In certain video games, the humble Locked Door
is among the most complex devices the Player Character
is likely to encounter, requiring years of specialised training to comprehend its intricate workings. Faced with this diabolical machinery, a lesser man will turn and run in terror, their mission forever incomplete. But one of the NPCs with you has no such fears; their senses have been dulled to the terror before them. They step forward boldly. Maybe they deliver a sharp kick or shoulder barge. Maybe they pull out some lockpicks, a door-opening computerised contraption, or an explosive charge. Regardless, once they've worked their magic, the dastardly door lies forever defeated, the way forward clear.
You've just witnessed a Master of Unlocking at work.
Typically, the Master of Unlocking is a plot contrivance to explain why only certain doors can be opened
, since only the master can correctly determine which doors are vulnerable to their awe-inspiring skills; that, or the developers are trying to make NPCs appear useful without having them actually do anything. It's also used to avoid Interchangeable Antimatter Keys
. If a player character is Master of Unlocking in a game with more than one PC, it's probably to allow them into areas the others can't go. If they're the only character, their skill with certain doors is likely to just be covering up loading the next room; either that, or some doors will be harder or riskier to open than others, but have bigger rewards.
In a movie, a character whose skill with lockpicks or doors is noted is likely to have Chekhov's Skill
or Chekhov's Hobby
, with their talent being useful in a specific situation
or bought up in a stressful one.
Related to Plot Coupon
; one might be required before the Master of Unlocking can get to work, such as a set of picks or a passcard for their decoding device. Often related to Law of Conservation of Detail
if the Master is an NPC; it means the pesky player won't try to open all those doors the developer didn't put anything behind.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Tooru Amuro from Detective Conan is one of these, which is rather odd since Japanese law prohibits possession of any lockpicking tools and carries a penalty of one year imprisonment or a 500,000 yen fine.
- This is Dario's main skill in Hana no Ko Lunlun. He saves a Sicilian little girl who gets Locked in a Freezer during a hide-and-seek game, and since Lunlun witnesses this she becomes rather interested in what he can do. It turns out that years ago he helped out in a huge robbery for Healthcare Motivation reasons, and now he's a Punch Clock Villain fugitive waiting for the Statute of Limitations to kick in...
Live Action TV
- iCarly: Sam Puckett. Most often used to avert a typical sitcom Zany Scheme required to get past the door.
- The Doctor's sonic screwdriver allows him to open or unlock basically anything, be it electronic or mechanical and whether it actually has anything that can be considered a lock or not.
- Unless it's "deadlock sealed", or made of wood.
- Earlier incarnations had another weakness, namely a limit on how much force it could exert; it could shift the moving parts in an electronic or mechanical lock, but not a deadbolt or a bar across the door.
- This is the reason why Vila is so valuable to the team in Blake's 7. He's genuinely upset whenever he finds something he can't break into.
- In Hogan's Heroes, one of Newkirk's many talents is lock-picking.
- Parker of Leverage can unlock anything from safes to doors to handcuffs. Being a world-class thief, it pretty much comes with the job.
- Castle's daughter Alexis in Castle proved to be a capable picklock in the episode "Target" when she used a hairpin to break out of the cell where her kidnapper left her. Though to be fair it did take her an hour.
- In GoGo Sentai Boukenger, there was a lock-based Monster of the Week whose power was to be able to enter any place. Walls opened like portals for him, the better to steal MacGuffins without getting the heroes' attention too soon.
- In Supernatural, Dean has escaped from handcuffs no less than four times, using nearby items like paperclips and, one time, a car antenna.
- Sam used a credit card to unlock a door when he didn't have a lockpick with him.
- Sherlock Holmes in Elementary. Picking locks is one of his many hobbies, and he has quite a collection to practice on; this allows him to escape handcuffs fairly easily, among other things.
- Sherlock's sobriety sponsor Alfredo is a former ace car thief, and today tests security systems for automobile companies. Lockpicking is the most basic of his skills, and he's very good at it. Both Sherlock and Alfredo have been teaching Watson to pick locks, as well.
- Jerin of A Brother's Price is this, due to his grandmothers having been spies.
- The Weasley Twins from Harry Potter have taught themselves lockpicking for situations where magic doesn't work or would be ill-advised.
- The ability to open anything (not limited to doors) is an explicit superpower in Neverwhere, belonging to Door and her family. It comes in pretty handy.
- The first thing Door opens in the story? A portal to London Above. The second thing she opens? Somebody's chest. As in the part of the body holding the heart and lungs.
- Sasha, the protagonist of The Tenets of Futilism, can pick locks and hotwire cars with ease. She apparently learned the skill in her younger, wilder years.
- Mister Brown in the Discworld novel Hogfather is a veteran thieves' guild-affiliated lockpick, and renown in the city. Pity he decided to work with Mr. Teatime, who promptly has him killed once He Has Outlived His Usefulness.
- Iggy from Maximum Ride. Was self-taught and the only one shown to know how to pick locks. Plus he's blind.
- Jason, from The Saints, is able to use his magic to unlock doors. So far he's the only character introduced able to do so.
- In Dungeons & Dragons and other games based on it, this is the primary role of the Thief or Rogue, since bashing down doors or prying open chests is not always a wise option (bashing down doors makes noise that attracts monsters, and prying open chests can get you nailed by whatever trap the chest has protecting its contents).
- This is of course the reason that only high HP characters are allowed to pry open chests.
- This is also the reason why a ten-foot pole is a crucial piece of dungeoneering equipment.
- In general, tabletop RPGs not featuring some form or other of lockpicking skill are probably in the distinct minority due to the obvious if situational usefulness of being able to do a little breaking and entering without making noise or leaving an easily discovered trail of broken doors behind. At the same time, since only one such expert can work on a lock at a time and it's rare that multiples need to be picked simultaneously, there's little reason to have more than one or two of them in any group (with the main argument for a second already being "as backup just in case").
- In Real Life, locks are not overly complicated devices and most, especially pin tumbler locks, can be picked with some effort. Disc tumbler locks, such as Abloy, are notoriously difficult to pick. Seasoned lockpickers belong in the top notch on prison pecking order, and are respected amongst other criminals.
- When Richard Feynman was working on developing the atomic bomb, he made a hobby of cracking the safes and combination locks used to protect important documents. He mostly used various silly tricks to do it, and not technical locksmithing skills, and would sometimes leave snarky notes in supposedly secure places pointing out that they weren't.