Malik and Richard quickly figure out the reason for this (and use the opportunity to tease the hell out of him), his brother Asbel spends the entire conversation wondering what everyone's talking about... Until he finally gets it at the end.
    Asbel: HOLY CRAP!
    Malik: I think your brother has finally figured it out. What do you think Asbel?
    Asbel: Hubert's in love with-
    Hubert: That's enough! We're done talking about this!
    • For those curious, the women in question is Pascal


  • This VG Cats comic has Cloud!Leo realizing a bit late that Vincent is gone.

     Web Animation  

  • In Eddsworld, this is said almost word for word by Tom, who in Hammer and Fail 2 states "Aaaaaaand the last horse finishes the crossing line."
  • Vegeta is prone to being the last horse in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
    Piccolo: Trunks? What are you doing here?
    Vegeta: Ha! That's a girl's name.
    Krillin: Isn't that the name of your kid?
    Vegeta: What, are you trying to imply that this wannabe Super Saiyan from the future is my saaaaaahhhhh...
  • Caboose of Red vs. Blue. Heck, just look at his name.

     Western Animation  
  • In the pre-show for Shrek 4-D, when one of The Three Little Pigs questions why the audience are in the Dungeon, Pinocchio responds, "What are WE still doing in here?!" Upon realizing that they're trapped, the pause for a moment, and then promptly freak out.
  • In a third-season episode of Family Guy, Lois Griffin stumbles upon Villain Protagonist Stewie's hidden lair while cleaning. It takes her a while for her to realize that her son is an evil genius bent on world domination, to which Stewie slowly claps his hands and says something to the effect of "And the last horse crosses the finish line", executing her. Too bad it was All Just a Dream.note 
  • American Dad! 's Stan Smith is subject to this trope. One noteworthy example is the episode "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", in which Roger had just revealed that the delicious ingredient to Francine's potato salad was breast milk from his reproductive cycle. Despite Roger giving a rather Squick-worthy demonstration, followed by several Vomit Indiscretion Shot from the Smith family, Stan was completely oblivious to what was in the salad until the next commercial break. An even bigger example is Stan didn't realize Greg and Terry were gay until it was spelled out to him over a season later.
  • King of the Hill has Dale, a Conspiracy Theorist who's too busy fixating on aliens and shadow governments to realize that his wife Nancy has been cheating on him for years with the hunky John Redcorn and that his son Joseph is biologically Redcorn's. In this case, however, the Last Horse isn't Dale but Peggy, who was the last person to learn of the affair and has to be convinced not to tell Dale (for fear that the betrayal would send him off the deep end).
    • Every so often there is an episode where the universe itself seems hell-bent on beating Dale over the head with his wife's infidelity to finally make him realize it, only for him to miss the point entirely. For instance, he once realized that nine months before Joseph was born, he was off in the desert chasing a UFO sighting. He ended up coming to the conclusion that Nancy was impregnated by the aliens he was chasing, and therefore Joseph is half-alien. Later he changes this theory to include the aliens abducting him and using his own sperm to impregnate Nancy, mostly because Joseph believed Dale's alien theory and was feeling bummed about it.
    • Another episode had John Redcorn, desperately trying to be a part of his son's life, take Joseph on a Native American Vision Quest. Much to Redcorn's annoyance, Dale tags along just for the hell of it. Dale ends up being the only one to have a vision, seeing a man in an elaborate Native American headdress having sex with Nancy, and then seeing Joseph being born wearing the same headdress. He comes to the only logical conclusion: "I must be Native American!"
    • Interestingly, Dale's last line of the series is ambiguous enough that it could be seen as him telling Nancy that he's known all along.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the season five episode "Deep Space Homer", it takes a full THIRTY YEARS and a few seconds to reflect on what he just said for Homer to realize the final plot twist of the original Planet of the Apes (1968), and that said planet was Earth All Along. Of course, being the brilliant man that he is, he winds up breaking down into tears at a NASA press conference, reenacting the exact same scene from the film, making the NASA officials look like complete idiots.
    • And of course, his being called "slow" at the poker table. He's left processing that thought well into the night, reacting just in time for Lenny to be getting a midnight snack. This prompts Lenny to say "Geez, you really ARE slow!"
    • Marge when finding about Patty's sexuality, not noticing the very obvious signs which included Patty making out with another woman. Lampshaded by Homer of all people.
  • Parodied in a U.S. Acres segment in Garfield and Friends where it takes Bo the sheep MONTHS to realize some bad news.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: Timmy would've been able to fix the messes he caused as a result of his wishes if he stopped Tempting Fate as well as stopped constantly thinking everything was going just as he planned as soon as things went south.
  • In Young Justice, Wally keeps trying to move in on Miss Martian, being the only one oblivious to the fact that she's already dating Superboy. Artemis finally tells him.
  • Kappa Mikey: The episode "Big Brozu" featured Ozu's Elder twin brother Brozu. Gonard spends most of the episode wondering how "Ozu" managed to be in two places at the same time.
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Phil Ken Sebben was the last one to figure out Birdgirl (whom he had been hitting on since they met) was his daughter Judy. He promptly accused her of trying to seduce him. Birdman was the second to last one to figure it out.

Alternative Title(s): Late To The Realisation, The Last Horse Crosses The Finish Line, The Slow Thinker