Non-Violent Initial Confrontation

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Vinny: Then War Machine came out for a stare down with Kingdom because you see, the winners of the first great match and the winners of the second great match are now going to fight each other in the pay per view. How novel.
Bryan: Crazy.
The Bryan and Vinny Show, reviewing the 11/14/2015 Ring of Honor on SBG

"You know, we're sitting here like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face, if I'm there and I've gotta put you away? I won't like it. But I'll tell you, if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down."

Mostly an espionage trope, but may crop up in crime fiction and other thrillers. The hero and an antagonist meet in public—a society function, a casino, a coffee shop or some other venue with lots of witnesses, (or other limitations, if that might not be enough—see the Highlander example below). Other times even a few witnesses of the wrong type will prevent combat from breaking out. The hero may know who the bad guy is, and the bad guy may know what the hero is doing, but under the circumstances just shooting each other is out of the question. Instead they duel verbally, with an implied—or even explicitly stated—"the next time we meet things will be different" vibe.

The function of the scene is to build tension by establishing personal conflict between the two, not just mission-based conflict. In-story, the purpose of the scene is usually information gathering, and feeling out weaknesses of the opponent.

Related to Overt Rendezvous. Subverted by Conspicuously Public Assassination. If a subordinate antagonist is involved and genders align properly, can mutate into Duel of Seduction. A Chance Meeting Between Antagonists might turn into this, but more usually at least one of those involved is seeking the other.

A subtrope of Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene. Can easily set up We Meet Again. Compare Go-Karting with Bowser. Not related to We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill.

A commonplace in James Bond films (and novelsUmberto Eco calls this the "First Check" scene in Ian Fleming's stories).


Examples:

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    Film 
  • Goldfinger: the golf match between James Bond and Auric Goldfinger.
  • Thunderball: the gambling scene between Bond and Emilio Largo.
    • Never Say Never Again has a not surprising variation (as it used the same basic plot) with Bond and its version of Largo.
  • You Only Live Twice: the "business meeting" at Osato's chemical company.
  • Played with in For Your Eyes Only, where we don't realize it's happening, because we don't know the bad guy (Kristatos) is the bad guy yet.
  • Octopussy: auction scene involving an backgammon game between Bond and Khan.
  • A View to a Kill: the horse sale at Zorin's estate.
  • The fencing match (where the sparring is more literal) in Die Another Day.
  • In Batman Returns Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are dancing at the Max-squerade Ball when each figures out who the other is.
  • Heat: the cop (Al Pacino) and the thief (Robert De Niro) meet at a coffee shop for a private conversation.
  • Highlander: due to the rules about not fighting on sacred ground, the Highlander and the Kurgan have one of these in a NYC church.
  • Subverted in Kill Bill (part 1), The Bride and Vernita Green (Copperhead) initially agree not to fight in front of Green's daughter. That doesn't last.
  • In The Punisher (2004), the Punisher is visited by an assassin while drinking coffee in a small diner. The assassin opens the large guitar case he brought with him, but it actually contains a normal guitar rather than a weapon. He sings a song with lyrics that just barely veil why he has come here. Afterwards, the assassin and Frank Castle talk, and both go their ways (until a later scene, when they actually fight to the death).
  • Subverted in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Irene Adler arranges a meeting with Professor Moriarty in a crowded restaurant, implicitly so that they can have a civilized conversation without anybody trying to kill anybody. At the end of the conversation, Moriarty casually reveals that everybody else in the restaurant is in his pocket, and there's nothing to stop him killing her if he wants to.
  • A version shows up in The Shadow when Shiwan Khan breaks into the Shadow's hideout to ask him to join him in his plans of domination. Not public, but nonviolent.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, Danny and Benedict first meet at a restaurant and politely trade banter.
  • In X-Men, Professor Xavier encounters Erik (Magneto) Lehnsherr outside of a Congressional meeting where Jean Grey and Senator Kelly debate the mutant issue. It is established that the two men have a history, but the scene still works as a set up for the conflict between Xavier's X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Grimm episode "Cat and Mouse", characters Detective Burkhardt (the hero) and Edgar Waltz (henchman to the Nebulous Evil Organization, the Verrat) agree to meet in a public place. Unbeknownst to Burkhardt, he's already met Waltz when Waltz was pretending to be a witness to a nasty murder he in fact committed. See Burkhardt figure that out is part of the reason that Waltz wants to meet him in person instead of just issuing his demands over the phone.
  • Used in Burn Notice when Michael meets Victor for the first time in a chess park. The two trade veiled threats as a way of getting the measure of each other.
  • Game of Thrones. Done along with Rule of Threes between Jaime Lannister and Ned Stark. The first two times, they subtly snark at each other; the third occasion it's a Sword Fight.
  • JAG: In "Scimitar", Harm and Meg are officially in Iraq (during the time of the Saddam Hussein regime) to act as legal counsel for the captured American Marine, so the Iraqis, including the villain, treat them as welcome guests at first.
  • Hannibal: The whole second half of season two, when Will Graham resumes his therapy with Hannibal Lecter in order to out him as a cannibalistic serial killer and deliver him to the FBI. Hannibal knows what Graham is up to, but is just too genuinely fascinated by Graham's malleable psyche and the prospect of transforming him into a fellow killer. Graham knows that Hannibal knows. Hannibal knows that Graham knows that Hannibal knows. And then it gets REALLY complicated.
  • Daredevil: Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk have two conversational interactions before they finally have their first physical fight: first, a conversation over a police radio as Matt is trying to get information on Fisk out of a wounded Vladimir, and later face-to-face when Matt happens to run into Fisk while at Vanessa's art gallery.
  • Firefly: In "Heart of Gold", Malcolm Reynolds attends a theater to meet Rance Burgess and size him up as an adversary. Mal is so shaken up by Rance's convictions that he decides to run instead of fight, although he changes his mind later.

    Literature 
  • In Jingo, the generals of the armies of Ankh-Morpork and Klatch meet for breakfast, snide remarks, and final demands on the battlefield with the intent of engaging in battle afterwards (though in that regard, things don't quite go according to plan).
  • In Robert B Parker's Small Vices, Spenser has one of these with The Gray Man, a genuinely scary character who returns in later novels.
  • Subverted in Artemis Fowl: Artemis and Spiro meet in a crowded restaurant to make a deal, but it quickly goes south when it turns out everybody in the restaurant worked for Spiro, who steals the Magic Computer (Magitek literally) from Artemis.

    Theatre 
  • Occurs twice in Les Misérables between Valjean and Javert, both after lengthy time skips, and neither time does Javert realize who Valjean is. Played somewhat for laughs the second time it occurs, as Valjean escapes at the first opportunity and it requires another character to explain to a baffled Javert why.
    • Marius also has a penchant for doing this. He first meets Javert and Thenardier when he offers to be a witness for Thenardier's attempted robbery of Valjean and Cosette. The former acts as a spy and key member of the force that crushes Marius and Enjolras's revolution, and the latter robs Marius's Not Quite Dead body, among other things (the next time they meet, Marius slaps the shit out of him).
  • In Hamilton, Hamilton and Madison work together to write the Federalist Papers in Non-Stop. One song later, in What'd I Miss, Madison hates Hamilton for a reason never quite explored (probably due to political differences, but it's implied by Lin-Manuel Miranda that there was a personal element to it in real life).
    • Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton meet to discuss politics in The Room Where it Happens, despite their by that point clear political differences. A few songs later in Washington On Your Side, Jefferson and Madison plot with Burr to destroy Hamilton's career.
    • Hamilton and Burr's initial meeting is quite amicable, with Burr buying Hamilton a drink and giving him advice. Less than five minutes earlier, Burr had declared himself to be "the damn fool who shot him [Hamilton]". Granted, Burr (and the rest of the cast) was acting as an omnipotent narrator at that point, and when Burr and Hamilton first meet, Burr doesn't know that he's destined to kill Hamilton.

    Video Games 
  • Shining Force has the hero encounter Elliot, an enemy general, in one of the towns. Elliot acknowledges that you are enemies, and says that your next meeting will be on the battlefield.
  • In Bionic Commando, you meet up with General Killt in one of the neutral zones. Since nobody is allowed to attack in a neutral zone, he just bad-mouths you.
  • Appears in the Rome hub of Alpha Protocol. Michael arranges to meet a potential contact at a street cafe, but instead Conrad Marburg makes his first appearance, coldly analysing Michael's past actions and telling him to back off.
  • A variant of this appears in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. The initial conversation between Sam Fisher and Normal Soth is non-violent because, while the protagonists know Soth has had a hand in some sort of terrorist action, all the information available to them at the time suggests he's a CIA deep-cover asset.

    Manga 
  • In Toriko, the unexpected encounter between Toriko, Komatsu and Starjun at Bar Meria. At this point Starjun could probably have stomped them with ease, but states that he's just there looking for an ingredient, not a fight, and leaves peacefully.
  • In a chapter of Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi and Fate agree to meet in a public coffee shop to attempt a diplomatic solution. This almost ends up failing, however, when they begin arguing over whether tea or coffee are better and the proper way to make tea and almost come to blows because of it. Then it ends up failing anyways because Fate's attempt to manipulate Negi is outed.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Shinohara visits the ghoul cafe, Anteiku, to share a last cup with the cafe's manager, Yoshimura aka the Owl, before the CCG mission to kill the powerful Owl ghoul.

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